This is a guest article/video submission from my friend Joe Musselwhite, who has trained dozens if not hundreds of athletes from high school sports players, to Grip Athletes, Strongmen, and Arm Wrestlers. Here, he tells us the science behind foam rollers and then shows us how to take advantage of the benefits of SMR work.
Mighty Joe Musselwhite
Several weeks ago my good friend and Grip Enthusiast Jedd Johnson wrote an article asking the question, “Are Foam Rollers Crap?”
After reading the article I e-mailed Jedd and offered an explanation behind the science of foam rolling if he was interested and he said he’d love to have a short article on some of the science behind this new wave of supplementing one’s training.
I said I’d give it my best shot, so here we go!
First, Foam Rolling falls into the category of SMR which stands for Self-Myofascial Release. You may or may not have ever heard of autogenic inhibition but this is the underlying principle at work here with foam rolling.
Deep inside every muscle and tendon is the Golgi Tendon Organ, (GTO). These are tiny receptors called mechanoreceptors. These receptors tell the central nervous system,(CNS) the amount of tension (length) inside a muscle/tendon group. If enough tension is generated in said muscle/tendon group, the GTO will cause the muscle spindles to relax thus preventing further damage or injury. This reflex is called autogenic inhibition. With foam rolling you stimulate this muscle tension causing the GTO to relax the muscle, thus giving the relief.
To answer Jedd’s question, “Are Foam Rollers Crap?”
If you consistently employ their use, NO! They are not crap.
Foam Rolling, like massage offers temporary relief and have to be consistently used to offer the benefits. There’s no permanent change to the muscle/tendon group when foam rolling as opposed to resistance training where there’s actually a physical change in the muscle fibers. Foam Rolling or SMR has more to do with improving tissue quality than anything else.
If you’re thinking foam rolling is an overnight fix for your aches and pains then it’s not for you and I guess
you could label them “crap.” As with any training aid or device its intended use always has to be kept in its proper context.
Here is a video demonstrating some excellent ways to apply SMR for Grip Strength Competitors, Arm Wrestlers, and even those who perform a great deal of manual labor…
In closing, always ask questions when exploring new ideas in your training. What others say is an important starting point in your investigation but nothing can substitute self-experimentation.
Ask the right questions. Perform some tests and draw your own conclusions. This is my approach to most every new avenue I choose to explore.
I hope this article helps explain away at least a small portion of weather or not foam rolling is for you.
A Big Thank You to Jedd Johnson for allowing me to write an article for the Diesel Crew! What a privilege it has been!
Joe Musselwhite (Mighty Joe)
Check out Joe’s YouTube Channel = > Grip Freak