Guide to Foam Rolling

Self-myofascial release is a technique that is used to improve range of motion, by altering the muscle and fascial (myofacsial) that connect our bones and joints.

Introduction

Self-myofascial release is a technique that is used to improve range of motion, by altering the muscle and fascial (myofacsial) that connect our bones and joints. This technique may be used as a warm-up, in recovery post exercise, or as a maintenance strategy. It leads to short term increases in range of motion without causing deficits in strength. To maintain these gains in range of movement, you must work in the new range. New range is weak range, so adjust your training accordingly.

General Principles 

  • Warm up (e.g. 5 minutes aerobic movement)
  • Use a variety of self mysfascial release tools to apply pressure to areas eliciting muscle pain.
  • Hold on the painful area for 1-2 minutes until the pain subsides, and the muscle relaxes.
  • Repeat process on the next painful point.
  • Test the range of motion before and after your self myofascial release treatment. If it helps – do it!
  • It is important to strengthen the new range of movement achieved afterwards, with resistance exercises. This “new range” may be “weak range”, so adjust your training accordingly to allow accommodation.The Evidence

    For those academics out there!! “Foam Rolling” Self-myofascial release via a foam roller is a form of massage used by athletes, Physiotherapists and other movement and sport professionals. Myofascial release is a technique developed by Barnes (1997) that is used to improve range of motion and may be used as a warm-up, recovery, or maintenance strategy. A small number of recent studies suggest that foam rolling leads to short term (2-10 minutes) increases of 5-12% in range of motion without concomitant deficits in strength (Mohr et al. 2014, Sullivan et al. 2013, MacDonald et al. 2013).

    The studies evaluating the effect of foam rolling on range of motion have explored different parameters of the technique in terms of duration and pressure. One study found that 10s of foam rolling of the hamstrings was better than 5s and that 2 sets were better than 1 on the hamstrings on sit and reach (Sullivan et al 2013). This was a conservative application of 1 roll cycle per second (distal to proximal knee fold to buttock fold) and may not reflect the typical clinical application of a foam roller. A harder foam roller may provide better soft tissue pressure and isolated contact area (MacDonald et al. 2014)

    Lack of an appropriate control or blinded assessors introduces the possibility of detection bias in these studies. It is not clear how participants were recruited some studies and it is important to remember that they were young non-injured populations. Additionally, the methods used to measure range of motion in these studies are questionable. This means that these findings must be interpreted with caution. However, it must be remembered that is very difficult to conduct this type of research due primarily due to differences in individual’s morphology, the complex nature of injury prevention, performance and rehabilitation and measuring relevant outcomes in the right way.

    We have outlined some general principles to consider when “foamrolling” and some proposed ways in which this technique may work. We hope you find this information helpful and would be very interested in hearing your comments in how this technique works for you….