It’s not just soccer players, it seems like all athletes like to foam roll. Some do it to to improve performance, while others do it to improve recovery. But does it really do what it advertises to do? Read on to find out.
Foam Rolling to Improve Sprint Speed:
Some players like to foam roll before a game or training because they say it helps them loosen up and run faster. But is that really true? Well… yes. Research has shown that foam rolling can slightly increase your top speed. When I say slightly, I mean by less than 1 percent. So is it worth it? Well, if you are looking for something to do before your dynamic warm up, then sure, why not. But if you’re truly looking to improve your sprint speed, there is no better substitute then doing sprint drills and lifting heavy weights in the gym on a regular basis. Period.
Foam Rolling to Improve Flexibility:
Does foam rolling make you more flexible? Yes- but not in the way that you think it does. Foam rolling doesn’t “break down scar tissue”, or do anything magical. The pressure from the foam simply allows your muscles to calm down neurologically for a short period of time. This is why athletes often have decreased tightness and increased motion after foam rolling. So is foam rolling all you have to do before a practice or game? Absolutely not! The stretches you do in a dynamic warm up are absolutely essential to your health and performance. Foam rolling won’t hurt, and will make you a little more flexible, but consider it a bonus.
Foam Rolling to Improve Recovery:
Unfortunately, foam rolling is also sometimes used as a recovery tool- which is rarely as effective as you would think. Similar to increasing flexibility, foam rolling allows your muscles to calm down neurologically for a short period of time. This is why athletes often feel looser and fresher after doing it. However, it’s important to state that this is not considered recovery! Recovery is 90% eating enough protein and carbs, sleeping 8+ hours, and properly hydrating. If you’re not doing those 3 things, you’re not truly focused on recovery. Consider foam rolling, along with game ready, e-stim, massage, and all that jazz just a bonus.
Summary: Foam rolling won’t make you faster, but speed & strength training will. Foam rolling might make you feel more flexible, but it alone won’t adequately prepare you for an athletic event. And finally, it won’t help you recover unless you’re eating right, sleeping, and staying hydrated.