Stretching vs. Foam Rolling: What is The Difference and Three Reasons to Make Time
I know it is tough to find time to exercise, let alone another 10 minutes to stretch or foam roll before or after you work out. But you can reap real benefits from any type of dynamic warm up before, and muscle lengthening after exercise. Foam rollers can be used at home or at the gym.
Stretching vs. Foam Rolling
Before your workout, it is important to warm up your muscles. Research now shows that static stretches (where you extend a muscle to the end of its range of motion and hold) should only be done after you complete your activity. To warm up, you should do dynamic stretches (continuous movement where the muscle goes through the full range of motion). After a workout, static stretches help to lengthen muscle and improve flexibility.
Foam rolling is a self-myofascial release (SMR) technique that focuses on loosening and breaking up tension in the fascia as well as releasing muscle tightness. It is similar to getting a massage, just in this case you are your own massage therapist. The foam roller will never completely replace a therapist’s hands, but it serves as a great alternative and can be done anytime.
Three Benefits to Stretching and Foam Rolling
1.Increased Blood Flow
As part of a warm up, foam rollers should be used first thing to get the blood flowing to your muscles (which helps reduce the possibility of injury). This can also be done with dynamic stretching. After your workout, foam rollers help flush out the blood that has pooled in the working muscles and allows fresh nutrients and oxygen to come in and begin the healing process (which helps to reduce soreness).
2. Increased Flexibility and Range of Motion
A study published in the Journal of Sports Rehabilitation found that when combined with static stretching, foam rolling can lead to impressive flexibility improvements. Increased flexibility helps to limit soreness and prevent injuries.
3. Relieve Pain
Foam rollers can work out muscle tightness, soreness or any knots you may feel in your muscles. While rolling these spots you may experience some discomfort. It should not be unbearable though, and when you are done it should feel better. Releasing these muscle knots and tightness helps to return your muscles elasticity and reestablish proper movement patterns along with making movement pain free.
All three of these benefits help prevent injury and decrease recovery time after a workout. Which means you can keep up with your workouts so you will see results faster! Pair foam rolling with static stretching (in that order) after your activity for best results.
Are you ready to roll? Here are four moves to get you started:
Upper Back Roll
Lie down with your back on the floor. Place a foam roller underneath your upper back and cross your arms in front of you or behind your head, protracting your shoulder blades. Raise your hips off of the ground, placing your weight onto the roller. Shift your weight to one side, rolling the upper to mid back. Alternate sides.
IT Band Roll
Lie on your side with bottom leg placed onto a foam roller between the hip and the knee and top leg crossed in front of you. Place as much of your weight as is tolerable onto your bottom leg. Roll your leg over the foam from your hip to your knee. Repeat on opposite leg.
Sit and extend your legs over a foam roller so that it is on the back of your upper legs. Place your hands behind you and lift your hips off of the floor. Roll from below the hip to above the back of the knee.
Lie face-down on the floor with your weight supported by your hands or forearms. Place a foam roller underneath your thighs. Roll from above the knee to below the hip.
Note: When dealing with injuries or joints and muscles that are particularly painful, consult your physician prior to implementing a new workout, stretch or foam roll.