To Foam Roll or Not to Foam Roll

I don’t have the answer.. I received lots of comments and emails about a comment I made about giving up my foam roller. I think I may have thrown people for a loop. It is something I have told so many to do, heck I even sell them at my gym.  So why the change of heart? First, let me say that I am not making a blanket statement for everyone to quit foam rolling, nor do I think foam rolling is a bad thing, but even the guys in the industry like Gray Cook who promotes foam rolling said something at my CK-FMS Certification to the affect of, “if you have name for your foam roller and are lost without it you may have bigger issues going on”. Think about it. To those that took offense to my comment and wanted to de-friend me on facebook because of it, how many of us are attached to the foam roller or is your foam rolling habit getting more ridiculous (read on).

About 5 years ago I was suffering from miserable back pain. I had trouble getting out of bed and was very miserable. I started using a foam roller and it significantly helped get me out of pain and assisted me in stretching the muscles in my leg that I ignored for years. A huge part of my problem was bound up fascia and foam roller was a big solution for me. I have used it successfully with many clients, and honestly don’t plan to pull it from my clientele.  Fast forward 5 years later. No major issues but in general I am not in chronic pain and my performance is solid in the weight room. But I find some little nagging areas in my hips and shoulders that don’t seem to go away. I have consistently foam rolled them, when that failed I used a tee-ball, then moved on to a lacrosse ball. I have even used a barbell (really poor choice, I don’t ever recommend it.) to work out sore spots. Well months have gong by and those little nagging things haven’t gone away. So should I move on to steal skewers to jam in to my body. It isn’t just me. I see it everywhere, even so called mobility experts on the internet promoting more and more intense self myofascial work. If you really need DEEP tissue work then see a professional. Jamming shit deeper into your tissue is bordering stupidity (and yes I have done it to myself). People using harder and harder objects to dig into their bodies for relief. It is starting to seem like the definition of insanity. The question I have to ask is are you getting any better? If you have to spend 3o minutes pre-workout jamming lacrosse balls into every part of your body to workout each day, are you really effective or healthy, or are you creating more dysfunction? I honestly don’t have the answer, but I am looking for a new solution. The foam roller and other myofascial tools have a place in training, I am just seeing it getting ridiculous now.

The next question is why the hell are my muscles so tight ALL THE TIME in the first place? Well the nervous system really controls the musculoskeletal system, so if muscles are continually “on” and need to be continually relaxed and a foam roller, hot poker, or meat tenderizer isn’t working maybe it is time to look for the switch elsewhere. Now this is where I am going to end this part of the discussion.  I don’t need to get in debates on the nervous system and come off like I am an expert in neurology. I see way to many people claiming this nowadays. The truth is the nervous system can be easy to distract. And there can be numerous parlor type tricks that can shut down certain parts of the nervous system, but in reality if those trouble spots are not going away, then working with the nervous system may be the answer.

Over the next few weeks I plan on working with some techniques I learned at the Postural Restoration Institute. PRI’s philosophy really works with breathing techniques utilizing the diaphragm and other corrective exercises that will assist in working with the nervous system to position the trunk in optimally for proper movement(really simplified version). Now I am not going to start singing the praises of any system just yet. I did see some pretty great results with some the techniques I learned, but the real truth will be to see if the results stick and if the corrective work can be utilized in a program effectively. So in the mean time I plan on trying some of these methods out and minimally use or not use my foam roller for a bit. I also want to say that not once did PRI mention not using a foam roller, nor do I recall them even mentioning anything anti-myofascial. I kind of came to my conclusions on my own.  For those of you that may roll your eyes on this blog, I will say that as a professional it is always crucial to challenge any current paradigm you may be following and always testing and applying new methodologies. It doesn’t mean you jump from philosophy to philosophy, but staying status quo because some other big names are doing it doesn’t make sense. Consistently challenging belief systems is the only way for personal growth. This is why I am not telling any of my clients to stop what they are doing, and I don’t think they should. I am just sharing my process out loud. When a definitive conclusion has been reached I will then change or Not change my current strategies with my clients. Till next time…

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