Foam Rolling vs Stretching, which is best for recovery?

What is recovery?

In the strength and conditioning/exercise training world, there is one aspect of training that is often overlooked by the general public, the art of recovery. Recovery is very important as it allows our muscles and joints to adapt to the stimulus it was given, ultimately becoming stronger and more resilient. In my opinion, when most people think of recovery, they picture AFL footballers at the beach in their speedos and hoodies. This is just one aspect of recovery and just like weight training, there are a number of ways to do it. For most people, the warmest and easiest way to complete recovery following a sporting match, race or training session is either foam rolling (or self myofascial release) or stretching. The question is though, is one better than the other? In this blog we will discuss each one and let you know our thoughts.

Foam Rolling?

If you are new to training or sport and don’t know what a foam roller is and how it is used, you’re about to find out. A foam roller is a piece of hard foam that doesn’t compress. As you lie your body on it in different angles, the roller doesn’t compress, the force goes back into the muscle and it helps to relieve knots and tight points. The goal of any bout of foam rolling is to increase joint range of motion and correct any muscular imbalances.


Stretching on the other hand is more well known and has been around for a long time. Stretching refers to increasing the muscle length and holding it over a period of time, in order to elicit change. In terms of recovery, it is used to return the muscles to their normal resting position of that before the exercise bout. Generally stretching is done over 1-2 minutes and should be completed after any exercise.

Which is best?

One is not better than the other and at the end of the day, the best mode of recovery is one that you are happy to stick with. Many people do not like the pain that the foam roller can cause but they like the relaxation of stretching, while others don’t like to sit still and would prefer to roll. The most important thing is to do what is right for you! We would suggest giving both a try and see which one you would prefer.

For more information on foam rolling, we have a video on our Facebook page, just click the ‘Videos’ tab in the left hand side of the screen. Please contact us if you have any other questions.

Bennett Tucker is an Accredited Exercise Physiologist and Level Two Strength Coach. He has been in the industry for 7 years and worked with a variety of professional athletes. Bennett specialises in athlete rehabilitation and lower back, knee and hip pain. His clinic is located in Croydon, Victoria.

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