Stretch Band: Improving Athletic Performance

Foam Rollers: What Are The Benefits?
July 23, 2018 Michelle Khoury

Foam Roller

What Are The Benefits?

Foam rollers are widely used in the athletic and general sporting population for self-myofascial release. Sports clubs, gyms, physiotherapy clinics use accessories like foam rollers to assist with pre- and post- game/sport/gym activation and recovery, and manage problems associated with myofascial issues. But what are the benefits of using them?

What is a myofascial release?

Our muscles are encompassed in fascia, which is a form of connective tissue. The word myofascial comes from the Latin terms “myo” meaning muscle, and “fascia” meaning connective tissue.

It is common thought that foam rolling breaks down adhesions/knots or loosens tight muscles. This has been found not to be the case, rather, we have a temporary neuro-physiological response in the soft tissue. It does this by changing the body’s perception of tightness, pain, DOMS, etc via a change from the sympathetic (flight/fight) to a parasympathetic (rest/relax) nervous system effect.

So, if it’s not breaking down adhesions/knots or loosening muscles, then what is the point of foam rolling?

“Tightness” in our muscles is believed to be a result of “weakness” in the muscle. The “tightness” allows the muscle to work within a range which it can function without causing further damage to the muscle. When we foam roll, this causes a short-term improvement in flexibility as it changes our bodies perception of pain/tightness. This allows for the muscle to be strengthened in its full range and is why it can be used prior to a gym or rehabilitation session to work on strengthening the muscle in its “weaker” ranges or through its full range.


When should I use a foam roller?

There is unfortunately inconclusive evidence suggesting what the benefits of foam rolling are and when they should be used. There are suggestions that it may be a useful pre- and post- training, and it may be beneficial in reducing the effects of DOMS.

How do I use the foam roller?

  • Benefits of myofascial release are short-term, so the benefits of rolling the whole body prior to a strengthening session may be lost.
  • Moving or sustaining a perpendicular angle to the targeted muscle
  • Apply a pressure which is uncomfortable or tolerable but not painful, because if the pressure is too high the muscle is more likely to tense and thus decrease your range of motion
  • 3-5 sets of 20-30 second repetitions
  • 3-5 times per week, for long term effects on maintaining flexibility

It is important to note that foam rolling is only one of many ways to assist with recovery & improvement of tissue flexibility and strength. Depending on what needs to be achieved a Physio Science physiotherapist can assist you in developing a rehabilitation program to regain muscle strength & range of motion.

Our clinics are located in Brighton, Hove and Hurstpierpoint,  If you would like some advice or to book an appointment with one of our physiotherapists, please click here –

Comment (1)

  1. Harry Norman 6 years ago

    This is great! I’m a keen cyclist and struggle with time to dedicate towards foam rolling, what can I do in a pretty easy routine?

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