Does Foam Rolling Increase Long Term Flexibility?

Recently I’ve heard a lot of hatred and negative talk toward foam rolling.  A common reason for this is the plethora of research coming out about foam rolling having short term effects when it comes to improving flexibility.

This honestly makes sense to me.  Rarely does any single intervention provide significant long term effects.  If I do 1 set of 30 bicep curls I’m sure my arm will get all swelly from the set.  Chase the pump bro.

However, I’m also pretty sure I won’t have any long term changes in hypertrophy.  I don’t know why foam rolling gets bashed so hard given that most other interventions when applied once provide short term effects.

Now, I really like this study because they applied foam rolling to a muscle group (hamstrings) consistently over the course of 4 weeks.  Here’s what happened:

The Foam Roll as a Tool to Improve Hamstring Flexibility

The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (Dec. 2015)

Subjects went through a standing reach protocol to measure hamstring flexibility at the start of the protocol.  At the end of the protocol the measurements were taken again.  What was the result?

It’s important to note that changes in flexibility from foam rolling typically only last seconds to minutes.  Measurements in this study were taken atleast 24 hours after the last foam rolling or stretch session.

 

This tells us that chronically foam rolling the hamstrings seems to provide longer term improvements in mobility then foam rolling once.  This goes against the common notion that foam rolling only causes short term changes in mobility.

It’s also important to note that the differences in flexibility were no different then the standard proven contract / relax stretching protocol.  As cool as foam rolling may seem this study showed that it may not really be any better then good old stretching!  Don’t throw out the stretching protocols for improving flexibility!

My goal here was to shed some light on this study and give a little credibility to the foam roller as another tool to help improve flexibility.  Given all of the hub bub about foam rolling out there I think it’s important that we’re using evidence to help guide our decision making when it comes to what we give to help out to our patients and clients.  Knowledge is power or something…

I sleep on a bed of foam rollers,

Dan Pope DPT, OCS, CSCS, CF L1

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