Foam rollers have long been used to loosen athletes up before and after workouts. Recently Vibrating Foam Rollers have hit the scene to loosen up deeper muscle tissue.
Ian Sharman, an ultrarunner and endurance coach, completed the Double Boston last month, running slower from the city center to the Boston Marathon start line in nearby Hopkinton before looping around to partake in the main marathon. Sharman used his high-end foam roller, the HyperIce Vyper 2, which has a rechargeable battery to generate vibration, to help him heal when he returned home to Bend, Oregon.
Sharman has been using foam rollers for a decade to break up muscular tension and manage sore spots. Still, in the last two years, he has joined a growing number of notable personalities in his regimen, including Lindsey Vonn, Tom Brady, and Laird Hamilton. Sharman claims it is similar to massage’s myofascial release (the breakdown of tight muscular tissue) but more strength. “It’s like a jackhammer ripping up the asphalt,” he describes it.
In the early 2000s, there was a lot of buzz about how whole-body vibration plates may improve health and fitness. According to certain research, it may help to reduce muscle soreness and keep you loose after a strenuous workout. There was even talk of quick fat loss, muscular toning, and increased calorie expenditure. As a casual athlete, I recall trying one of the devices. Unfortunately, the vibration ricocheted through my gut as I executed a situp, causing an intense want to poop. Aside from the pain, these standing plates were also expensive and clumsy, and they quickly fell out of favor.
Today, interest in vibration is resurging as athletes recognize the importance of healing as part of their total training regimen and have grown more ready to invest in new goods and procedures that are supposed to aid in that effort. Targeted vibration and the plethora of smaller gadgets that provide it is one of the key approaches. Vonn has supported the HyperIce product line, including a vibrating massage ball and a gadget like a power drill. TriggerPoint created a vibrating version of its well-known Grid roller. According to TheraGun, its handheld G2PRO is used by more than 100 professional sports teams (and has the sideline pictures to prove it). Brady’s fitness line, TB12, has released a roller and ball. The devices aren’t cheap—prices range from $100 to $600—but they’re more accessible, practical, and, many athletes believe, more targeted than heavy-duty gym vibration plates.
Smaller-scale vibration treatment, according to proponents, zeroes in on-issue locations, effectively increasing circulation, relaxing and loosening muscles, reducing discomfort, and improving range of motion. According to Mark Coberley, associate athletics director for sports medicine at Iowa State University and a board member of the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, it can warm up the muscles before an exercise and reduce discomfort later. He employs constant vibration at low rates to relax muscles and at high speeds to break down adhesions. “We have several kinds of rollers to help after intense exercises,” Coberley explains, “but we probably use the vibrating ones the most.”