In this Spartan Fit franchise, we take your timely questions straight to our Spartan experts. Here, we find out the best time to foam roll.
Question: When Should I Be Using a Foam Roller — Pre or Post Workout?
Jeff Godin, Ph.D., CSCS, head of fitness education for Spartan and professor of exercise science at Fitchburg State University.
A new study in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research shows that foam rolling before a workout can improve range of motion and help minimize post-workout soreness. “Foam rolling reduces pain by stimulating skin pain receptors which seem to have an analgesic effect,” Godin explains. “It’s similar to, for example, when you bang your shin on the dresser, you rub the area with your hand and it feels better.”
As for how it helps improve your ROM, there isn't really a solid answer here, but it could have something to do with what Godin calls “autogenic inhibition” or stimulation of the receptors in the muscle and fascia that results in muscle relaxation. What we do know is that better ROM before exercise can help you sink deeper into that squat or press overhead more smoothly.
While rolling afterwards will also help you manage your DOMS and improve ROM, the latter (obviously) won’t be as handy if you’ve already worked out. So if you have to choose one, roll before any vigorous session to prep the tissues and joints for exercise. Godin says shoot for a minimum of one minute rolling each major muscle group. If you want to take a page from the study subjects’ book, they rolled for two 40-second bouts on each muscle group.