In the past few years self-myofascial release techniques have consumed the workout community. At the forefront of these techniques is the ever popular use of a foam roller. There isn’t a gym you can walk into without someone using a foam roller claiming to be “stretching”. However, many people do not understand the proper benefits, and techniques that one can receive from using this particular piece of equipment. So what benefits, if any, can foam rolling actually provide?
Research, albeit limited in this area, has proven that foam rolling can have positive effects, but they may not be in the ways most of us believe. Studies have shown that flexibility, particularly of the hamstrings and quadriceps can be increased with the use of a foam roller or similar tools. What most people don’t realize is that the effects of foam rolling have been shown to be limited to only acute improvements, peaking around 10 minutes post foam rolling. This means foam rolling itself may be helpful when used as a tool to loosen up before a workout, but not necessarily to improve our overall flexibility.
Muscle soreness and fatigue are two of the more popular reasons gym goers jump to use a foam roller. This is actually one area where many users may be onto something! Several studies have shown that when myofascial release techniques were used perceived muscle soreness and fatigue following exercise were decreased. Now research also shows that foam rolling has no acute effect on improving athletic performance. However, it stands to reason that if we are able to decrease our overall level of soreness we will be able to train longer and harder. Inevitably increasing the level we can perform at.
This exact method of how self-myofascial release techniques draw their benefits is still not understood. Some hypothesize that the friction of the massage actually heats up the myofascial tissues and allows them to move more freely. Whatever the underlying reasons may be, it is important to note that research thus far has shown foam rolling can be beneficial in many areas. At the very minimum foam rolling will not cause negative effect and you gain the positives of soft tissue massage.
This guest post was written by Cameron T. Freund, SPT Class of 2016, DPT Class President. University of St. Mary
If you would like further information on the subject you may refer to: http://www.strengthandconditioningresearch.com/foam-rolling-self-myofascial-release/#1
- Healey, K. C., Hatfield, D. L., Blanpied, P., Dorfman, L. R., & Riebe, D. (2014). The effects of myofascial release with foam rolling on performance. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 28(1), 61-68.[PubMed]
- MacDonald, G. Z., Penney, M. D., Mullaley, M. E., Cuconato, A. L., Drake, C. D., Behm, D. G., & Button, D. C. (2013). An acute bout of self-myofascial release increases range of motion without a subsequent decrease in muscle activation or force. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 27(3), 812-82.[PubMed]
- MacDonald, G. Z., Button, D. C., Drinkwater, E. J., & Behm, D. G. (2014). Foam rolling as a recovery tool after an intense bout of physical activity. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 46(1), 131-142.[PubMed]
- Sullivan, K. M., Silvey, D. B., Button, D. C., & Behm, D. G. (2013). Roller-massager application to the hamstrings increases sit-and-reach range of motion within five to ten seconds without performance impairments. International journal of sports physical therapy, 8(3), 228.[PubMed]