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What can we do to keep cyclists in the saddle for longer?

Muscle soreness, range of motion, and strength loss all negatively impact performance in training or competition and detract from the joy of cycling. Pulseroll’s Paul McCabe and Stuart Percival look can be done to help keep cyclists in the saddle for longer

All exercise relies on effective muscle contraction, so anything that compromises this will reduce performance. Apart from acute day-to-day poor performance, bouts of exercise-induced muscle damage require longer recovery before returning to higher-intensity training, at the risk of breakdown and injury. Weak calves, for example, are a common cause of Achilles tendonitis, shin splints, calf strains and plantar fasciitis. Over time, these issues lead to the suffering of overall fitness. With reduced capacity for power, cyclists are slowed down and tire out considerably more quickly than they would have otherwise. So what can we do to keep cyclists in the saddle for longer?

This is a priority issue for many professionals in the sports industry, and a variety of measures can be taken to minimise the impact of exercise-induced muscle damage (EIMD). One such example is vibration therapy (VT) as a tool in physiotherapy treatment, which is known to help to improve circulation and increase mobility. It can be administered via whole body (WBV) or by local vibration therapy (LVT), which refers to direct application to specific points on the body. You might be familiar with VT in the context of vibration machines in the gym, which generally consist of a vibrating plate with variable settings (Hz) on which you stand, delivering WBV via the hands and feet.

Research has shown both methods (WBV and LVT) to be effective in enhancing strength and power, increasing blood flow and range of motion (ROM) in joints and limbs, and reducing muscle soreness with exercise-induced muscle damage (EIMD/DOMS). However, a large body of research suggests LVT is the more effective of the two. Local vibration therapy, specifically on the legs, can improve form, power, and even speed. Ergogenic aids like LVT can facilitate a quicker return to training, reduce risk of injury and illness, and improve long-term performance gains.

Local vibration therapy was previously studied in laboratories using cumbersome equipment which administered the VT locally – usually by a hand-held device or foam roller type equipment – but LVT is now accessible by means of portable devices that allow direct application. These portable devices have also become available to the consumer via Pulseroll, whose range of LVT-administering products utilise a combination of pressure and vibration to help loosen muscles, improve mobility, increase blood flow, and flush away lactic acid. The accessibility of Pulseroll’s foam rollers allowed us to collaborate on a comprehensive study involving a number of technologies to measure strength, blood flow, and oxygen levels within the muscles before, during, and after DOMS.

A huge amount of research into the effects of EIMD/DOMS has already been undertaken over the years, with a prominent focus on the increase in blood flow and oxygenation that the VT reports to enhance, and the attenuating effects this has on EIMD. There is good evidence that VT enhances blood flow (and thus oxygenation) to the muscle. Although no consensus exists into the actual aetiology, the results of our own research indicated that post-EIMD/DOMS, the small blood vessels that service the muscle become damaged in some way, which compromises blood flow (and muscle oxygenation).

We wanted to find out whether, if VT can potentially increase blood flow and oxygenation to muscles, it could relieve the effects of EIMD/DOMS. Understanding and measuring how DOMS affects strength, blood flow and oxygen in the muscle was just one part of the study. We also wanted to know whether anything could be done to reduce the negative side effects of DOMS in the muscle.

Two groups underwent strength testing and baseline measures of muscle oxygenation. Both groups then did some novel exercise to induce EIMD/DOMS, with Group One self-administering LVT with Pulseroll products, and Group Two receiving no LVT at all. Strength and muscle oxygenation were retested a total of three times, every eight hours.

Muscle oxygenation in the LVT group was found to be significantly higher than the non-VT group. Performance in the strength-based task was also better in the LVT group. The study indicated that the use of Pulseroll vibrating foam rollers was strongly correlated with increased blood flow and oxygen in the muscle, likely facilitated by dilation of blood vessels in the muscles.

The results of this study show, with academic backing, that Pulseroll products work exactly as we intended them to. Empowering the consumer with the kind of information that we generated in the study would open their eyes to the various areas in which they can invest to aid their recovery and avoid injuries. Better yet, making this information available to our dealer network empowers our partners to advise what particular products can help pinpoint the issue the customer is having, and provide personalised solutions.

The vibrating foam roller is a super-versatile piece of exercise equipment that offers many benefits similar to a sports massage. It not only improves blood flow, but also can increase flexibility, balance and core muscle strength, and we’re delighted to be able to offer conclusive evidence for those claims. With built-in rechargeable batteries, we have two sizes of foam roller, the Peanut Ball, and the Single Ball available to stock. In August, we’re excited to launch our new massage percussion gun.

We offer discounts for bulk-buying products, and free POS for retail stores with a built-in video screen playing brand videos and subtitled testimonials. We also make products available free of charge to offer as prizes and provide in-house training. The Pulseroll range is designed to help the cyclist enjoy their passion unencumbered, recover faster, and ultimately help them improve their performance and find the marginal gains they’re looking for.

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