REGULAR FOAM ROLLER VS VIBRATING FOAM ROLLER: WHICH IS BETTER FOR OPTIMAL MUSCLE RECOVERY?
Foam rollers are one of the classic sports recovery products that remain a favourite among many athletes for warming up or cooling down. They’re easy to use, portable, and have the benefits of a massage therapist at your fingertips. Yet as the world of sports recovery becomes more and more advanced, these old-school devices refuse to be left behind.
If you’ve noticed vibrating foam rollers enter the picture, you may be left wondering “What’s the difference?” or “What product will work best for me?”. So we reached out to physiotherapist Joel Nucum for some answers.
With a Doctor of Physiotherapy and a Bachelors Science degree in Kinesiology/Exercise and Sports Science, Joel has had the opportunity to work at the highest level of Sports Medicine at Stanford University where he helped look after multiple NCAA sports teams and athletes and conducted research on ACL injuries at the Human Performance Lab in California. He now operates from his own private practice NUCUM PHYSIO located inside CMBT Training Centre on the Gold Coast.
In this article, we ask Joel about vibration technology in foam rollers, how this impacts your recovery and his recommendations on how to reap the full benefits from foam rolling.
Q: In general, how do foam rollers work to improve recovery?
A: Foam rolling is a self-massage technique that can be utilized before and after training in hopes to increase your range of motion and decrease pain without the loss of strength. After foam rolling, the localized tissue reduces in stiffness by increasing that tissue’s elasticity for better movement quality and increased blood flow in the general area. However, these benefits may only be temporary.
From a neurological perspective, it is believed to trigger diffuse noxious inhibitory control (DNIC), which ultimately engages with our parasympathetic nervous system - or the more comfortable relaxed state of the body.
Q: What difference does the vibration make for muscle recovery?
A: In addition to the previous points, I believe adding vibration to a traditional foam roller can boost its effectiveness by adding that extra bit of stimulation that the body responds quite well with. The vibration can help increase the overall muscle tissue’s elasticity and length for better movement quality and speed up post-activity recovery.
Q: Are vibrating foam rollers more effective in promoting recovery than the traditional version?
A: Yes, I believe the vibration can block pain by means of ‘gate control theory’, which suggests that the high frequency of vibrations can “flood the gates” of pain stimulus so the brain actually cannot interpret these messages as painful.
Q: What kind of person could benefit from using a vibrating foam roller?
A: General population to elite level training centres have been using some form of percussive or vibration therapy as an adjunct to recovery and performance.
Q: What are your usage recommendations for using a vibrating foam roller?
A: My primary focus for foam rolling is to target muscular tissue. A common misconception on areas to foam roll is the Iliotibial Band (ITB). I would not target tendons or connective tissue like the Iliotibial Band (ITB) because it takes much more force to change that tissue. The ITB's main function is to translate force as we rely on these structures to stay rigid to be useful (spending time here would be quite a painful experience along with no effective change on tissue quality). However, targeting the glute fibres above can consequently feel much better as these fibres are more malleable.
As a general rule of thumb, on targeted areas I would sequentially work from mid-muscle belly then work through the whole length of muscular tissue fibres for full effectiveness.
In terms of how long to roll for, researchers in the experiments mentioned above used 30-second repetitions at a medium tempo throughout the tissue length for 3 sets.
“Go by feeling”. Each person varies depending on training type, volume, anatomy, and so on, so I also tell people to “go by feeling”. As long as you feel there is more movement to improve on, continue as long as there is a benefit.
I believe the Victory Recovery Systems can provide athletes with an opportunity to prepare for training sessions and speed up their recovery. Although the benefits may be temporary, it allows a window of opportunity for athletes to train movement patterns that were previously uncomfortable, learn new skills and techniques and carry on the momentum to train hard every day.
Ready to take action? Check out our sleek and sophisticated Vibration Massage Charge here.
If you enjoyed this article and want to find out more about Joel, check out his platforms and contact details below.
Practice: NUCUM PHYSIO www.nucumphysio.com