Foam rolling, which has become more widely known in the exercise field as means of warming up, and recovering, is defined as Self Myofascial Release, or SMR. Self myofascial release using a foam roller has grown in popularity in the exercise science field over the last several years as an effective means of therapeutic muscle relaxation for both pre and post workout. The benefits of self myofascial release using a foam roller are centered around breaking up adhesions in the muscle, allowing for proper length-tension relationship that exists in the human movement system. The importance of Length-Tension relationships that exist within a muscle is important physiological response that results from the active muscle fibers (actin and myosin) are able to achieve optimal force production when they are at a resting point that maximizes the connections of the actin to myosin filaments. Adhesions occur within the muscle fiber section, known as Sarcomeres, that remain in a contracted position as a injury prevention measure. These adhesions are associated with additional pain and fatigue in active individuals (Peacock, Krein, Silver, Sanders, Von-Carlowitz, 2014). Additional benefits to the physiological system include an increased dilation of the arterial system, increase supply of nitrogen dioxide, and improvement on muscular plasticity (Peacock et al, 2014).
The benefits of self myofascial release using a foam roller shows strong evidence as a pain reducer and mobility increaser, but limited research is provided on the effects of foam rolling on performance in athletes. An experimental, quantitative, level 2 research study by Peacock, et al (2014), studied 11 physically active students and in fields of performance, strength, agility, and speed. The test group was to complete 5 minutes each of a general warm-up, dynamic warm-up and bout of foam rolling, while the control group did not undergo the foam rolling. The test group, after completing the general and dynamic warm up, was instructed to complete foam rolling on the thoracic/lumbar region, gluteal complex, hamstring, calf, pectoral, and quadriceps and hip flexors. Test and control group were tested in the areas of sit and reach for flexibility, vertical and long jump, bench press, and sprint. They were provided a 7 day rest period before retesting was admitted.
Results of the study indicated that performance in all the categories except the sit and reach improved when a bout of self myofascial release using a foam roller was added to a bout of general warm up and dynamic warm up (Peacock et al, 2014). As a personal advocate of self myofascial release using a foam roller, Peacock et al (2014), provided additional research to the benefits of using a foam roller for active participants of athletics and strength training to help improve performance of the individual.
Most common areas of muscular adhesions for sedentary lifestyles:
- Lateral Gastrocnemius (Calves) and Peroneals. These muscles are on the outer portion of the lower leg.
- Piriformis: This muscle is located inside the gluteus maximus and requires the leg to be crossed to expose this muscle.
- Latissimus Dorsi. This muscle is connected from the spine to the humerus and to SMR this location, one must center the roller to the back of the armpit.
Peacock, Corey A., Krein, Darren D., Silver, Tobin A., Sanders, Gabriel J., Von Carlowitz, Kyle-Patrick A., An Acute Bout of Self-Myofascial Release in the Form of Foam Rolling Improves Performance Testing, 2014. International Journal of Exercise Science.