When foam rollers first hit the market, most guys looked at them like an ab roller. “Nice toy, but I’ll pass.”
As time went on the fad turned out to be a trend you couldn’t ignore. Gyms made them standard fare, athletes started rolling before games, and next thing you know everyone was rolling with the movement.
At this point, you probably know it’s “good” for your body—but what does that actually mean? After all, you have limited time, so you want hard hitting answers. Because on thing is certain: you can foam roll all day but that won’t give you bigger biceps.
The biggest enemy of progress is lack of consistency and injuries. When you don’t warmup you’re placing your body at a greater risk of injury.
If you look at research, foam rolling and mobility work doesn’t show much in the way of, “Do this warmup and you will build more muscle.” Part of the reason is SMR (self myofascial release, the fancy name for rilloing) is relatively new to the workout world so research is limited. Stretching is as old as the sun, but there are so many mixed reviews that it’s almost more of a personal preference.
That said, understanding the benefits of foam rolling can make it easier to determine how 5 to 10 minutes of soft tissue work before a workout could be the first domino that accelerates the gain train.
Instead of viewing your warmup as cause and effective, think of it as part of a system, with each part playing a role in enhancing another element of muscle growth. Specifically, a great warmup prepares your body for the stress of lifting weights.
If your muscles are warm and prepared, then they can generate more force and move more weight. And on any program, you know this is a part of packing on new size.
Maybe more importantly, the warmup keeps you in the one place you need to be to grow: the gym.
The biggest enemy of progress is lack of consistency and injuries. When you don’t warmup you’re placing your body at a greater risk of injury. Why? A cold muscle is like a cold rubber band. Ever frozen something seemingly pliable? It changes everything. What was once easy-to-move is now stiff; what once seemed unbreakable can now easily snap.
This is the hidden value of foam rolling. A little pre-workout prep (or even work on off days) can help keep you injury-free. Is this full-proof? Of course not. I’ve seen guys who can come in after a 15-minute walk in the snow and bust out a 300-pound deadlift with no problem. But that’s the exception to the rule.
Put differently: There’s a reason athletes go through such a rigorous pregame routine. It’s not to make them jump higher or run faster. it’s to prevent injury in a situation where there’s lots of stress on your body.
If you want to lift without insurance, then that’s your choice. Personally, for 5-10 minutes, it’s not a risk I’d take.
Adam Bornstein is a New York Times bestselling author and, according to The Huffington Post, “one of the most inspiring sources in all of health and fitness.” An award-winning writer and editor, Bornstein was the Fitness and Nutrition editor for Men’s Health, Editorial Director at LIVESTRONG.com, and a columnist for SHAPE, Men’s Fitness, and Muscle & Fitness. He’s also a nutrition and fitness advisor for LeBron James, Cindy Crawford, Lindsey Vonn, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. His work has been featured in dozens of publications, including The New York Times, Fast Company, ESPN, and GQ, and he’s appeared on Good Morning America, The Today Show, E! News, and The Cheddar.