A foam roller can be used to improve athletic performance and recovery when used as a self-myofascial release tool. Myofascial release is a manual soft tissue technique that improves the flexibility and mobility of the fascial system. Fascia is a connective tissue that is present throughout our entire body and surrounds our various body structures including muscles, bones, nerves, organs and blood vessels1. When fascia becomes restricted our body is unable to move and operate optimally. Self-myofascial release, such as foam rolling, can increase flexibility and enhance recovery2. Research has suggested that self-myofascial release can improve joint range of motion, decreases post-training fatigue and help alleviate delayed onset muscle soreness following a workout2,3. Foam rolling is a self-myofascial release technique that can be included in your dynamic warm-up to improve flexibility and range of motion prior to starting sports. It is also beneficial as part of your post-training routine to enhance recovery.
Your foam rolling routine should focus on all of the major muscles groups that are used during your sport. Each muscle group should be rolled for about 30 to 60 seconds, or about 10 rolls up and down the entire length of the muscle. When performing foam rolling you need to be cautious when rolling over boney or injured areas and avoid rolling over contusions. Please watch the included video for examples of how to perform foam rolling correctly.
If you are foam-rolling prior to starting sports training, then I recommend including it as part of your full dynamic warm-up. If you would like more information on how to perform a dynamic warm-up, I suggest reading my blog post “Is a Sports Warm-up Really that Important”. If you are performing your foam rolling post sports training then I recommend that you combine it with static stretching to maximize the benefits. You can purchase a foam roller from stores that sell fitness and sports equipment. If you plan on taking your foam roller with you to training and sports events then I recommend purchasing the shorter, 12 inch long roller.
Foam rolling is relatively inexpensive and easily implemented into your training program. The benefits of self-myofascial release include improved range of motion, flexibility and enhanced post-training recovery which can optimize your training and performance. If you want to take your sports performance to the next level this is something that you can start today!
Myofascial release is also a manual technique that can be performed by a sports physical therapist as a health and wellness service. Receiving intermittent myofascial release sessions from a sports physical therapist is a great way to keep your body functioning optimally for sport. During your sessions your therapist can evaluate to see if you have any imbalances that could possibly lead to injury or decreased sports performance. They can then address the imbalances during your session and make recommendations on how to improve your training routine. If you live in the Metro-Detroit area and are interested in health & wellness services for athletes please visit my website: www.sportsptcenter.com.
- Barnes M.F. The basic science of myofascial release: morophologic change in connective tissue. J of Bodywork & Movement Therapies 1997; 1(4): 231-238.
- Beardsley C, Skarabot J. Effects of self-myofascial release: a systematic review. J of Bodywork & Movement Therapies 2015; 19(4): 747-758.
- Healey, K et.al.The effects of myofascial release with foam rolling on performance. J of sStrength & Conditioning Research 2014; 28(1): 61-68.