The Benefits of Foam Roller for Synchronized Skating


Foam rollers, which come in a variety of densities and sizes, have become very popular in the world of synchronized skating. Does this new technique to treat soft tissues really have an effect on skaters' muscles? When should it be used? Are there risks?

Foam rollers' (also called "Roller massagers") popularity is growing and manufacturers warrant benefits on range of motion, including effects on connective tissue, but also performance and recovery.

Scientific literature on the topic is quite poor, but a Swiss researcher and physical trainer in the Sports Medicine Centre in Lausanne conducted a study about it. After testing several parameters, here are his main conclusions: 

1. Not a help to perform
"The idea of using the roller before training to improve the performance has not been proven yet. Using a massage roll before an effort has not proven any speed or jump performance improvement", explained Cyril Besson, sports scientist and physical trainer.
2. Good for recovery
The researchers found a significant effect of foam roller in subjective perception, aching sensations, and muscle pain. "Yes we measure an effect for recovery. Personally, I recommend foam roller for a general massage recovery. If there are repeated efforts during a day (such as in competitions), I would try to use it in break times to improve subjective sensations", added Cyril Besson working in the Lausanne University Hospital. 

3. Mobility improvements
Although the effect on performance has not been confirmed, research has shown an improvement in the range of motion when an athlete uses a massage roller. "Foam roller can be really useful for skaters with muscle stiffness. Using it a little before exercise and combining it with other more dynamic mobility routines could be something to try to improve joint amplitude before doing an effort," said Cyril Besson.

4. Pay attention to the duration
If no scientific study has studied with precision the duration of the foam roller's pressure on the muscles, the researchers from the University of Lausanne advise using the foam roller during small periods. "According to my practice with athletes, I would recommend maybe 3x 20 seconds. The roller is very effective to massage the quadriceps, the calf, the buttock but also the hamstring muscle. For the upper body, we can also use small massage balls", added Cyril Besson. 

There is no contraindication for skaters to use a foam roller. He explained, however, that every athlete must be able to feel what is good for him in terms of strength and muscle massage. "The idea is to go back and forth on the muscular body, to untie the triger points."

5. Do not touch the joints
"It is important to not roll on the joints, only on the muscular body, therefore the fleshy part of the muscle. According to the type of muscle and the position we adopt, we can regulate the force naturally, "noted the sports scientist Cyril Besson.

Can the massage roller improve flexibility? "Let's say that by pressure, we can loosen the fibers and relax the nervous system, and by working on the amplitude of a muscle, we also gain flexibility, but it would be necessary to combine with stretching exercises', answered the physical trainer.

To summarize: the main effect of the foam roller is measured in the range of motion, which means it is useful to use it before making an effort. In a second step, the roller also allows reducing subjective perceptions of muscle pain after an effort.

Made of different shapes and hardness, there are several types of massage rollers. Their popularity is exploding around the world. And besides, did you know that there are even some with motors?