It was only a few years ago that athletes were spending hours with their mobility tools. Mashing and rolling on tight spots until their eyes watered. But recently, an anti-mobility trend has popped up, pushing a message that “self-myofascial release” is just plain stupid.
Some ammo for the anti-mobility crowd came up in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy last year, which showed that soft tissue work did nothing to improve range of motion. You can read the article at the link above, or Physical Therapist, Dan Pope of fitnesspainfree.com, has a nice summary of the information HERE.
So is it time to trash the mobility balls?
Definitely not! First, a small study of 23 college kids is of pretty low impact. But more importantly, there are other benefits to foam rolling that need to be considered, such as changes in how the brain perceives pain (ref), and potential muscle recovery enhancements (ref).
Although, it does highlight an important point. Soft tissue work by itself is not your path to mobility nirvana. Any mobility changes are likely temporary and need other strategies to make a lasting impact.
We’ll be sure to cover this more in-depth with future articles, but I just wanted to point out that, like most trends in the fitness world, the pendulum swings. Something is hot one day and touted as the key to all your results, and the next, it’s totally worthless or potentially harmful. But in the end, the answer usually lies somewhere in between: it’s a piece to a bigger plan.