Over the past few years, the foam roller has become a popular tool to increase sporting performance and for muscle recovery after exercise. It is used as a type of self-myofascial release, or self massage. I have noticed that many people are even using the foam roller to replace the good old stretch. But is the foam roller alone actually that effective in decreasing delayed onset muscle soreness, or increasing athletic performance?
Up until now, the static stretch (holding a muscle on stretch for roughly 30 seconds) has been given the thumbs up for increasing flexibility of muscles, improving athletic performance and decreasing the risk of injury. Why? Because over time, consistent stretching routines will slowly lengthen out muscle fibers, and the response that tells you that you can’t stretch any further will become accustomed to the lengthened position, allowing you to stretch further without issue.
As it turns out, there isn’t an extensive amount of research out there on the effects of foam rolling, however a few key points have been made.
- Studies have so far ruled out that foam rolling increases athletic performance. When comparing muscular performance in groups that had foam rolled prior to exercise, there was no difference in performance to those who had not foam rolled.
- However, it has been found that, compared to control groups, those who foam rolled after exercise experienced significantly less muscle soreness (DOMS).
- Foam rolling has also been proven to increase range of motion, not as much as static stretching does, but an increase nonetheless.
- The best finding though? When combined, static stretching and foam rolling produced the most significant increase in range of motion. So therefore, foam rolling incorporated into a stretching routine is better than either a stretch routine alone, or a foam rolling routine alone.
So instead of getting rid of your stretching routine in favour for a foam rolling one, simply add some foam rolling techniques into your stretching routine for maximum benefits!
- Pearcey GEP, Bradbury-Squires DJ, Kawamoto J, Drinkwater EJ, Behm DG, Button DC. Foam rolling for delayed-onset muscle soreness and recovery of dynamic performance measures. J Athl Train [internet]. 2015 Jan [cited 2015 Mar 29]; 50(1): 5-13. Avail from: http://www.natajournals.org/doi/abs/10.4085/1062-6050-50.1.01
- Healey KC, Hatfield DL, Blanpied P, Dorfman LR, Riebe D. The effects of myofascial release with foam rolling on performance. J Strength Cond Res [internet]. 2014 Jan [cited 2015 Mar 29];28(1):61-68. Avail from: http://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Abstract/2014/01000/The_Effects_of_Myofascial_Release_With_Foam.8.aspx
- Mohr AR, Long BC, Goad CL. Effect of foam rolling and static stretching on passive hip-flexion range of motion. J Sport Rehabil [internet]. 2014 Nov [cited 2015 Mar 29]; 23(4): 296-9. Avail from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24458506
- Mohr AR. Effectiveness of foam rolling in combination with a static stretching protocol of the hamstrings. USA: Oaklahoma State University Library; 2014 April 16 [cited 2015 Mar 29]. Avail from: https://shareok.org/handle/11244/9682
This article is for information purposes only. Please consult your Osteopath or primary healthcare professional for further information.