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Foam Rolling And Stretching – What Are The Different Benefits?

Foam rolling and stretching can both have benefits in improving flexibility. Both have suggested physiological benefits but also potential changes in nervous system ‘protective’ tone. But which is better? Do they both have different benefits? Should you do one, the other, or both?


Stretching has been around for a lot longer than foam rolling, and perceived benefits of static stretching being that of stretching prior to performing physical activity in order to reduce the risk of injury. However, there is evidence contrary to this here and it may also have a short-term negative effect on force output (see here) which may effect explosive activities such as running, jumping or throwing in a negative manner.

However, if you have a sole goal of increasing range of motion the current consensus would be to perform a static stretch for 2 x 30 seconds per muscle group 5-7 times per week.

Foam Rolling

Foam rolling is a relatively new intervention and has plenty of proposed mechanisms such as breaking down adhesions, realigning scar/fascial tissue and changes in tissue blood flow. There may some arguments against this with fascial tissue requiring 852kg of force to deform fascia just 1%. This is due to the fact that fascial tissue is very robust. However, we know that foam rolling has a great effect on what is called pain pressure threshold (how easily you hurt) may make tasks easier in the short term, and also does not reduce performance in the short term like static stretching does.

Rolling dosage seems to be beneficial for durations of 60 seconds per muscle group x 3 per week.

So which is better for me?

Both foam rolling and stretching can have beneficial effects, but is seems to be about timing and dosage. If you are to static stretch, you should perform this as part of a separate session with plenty of time between activities that requires force output (running etc) with the sole goal of improving range of motion. Foam rolling can give you increases in range of motion in both the short and long term without having negative effects on performance. Foam rolling seems to have a positive effect on your ability to perform a hard session sooner. A combination of both will likely reap greater rewards.

If you are still unsure, please pop down to the clinic for a session and we can go through the exact way to foam roll and discuss how it will likely have a positive effect on your current routine.

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