By Remy Casa,
Foam rolling (FR) is a form of manual therapy that has become fashionable among some SUP racers, such as Virginie Samson. What are effects of this technique and what are its interests for all you SUPracers out there?
The stated virtues of FR are as follows: acute mobility/flexibility gains (joint range and muscular ease in movements and paddle stroke), performance augmentation when FR is used during warm-ups (positive effects on strength, power and speed) and optimization of post-workout recovery!
But how does it work? FR acts on myofascial (muscle and connective tissue) tightness and on blood flow to augment the mobility/flexibility of your joints, as well as softening and relaxing tissues.
These effects are explained by the stimulation of sensory receptors sensitive to the pressure applied to tissues. Add to this the effects of massage, which FR also covers.
But what specific benefits are there for SUP? Well, we must ask one simple question. In SUP, do you need joint mobility and muscular flexibility? Of course you do! Especially around the shoulder area (which is a complex joint), around the spinal column and around the pelvis, which all need to benefit from a certain fluidity when paddling! Another question one might ask is, in SUP, does one need to warm up?
Once again, the answer is a firm yes, as warming up has positive effects on strength, power and speed! And what about recovery? If optimizing your recovery time is something you value, FR also has positive effects in this regard. FR should be integrated as part of a generally healthy sporting routine.
In what context does FR make sense?
Warm-ups are one example. FR is a welcome addition to your warm-up routine. It can be particularly useful as a means of replacing static stretching in warm-ups (which some people continue to engage in despite the harmful effects it has been linked to in a number of studies) because it augments gestural range and blood supply without bearing negative effects on performance. Some research has even shown that FR added to a warm-up routine can optimize the following: mobility, power, strength, speed and agility.
Another example of a situation in which FR makes sense is during post-workout recovery. Studies have shown the positive effects of FR on post-effort muscle soreness and muscle fatigue. Add to this the draining and relaxing effects of massage, which FR provides. FR is especially useful after intense training and during back-to-back races periods.
Finally, FR makes sense in particular when it comes to mobility/flexibility. There are acutely noticeable effects on mobility/flexibility after a FR session, but these fade after just a few minutes. To achieve an acute gain in mobility, then there’s no secret to it. As with everything else, it just takes consistency and practice.
Different tools on offer:
Massage Stick: This allows you to apply different massage strengths and to home in on certain specific areas.
Massage ball: This allows you to focus on certain specific areas and home in on tightness. It gives you the possibility of going deeper into tissues and isolating small muscles or small areas.
The roller: The depth and strength of this massage can be heightened and lowered depending on the weight you apply to the roller and the length of the roller’s “teeth”.
Warm-up: You should work to a steady rhythm. An example would be 3 sets of 20 seconds per muscle group with a sustained massage rhythm. Keep the focus on upper body for warming up in SUP.
Recovery: Slow down the rhythm and try to relax things a little. 3 to 5 series of 30 seconds or more per muscle group. It is useful to to do the whole body as seen on the video. Focus on stiff areas. Do not use on pain until you have identified which kind of lesion it is. Any doubts? Consult a doctor.
Mobility: This is for chronic effects. At least 3 sessions per week!