To Stretch or To Foam Roll?
We love to say we gain flexibility with stretching, but so many times I hear clients say they are stretching without much change to flexibility and length. There is a great reason for that!
Stretching feels good- it lubricates joints, it gets things moving, it releases stuck fascia (especially if you are doing more active stretching like leg swings or moving from one position to the next repetitively). But studies have shown that in order to lengthen soft tissue (muscle and fascia) by stretching, you’d have to diligently stretch every day for at least a month to feel any change! Unless you happen to be under 10 years old or so- then your tissues might hold the length much easier 🙂
Enter in the amazing foam roller- occasionally I worry this little tool will put me out of business, well, not really, but you get what I mean. Utilize it! A different, new study compares flexibility effects of stretching compared to foam rolling and if either hamper athletic performance when done as a warm-up. The study found that foam rolling by far increased flexibility compared to stretching! And it didn’t hamper athletic performance. This would also confirm how massage (just like foam rolling) helps increase flexibility when done correctly and if that’s the intention. So, a foam roller can be your own personal massage therapist at home.
There are of course areas where that foam roller won’t be able to affect because of positioning, etc.. That’s when you could use some knowledgable hands to guide your tissues to lengthen and release. Seek out a massage therapist that knows their stuff. Working with someone who knows myfascial techniques & trigger point therapy is a good place to start if you want increased flexibility.
And why do you want to be more flexible?! Well, I know some elderly people who cannot reach up to the cupboard because it’s too painful- they have lost their flexibility… and I’m pretty sure you’d prefer full range of motion in your joints– this prevents injuries, keeps you mobile, and as you age you’ll need less help doing the simple things.
So, treat your body well, keep it moving, and add in a foam rolling session. There are a ton of ways to utilize it, and youtube is a great resource if you’re not sure where else to turn.
What has been your experience with stretching and foam rolling? Have you already discovered the difference in your own personal experimentation? Would love to hear your comments below!