There might be a few exceptions.
I'm not big on young kids ( U12) rolling. I think their lack of “mileage” means that rolling can be a waste of time. No build-up of micro-trauma, no real need for foam rolling.
If people aren't sore, they probably don't need to roll. But, come on, who's not sore?
The other thing about sore? Most adults are “subconsciously sore”. This means that they don't realize what hurts until the roller ( or a person) applies pressure. This is one reason I'm a huge rolling and massage fan. It's amazing how sore you can be and not know it.
Derek Hansen tweeted this the other day and it created quite a long, reactive thread.
I wasn't tagged, and I'm not one for Twitter arguments, but, I felt the need to reply….
“ We roll and stretch before every workout? We also have extremely low injury rates. It's a process.”
And on it went.
Jorge Carvahal ( @carvperformance) came back with…
“ I want athletes to be tight, stable and sturdy under load = no foam rolling pre-workout.”
My big concern when knowledgeable guys start Twitter threads is that 140 characters doesn't really convey thoughts well. That is why this is becoming an article and eventually a blog post.
I tweeted back…
“ I'm not sure that's true. It's step 1. " am I sore? Where?" Our rolling concept grew out of the unfilled need for restorative massage.”
Then I tweeted ….
“this is classic overreaction? Massage is good but rolling is bad?”
Derek came back with…
“Ritual? Placebo? Efficacious? Can we do without? Context specific?”
So, after quite a few rounds of 140 characters, I thought I'd try to state my case more clearly.
So lets start with ritual?
Wikipedia defines ritual as " a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, and objects, performed in a sequestered place, and performed according to set sequence."
So, I would say that both rolling and warm-up in general are rituals and, rituals can be either good or bad. I would say a good warm-up ritual is a good thing.
Placebo? The same site defines placebo as “a substance or treatment with no active therapeutic effect”.
This one I'm not so sure about and relates to the comparison to massage. My only real defense here is that if foam rolling didn't work why is it so popular? I stuggle to think that so many people are enamored of the placebo effect?
To analyze the popularity of foam rolling and foam rollers, we need to look at where foam rolling came from. I initially was introduced to foam rolling by Physical Therapist Mike Clark in the early 2000's. He was a big soft tissue work proponent and was advocating what became known as “self-myofascial release”. Although I'm not sure Clark invented the concept he was my first introduction to the use of these “roller things”. Up until then we had viewed them as balance or posture tools.
Why did I jump on the foam rolling band wagon? That's an interesting question and, it relates back to the beginning of this thread and Derek Hansen's tweet. Like Derek, I have been heavily influenced by the work of the late Charlie Francis. Derek was lucky enough to have actually worked with Charlie, I only had the benefits of reading. In the original Charlie Francis Training System book there are frequent references to massage and other regenerative work. I immediately saw this as a deficiency in our program and set out to improve the way we approached recovery and preparation. Francis spoke about “tone” and “resetting tone” and if my memory served devoted a chapter to this.
My problem was that I had 100's of athletes and no budget for the massage therapy that Francis had deemed so important. Enter Mike Clark and what I came to refer to as “poor man's massage therapy”. The foam roller suddenly became the solution to a very large problem.
Q- How do we get massage work for 300 athletes a day?
A- We get them to do it themselves!
Michael Zweiful @BBAPerformance tweeted….
“Massage=Human Touch w/Years of Practice & Precision. Foam Roll=General w/Non-Expert In Control”
Again, an area of disagreement? There is definitely a human element to massage and, I will not argue that rollers are superior to good hands. However, I will easily default to the “something is better than nothing idea” and, maybe even take it a step further and say that in foam rolling, the athlete is in complete control. We could make a case that the athlete will have a much better sense of feel than the therapist?
In either case I am a firm believer that bad soft tissue work is far better than no soft tissue work, so that's “how we roll” ( pun inteneded).
Not a perfect solution but, a solution none the less. What began as an experiment quickly caught on. The progression was simple and linear and went from “this is stupid, why do we do this” to “how do buy one of those roller things”.
Most importantly, let's try to remember that expert opinions are tough to cut into 140 characters.