Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Study Spotlight: Foam Rolling and Muscle Activation

We talk a lot about foam rolling on the TAT blog.  We really do believe doing variations of your own soft tissue work can be highly beneficial in many aspects of your health.  It can help relieve tight areas and trigger points and in that way reduce pain.  It can help your body down regulate and settle in for the evening and recovery (think relaxing massage).  We haven't talked a lot though about the timing of foam rolling and when it could be helpful and also potentially harmful.  We focus on that in this Study Spotlight and also give some recommendations at the end.

What They Did: 
Researchers wanted to see if foam rolling the hamstrings and/or quadriceps would affect hamstrings and quadriceps activation in men and women.  The conditions included rolling of the hamstrings, quadriceps, both muscle groups and a control group (did nothing).  EMG activity was then analyzed in both the quad and the hamstrings on a single leg single leg landing from a hurdle jump.

What They Found:
After just foam rolling the quads the hamstring, biceps femurs, had its activation significantly reduced.  There was no significant change in quadricep activation when only the hamstrings were rolled out.  There was no effect on activation when both the quadriceps and hamstrings were rolled out.

What It All Means:
Is foam rolling now bad?  No, not at all we just have to be smart with the timing.   We don't recommend a lot of foam rolling pre-activity as you can do some muscle damage and in effect hurt your workout.  This was shown to a degree in this study where you can actually decrease the activation of your hamstrings by just rolling out your quads.  This could lead to potential for injury to increase and problems to ensue.  So what is the solution.

Our Recommendation:
If you feel the need to doing any rolling prior to a workout or competition make sure to make it general.  That means hitting a little bit of every major muscle group to make sure to not suffer the fate of your hamstring activity turning down and setting you up for more chance of injury.  A 'general' roll out can help this.

For after activity focus on the areas that are really tight and causing you some issues and at this point we don't worry as much about the potential decreases in muscle activation as we are done for the day and your body can set up for a chance to recover.

Resource: Cavanaugh, M. Roam Rolling of Quadriceps Decreases Biceps Femurs Activation

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