man stretching in gym

Have you ever wondered if you should stretch your muscles or use a foam roller? Both are popular tactics for improving mobility and warming up before training, but which one is better?

More importantly, should you worry about timing these activities to reap better rewards, or does that not matter?

Let’s discuss.

What Is Stretching And What Benefits Does It Offer?
Stretching our muscles is something we are all familiar with, and you’ve probably done it numerous times in the past. The objective is to deliberately stretch various muscles in your body to improve their elasticity, bring about comfort, and increase your range of motion.

The primary way to stretch is to do it statically by elongating a muscle to the point of moderate discomfort and maintaining the position for 30 to 60 seconds. Another way to stretch is to do dynamic exercises, such as leg swings. These activities allow you to stretch your muscles for a few seconds at a time, followed by a release.

Both types of stretching offer benefits in the form of improved range of motion, reduced risk of muscle injuries, and more comfort during exercise. Some research suggests that stretching might improve blood flow, alleviate muscle soreness, and speed up recovery.

What is Foam Rolling, And How Does It Differ From Stretching?
Foam rolling, also known as self-myofascial release, is a newer option for people looking to warm up and work on their mobility. Unlike stretching, the goal here is to place some part of your body over a foam roller and move back and forth. Doing so puts pressure on your muscles, mobilizing the tissues and soothing tight areas.

Aside from its mobility benefits, foam rolling also seems good for warming up before training. The activity promotes blood flow and can raise your core body temperature, allowing you to loosen up and prepare your body for working out.

You can place as much of your weight over the foam roller as you feel comfortable. Start with less pressure on a foam roller with moderate firmness and gradually build it up. The activity will probably feel quite uncomfortable initially, but it will get easier over time.

Stretching vs. Foam Rolling: Which Is Better (And Why)
Research suggests that both activities can improve range of motion and possibly reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS). But, data shows that static stretching before exercise can reduce power output, which isn’t good as it can lead to poor performance.

So, we recommend saving your static stretching for after training as a way to cool down before calling it a day. You can also do some static stretching on your rest days to move around and work on your mobility and flexibility.

Foam rolling can be useful for warming up before working out, especially if you have some tight areas and struggle to get going. For example, if you have trouble squatting well initially, some foam rolling of your hip and adductor area might help.

You can also include dynamic stretching before training because research doesn’t find it to be bad for your power output.

February 11, 2022 — Daniel Felstein

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