Vibrating Foam Rollers – Wednesday Wisdom

As we continue to look at the most effective movement preparation routines, a new and interesting study has shown that using vibrating foam rollers can optimise proprioception, force output and range of motion. In this study, researchers from the Coaching Medical University in Taiwan had a group of younger adults perform a standard warm-up routine, consisting of a series of soft-tissue releases (STR) on the lower limbs using either a standard foam-rolling, a vibrating foam roller, or static stretches before undertaking the explosive exercise. The researchers reported when compared to static stretching, performing the STR on both the vibration foam roller increased quadriceps muscle strength 2-fold and proprioception 1.8 fold. However, when compared to the standard foam roller there was not a significant difference in any of these measures. There appears to be other vibration foam-roller studies showing positive effects on muscle pain and range of motion.

At this point, we should be asking “why add vibration to a foam roller”?  Researchers believe the application of whole-body vibration before exercise can increase neural drive and the activation of high threshold motor units, anabolic hormone release, and increase muscle temperature.  Other studies have also shown, the application of acute whole-body vibration can increase explosive jumping performance.

Based on the results of this study, and other similar studies, a potential warm-up protocol for the vibration roller could include the application of the foam roller to the hamstring, quadriceps, ITB, and calves for 60-90 seconds for up to five minutes or until a release is felt in the individual muscle. While the optimal dose of vibration is not yet known, some recommendations are the vibration frequency should be set around 30 hertz, with an amplitude of 2.5mm. It would be essential to know if the vibration foam roller of intend purchase, produces frequencies and amplitudes of vibration near these recommendations. Otherwise, the stimulus might not be powerful enough to maximise the effect.  They appear to retail for around $200.00, so at this stage, there is not enough evidence to sway the decision to use a vibration foam roller over a standard foam roller if the goal is to maximise explosive exercise performance just yet. In the end, the use of vibration-foam rollers to enhance the movement preparation effect, while novel, is still in its infancy and more research is needed to legitimise these devices as a necessary tool for the functional training instructor.

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