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Foam Rolling vs. Stretching: Is one better than the other?

Simply put, it is a two-tiered approach that involves foam rolling before stretching. By using a foam roller to address your trigger points, the ability to correctly lengthen your muscles with stretching improves. Utilizing this approach, you will see improved flexibility and mobility in addition to less pain and a decreased risk of injury.


Foam Rolling


Foam rolling releases muscle tension, improves recovery and performance, improves flexibility, and improves range of motion in joints.


There are many different types of foam rollers, from the large cylindrical pieces of foam to the spikey and even more ball shaped apparatuses.


To begin, you can use a foam roller to help release tension from those over-active or tight areas before a workout. When you use your own body weight and apply pressure along muscles and tendons, you’re increasing blood flow to those areas.


Following your workout, a foam roller can help you accomplish a faster recovery by releasing tension from tight muscles and stimulating blood flow to aid in recovery.


For more effective and safe foam rolling:

· Do not roll over bones or joints.

· Work the foam roller slowly and incrementally over your muscles until you find a sore spot, band, or trigger point. Hold this position with a slight increase in pressure until you feel the discomfort reduce and the muscle relax. The held position should not exceed longer than 60 seconds.

· If at any point you experience a severe or sharp pain, stop immediately! Foam rollers are designed to cause only slight discomfort as they break up muscular adhesions and reduce hypertonicity (tightness) within the muscles.

· Foam rollers are not designed to help with spinal pain. While they may be useful to help tight muscles either side of the spine, use on the spine could irritate and worsen your spinal health.


Stretching


Stretching aims to increase the length of muscles and tendons which shorten in a response to exercise, poor postures, lack of use, and aging. It can increase flexibility and improve your range of motion, helping you move more freely.


Stretching will help alleviate both the pain and soreness from a training session.


Use these tips to keep stretching safe:

· Don't consider stretching a warmup. Stretch after your workout when your muscles are warm.

· Strive for symmetry. Focus on having equal flexibility side to side.

· Focus on major muscle groups. Concentrate your stretches on major muscle groups such as your calves, thighs, hips, lower back, neck, and shoulders.

· Don't bounce. Stretch in a smooth movement. Bouncing as you stretch can injure your muscle and actually contribute to muscle tightness.

· Hold your stretch. Breathe normally and hold each stretch for about 30 seconds; in problem areas, you may need to hold for around 60 seconds.

· Make stretches sport specific. Evidence suggests that it's helpful to do stretches involving the muscles used most in your sport or activity.

· Keep up with your stretching. You can achieve the most benefits by stretching regularly, at least two to three times a week.


Both stretching and foam rolling are beneficial in their own contexts and should be utilized at specific times to optimize their effects. One is not better than the other overall, but static stretching, dynamic stretching, and foam rolling each have a time and a place.

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