The topic of self-myofascial release continues to be a topic of debate among coaches and strength and conditioning professionals. Is foam rolling before a workout necessary? It’s impact on subsequent performance markers remains inconclusive. Its effect on injury prevention is difficult to test in a research setting. Other alleged benefits of foam rolling may include increased mobility and range of motion, which can certainly be a positive thing. Some of the draw backs mostly pertain to time requirements. Particularly in the collegiate setting, affording space and time for a 5-10 minute period for foam rolling can be difficult when multiple teams are coming through the weight room. Some coaches complain of athletes using this time more as a coffee break than anything else. The impact of self-myofascial release techniques on performance, injury and range of motion requires further investigation.
The effect of foam rolling on athletic performance markers in 11 trained male athletes (college-aged) was the topic of a recent study by Peacock and colleagues in the International Journal of Exercise Science. Athletes were invited to the laboratory on two separate occasions in randomized order to perform a standard warm-up without foam rolling, and a standard warm-up with foam rolling. Following the warm-ups , athletes performed a battery of performance tests listed below:
– Sit and Reach
– Vertical Jump
– Broad Jump
– Pro Agility
– Bench Press Rep Max
– 37 m Sprint
A general warm-up of 1000 m of jogging followed by a dynamic warm-up which included various body weight movements, calisthenics, plyometrics and sprints were performed by both groups. The foam rolling group differed by adding a period of foam rolling following the 1000 m run. The athletes were instructed on foam rolling the upper and lower back, glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps and pectorals. The results are displayed in the table below.
|Performance Marker||Standard Warm-Up||Foam Rolling|
|Sit and Reach||34.18 ± 5.21||34.32 ± 5.70|
|Vertical Jump||67.66 ± 9.79||72.97 ± 10.60 *|
|Broad Jump||228.60 ± 25.25||237.84 ± 25.45 *|
|Pro Agility||4.97 ± 0.24||4.80 ± 0.16 *|
|Bench Press||99.92 ± 19.56||103.68 ± 20.47 *|
|37 m Sprint||5.11 ± 0.29||4.95 ± 0.21 *|
As you can see, the foam rolling warm-up resulted in significantly better performance values (other than sit and reach showing no difference) compared to the standard warm-up without foam rolling. These effects are quite compelling. However, it’s important not to forget that existing research has conflicting results, demonstrating no effect on performance. Context is always an important factor to consider as well. Older athletes, or “tightler”, less mobile athletes may benefit more from foam rolling than younger, more healthy and mobile athletes. Considering the low cost, it appears that its worth considering including foam rolling for your athletes. Ask them how they feel after compared to warming up without foam rolling.
Peacock, C. A., Krein, D. D., Silver, T. A., Sanders, G. J., & von Carlowitz, K. P. A. (2014). An Acute Bout of Self-Myofascial Release in the Form of Foam Rolling Improves Performance Testing. International Journal of Exercise Science, 7(3), 5.