Repeated strenuous activity, such as exercise, can cause small amounts of muscle damage called microtrauma, which results in inflammation and the accumulation of fascia scar tissue over time. Microtrauma can lead to muscular dysfunctions, pain, and decreased performance. For many years, massage has been used as a means to reduce muscle tension and dysfunction, yet increase performance. Foam rolling is a form of self-myofascial release using one’s own body weight to roll soft tissue and break up adhesions, restoring muscle length-tension relationships. Unlike massage, which can be relaxing, research suggests that an acute bout of self-myofascial release increases range of motion without a subsequent decrease in muscle activation or force.
In the past decade foam rolling has become very common in physical health and fitness centers. Many personal trainers and fitness coaches have their clients foam roll at the beginning and end of their workout as part of a warm up or cool down. During a warm up it is used to increase mobility and neuromuscular efficiency. The act of foam rolling involves a series of isometric plank like positions in which pressure is delivered to soft tissues as one rolls the length of a given muscle. The act of suspending one’s own body weight will also contribute to the warm up effect as isometrics enhance blood flow, resulting in increased skin and muscle temperature, and mobility.
Foam rolling post workout is a great way to cool down. It is commonly used for recovery to treat sore muscles, and can be done every day. Foam rolling does not immediately improve athletic performance, however it is effective for decreasing perceived fatigue allowing for increased training volume over time. Incorporate foam rolling into your exercise routine for about 10 minutes prior to your warm up or 10 minutes immediately after a workout.
MacDonald, Graham Z., Michael D.H. Penney, Michelle E. Mullaley, Amanda L. Cuconato, Corey D.J. Drake, David G. Behm , and Duane C. Button. "An Acute Bout of Self-Myofascial Release Increases Range of Motion Without a Subsequent Decrease in Muscle Activation or Force." Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research Volume 27: 812-821. Print.
Healey, Kellie C., Disa L. Hatfield, Peter Blanpied, Leah R. Dorfman, and Deborah Riebe. "The Effects of Myofascial Release With Foam Rolling on Performance." Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research Volume 28: 61-68. Web. 12 June 2014.
Boyle M. Using Foam Rollers. Available at: www.PerformBetter.com. Accessed 2009.