Using Foam Rollers Pre-Run – Wednesday Wisdom

In this month’s series of articles, we have looked carefully at the effect well-designed movement preparation or warm-up programs can have on exercise performance. In particular, we have focused on the beneficial effects movement preparation training such as performing self-myofascial release (SMFR) on the foam roller has on strength and power performance. However, the effect of SMFR on endurance performance is not as well understood.

In a very recent study, researchers from the University of Udine, Italy investigated the effect of SMFR, on the energy cost of running and lower limb muscle power. The researchers in this study, had a group of athletes perform a series of SMFR on the foam roller before the measurement of the running economy, and a set of explosive jumps (squat and countermovement ump). What the researchers reported was immediately following the boat of SMFR on the foam roller, the energy cost of running increased by approximately 6%. Improving the energy cost of any endurance activity such as running is not favorable, as it indicates the athlete will be consuming more energy per stride, meaning they are performing that task, with less economy, not a great thing if you are trying to run for a long distance! In contrast, the researchers also reported that explosive jumping performance improved by approximately 8% immediately following the SMFR on the roller. These results suggest, performing SMFR on the foam roller may not be an excellent addition to a movement preparation program for an endurance athlete, or solely for any recreational exercises, looking to perform at their best. However, as always, more research on the prior effects of SMFR on running performance is needed.

As practitioners in the field, it is essential we don’t prescribe the same movement preparation routine or exercises to everyone, in this case, “one man’s medicine can be another’s poison” as this relates to what type of exercise your client or athlete is preparing for. In the case of general functional training, which is more orientated towards the stability, strength and power spectrum of the components of fitness, SMFR on the foam roller as part of a holistic warm-up routine is no doubt going to be an effective movement preparation program. However, if the client then on another day performs the same movement preparation program before going out for a run; in attempt to set a new personal best. Then in this case, merely omitting the SMFR and concentrating on a good general whole body warm-up, followed by some mobility, stability, and potentiation (think the R.A.M.P) exercises would be a much better option. To conclude this series of articles, over the last few weeks, we have learned how important it is to have a well-structured movement preparation program, which includes temperature raising exercises, mobility exercises, activation exercises and potentiation exercises. Also, we now also understand how effect SMFR is on the performance of strength and power based movements.

Reference:

Giovanelli, N., Vaccari, F., Floreani, M., Rejc, E., Copetti, J., Garra, M., … & Lazzer, S. (2018). Short-Term Effects of Rolling Massage on Energy Cost of Running and Power of the Lower Limbs. International journal of sports physiology and performance, 1-23.

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