Why Foam Rolling Does Not Wash Away Cellulite

I thought self-myofascial release and doing soft tissue work with a foam roller, stick, mobility ball or lacrosse ball would be off limits as a potential avenue of scam-artistry in the health and fat-loss industry. It turns out I am mistaken after a recent advertising campaign on Facebook and Twitter was brought to my attention by a member of Worcester Kettlebell Club.

Want a slimmer waist, there’s a new 21st century corset/plastic wrap/boa constrictor that you can strap around your waist and you’ll never need to do another crunch or eat another vegetable again. Stick your finger in an electrical outlet every minute on the minute and zap yourself to a slimmer, toned waistline. PLEASE don’t do that, but if you do because a celebrity trainer suggested it…then a Darwin award nomination is in your future.

I recently watched a video of the promoted product, by the woman who is a self-proclaimed celebrity and a guru. This tool is basically the same thing as the The Stick or the Muscletrac sold by Perform Better but has these little spider-like fingers that are probably the magical hands of Smurfs, severed and Gorilla Glue'd on Harry Potter’s wizard wand. This glorified stick claims many things, including the ability to lessen or diminish the appearance of cellulite, improve muscle definition and make skin more vibrant. You can buy yours for $89, online, sold by a celebrity, of course. Did I mention she’s a (self-proclaimed) “guru?”

Maybe it works, maybe not. Actually, definitely not.

Here’s a brief discussion of what cellulite is, what myofascial release is, and how any sort of fascial release does not reduce the appearance of cellulite.

What is cellulite? Cellulite is stored body fat, beneath the skin, and is linked to genetics, metabolism, nutrition, exercise and/or activity frequency or lack thereof, hormone levels and function, stress and hydration, to name a few culprits. Cellulite can be found on people of all shapes and sizes and is not limited to the overweight person.

How does one get rid of cellulite?

It should be noted there is no current or relevant scientific evidence proving that cellulite creams work, but those still sell like crazy because some celebrity said so and there are doctored before and after pictures to prove it.

Liposuction is another alternative method to reduce cellulite, but this also misses the target by surgically removing deep fat stored underneath the skin, and it comes with many complications, including post-operative weight-gain. Liposuction is to fat-loss as Tom Brady’s deflated footballs are to winning football games. There is no connection.

Another note about body fat and cellulite - spot reduction is a myth. The product claims to spot reduce. We know spot reduction is not physiologically possible. Fat, or adipose tissue, is genetic and we gain and lose body fat based on our genetics, not because we “targeted” a certain area.

Do you want to remove cellulite? Take a hard look at your habits. Consider your nutrition, activity, and look around your family tree. Be honest with yourself. Adding in or increasing your exercise regimen and fixing some of your eating habits is the most reasonable place to start. I know. Hard work prevails, again.

What does foam rolling do? Foam rolling an area can help hydration of muscle and connective tissue as well as improve the sensations aroused within the tissue. It does not lengthen the tissue, which is common misconception. Master SFG and Chief Kettlebell Instructor Brett Jones has said something to the effect “You can’t foam roll or stretch your ITB (iliotibial band) to gain more length? It does not stretch, and if you connected it to a hitch of two cars and drove them in the opposite direction then you’re going to have at least one car without a hitch, ripped off before you ‘stretched’ it.” Foam rolling might make it feel better, but there is no muscle or tissue lengthening as a result from foam rolling.

Tom Myers, king of fascia, says foam rolling can be like squeezing the sponge of tissue, as long as it’s done slowly and mindfully. At a recent certification I attended (Certified Functional Strength Coach) a suggestion was to cover about 1 inch per 1 second as a good foam roll tempo to follow. Note, you’re not disintegrating cellulite with foam rolling, that’s just physiologically impossible. If anything happens, you will make cellulite more pronounced by dehydrating the tissue during the rolling until fluid is reabsorbed.

This ONE product got me started on a rant. I just want people to be more educated and not be fooled by the glamorization of celebrities selling products claiming impossible outcomes. If you want to begin removing cellulite, first consider your nutrition and exercise habits and go from there. There isn’t a legitimate product on the market that will wash away or remove cellulite. Don’t blow $89 on magic creams, pills and sticks. My recommendation is to invest in a reputable coach in your area who focuses on an exercise and nutrition philosophy that you can get on board with and experience the full benefits for yourself. Take this route and you can lose cellulite and gain confidence, strength and energy, something most “products” don’t focus on or deliver.

Evan Marcantonio

Worcester Kettlebell Club, LLC, Worcester, MA, USA