We work with a long list of pro sports teams to personalise the hydration strategies of their athletes, both here in the U.K. and over the pond in the U.S. After a while you end up hearing the same names mentioned when you work with the coaching staff and, after hearing about each other enough times, we ended up meeting up with Sparta Science, a Silicon Valley company founded in 2008 by Dr. Phil Wagner.  

Sparta applies data and technology to the pursuit of human resilience at more than 40 organisations, including the Cleveland Cavaliers (NBA), Colorado Rockies (Major League Baseball), Qantas Wallabies (Rugby), University of Kansas, University of Texas, and multiple U.S Special Forces.

We partnered with them in 2016 because we both believe in using science, data, and technology to improve performance. They offer our Advanced Sweat Test at their facility alongside loads of other high tech performance services.

This is the first in a series of performance-advice blogs from the experts at Sparta...

To Roll or Not to Roll?

The efficacy of rolling out has been a hot button topic of late in the world of sports performance. There are arguments citing loss of power after rolling and claims that we cannot physiologically manipulate fascia (tissue). People are questioning whether we understand mechanisms of fascial release, and so on.

So, is rolling out a waste of time?

It all boils down to intent. Why are you rolling out? Are you trying to increase joint range of motion (ROM), increase your body temperature pre-session or acutely prime for power in-session? Depending on what your intent is, rolling out may in fact be coming up short for you.

We roll out in every training session in order to:

  • Correct body position
  • Increase elasticity
  • Teach athletes to take ownership of their training via self-care.

Although the mechanisms are not clearly understood, it is without question that fascial manipulation has an observable response on movement pattern and body position.

Whether those improvements come from reorganisation of the fascia, an increase in pain tolerance, or a surge of hormones – does it really matter? At the end of the day, we aren’t even 100% sure how a muscle contracts; the sliding filament theory is still just a theory.

Your jump height or sprint speed can’t be fully explained by looking at the force contraction of your muscles. The tension stored within the fascia and tendons account for the output not explained by muscular activation. Young and healthy fascia has a “two-directional lattice arrangement”.

But as we age and or take on stress, we lose our ‘springiness’; the fibre arrangement is altered and becomes more multi-directional. The fibres of the fascia become stuck together to form adhesions, which inhibits those prized elastic qualities. Myofascial release works to break down adhesions to restore a more youthful facial architecture.

Just as important as improving movement quality, is the culture and habits rolling out creates. Making a habit of rolling out means taking ownership over self-care. The vast majority of athletes don't have access to regular massage or manual therapy, but most trigger points / adhesions can be released through self manipulation (if you know how to roll out effectively). Proper self care (nutrition, hydration, sleep, tissue health) will have a long lasting impact on your athletic live.

The goal of rolling out is to correct body position, increase elasticity, prevent injuries, and improve your movement signature. While you will see major improvements in all of the areas, rolling out should never really get easier because it should be an ongoing exploratory journey as you find new ways to get deeper and more effective release.