Have you heard someone mention foam rolling? Foam Rolling is described as being a self-myofascial release technique that is used to restore muscle, tendons, ligaments, fascia, and soft tissue extensibility (4). It is done by placing a foam cylinder under the area of focus and rolling for 10-30 seconds while maintaining pressure on the specific area. Muscle groups individuals frequently roll are the quadriceps, hamstrings, ilitiobial band, calf muscles, and the lumbar and thoracic spine.
Various studies have examined the effects of foam rolling. Current research has found foaming rolling to have no detrimental impact on performance (1,2,3,5). MacDonald GZ, Penney MD, Mullaley ME, et al. noted that it had no negative effects on range of motion or force production when employed before exercise (1). Another study researched foam rolling and its relationship to delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and dynamic performance (2). This study had a small sample size but they suggest it could reduce DOMS and that it does not negatively impact dynamic performance. In another study with a larger sample size the researchers found that 30 seconds of foam rolling for the lower extremities and the back musculature had no effort on performance and the subjects had a reduction in the feeling of fatigue which may allow them to extend workout duration and volume (3). Foam rolling may also reduce arterial stiffness and improve vascular and endothelial function (4).
What’s the take home message? Current research suggests foam rolling has no negative impact on performance. It may be a good way to loosen up muscles, tendons, ligaments, and soft tissue before and after exercise. It may temporarily increase range of motion, positively assist with delayed onset muscle soreness, and improve vascular function.
If you’re contemplating adding foam rolling to your routine consult with one of our physical therapists to make sure you are performing the movements correctly and that it is beneficial to add to your correct regimen.
1) MacDonald GZ, Penney MD, Mullaley ME, Cuconato AL, Drake CD, Behm DG, Button DC. An acute bout of self-myofascial release increases range of motion without a subsequent decrease in muscle activation or force. J Strength Cond Res. 2013 Mar;27(3):812-21.
2) Pearcey GE, Bradbury-Squires DJ, Kawamoto JE, Drinkwater EJ, Behm DG, Button DC. Foam rolling for delayed-onset muscle soreness and recovery of dynamic performance measures. J Athl Train. 2015 Jan;50(1):5-13.
3) Healey KC, Hatfield DL, Blanpied P, Dorfman LR, Riebe D.The effects of myofascial release with foam rolling on performance. J Strength Cond Res. 2014 Jan;28(1):61-8.
4) Okamoto T, Masuhara M, Ikuta K. J Strength Cond Res. Acute effects of self-myofascial release using a foam roller on arterial function. 2014 Jan;28(1):69-73. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31829480f5
5) Wilke J, Muller LA, Giesche F, Power G, et al. Sports Medicine. Acute Efforts of Foam Rolling on Range of Motion in Health Adults: A Systematic Review with Multilevel Meta-analysis. 2020;(50):387-402.