The Benefits of Foam Rolling
What is foam rolling?
Foam rolling is a form of self-myofascial release that is commonly used by fitness professionals. It is a relatively new technique and research has only recently emerged to describe its effects.
What is fascia?
Any discussion of self-myofascial release first has to present some background to fascia and the research into fascia.
According to the standard definition provided by the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies (LeMoon, 2008), fascia is the soft tissue component of the connective tissue system that both penetrates and surrounds muscles, bones, organs, nerves, blood vessels and other structures and extends from head to toe, from front to back, and from surface to deep in an uninterrupted, three-dimensional web. Schleip (2012) also define fascia as “the soft tissue component of the connective tissue system that permeates the human body (and) that is part of a body wide tensional force transmission system.”
In broad terms, therefore, fascia is connective tissue that wraps around all of our muscles and is heavily interconnected with muscular function. It is also a continuous sheet all around the body, which means that if it is altered or shortened in one area, that could potentially have a knock-on effect in other areas of the body.
What does fascia actually do?
According to the standard definition provided by the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies (LeMoon, 2008), fascia is responsible for:
• Maintaining structural integrity
• Providing support and protection
• Acting as a shock absorber
• Plays a role in hemodynamic and biochemical processes
• Provides the matrix permitting intercellular communication
• Functions as the body’s first line of defense against pathogenic agents and infections
• Creates an environment for tissue repair post-injury
What is myofascial release?
In general, a myofascial release technique is intended to address localized tightness in the fascia.
The sensations of pain that are caused by localized tightness in the fascia are generally referred to as “myofascial pain syndrome” and the localized tightness itself is thought to be caused by myofascial trigger points.
Myofascial trigger points are more usually defined as “tender spots in discrete, taut bands of hardened muscle that produce local and referred pain” (Bron, 2012).
Some researchers believe that myofascial trigger points develop after muscle overuse, possibly following excessive eccentric muscular contractions, or sustained concentric muscular contractions to muscular failure, particularly where such contractions involve localized ischemia, which leads to a lowered pH and the release of inflammatory mediators (Bron, 2012). However, the literature is still very sparse in this area.
THE FOAM ROLLING REVIEW
Foam rolling is a relatively new form of self-myofascial release. It is promoted for use pre-workout to enhance flexibility and post-workout for reducing muscle soreness and promoting quicker recovery.
Foam rolling pre-workout seems to be able to improve flexibility without the risk of reducing neuromuscular performance in either high-force-low-velocity or high-velocity-low-force muscular actions, as can occur with static stretching.
For short-term recovery
Foam rolling post-workout or post-competition seems to be able to reduce deterioration in countermovement jump performance in order to improve the ability to perform again more expediently.
For long-term recovery
Foam rolling post-workout or post-competition seems to be able to reduce muscle soreness in order to improve the ability to train again more frequently.
Foam rolling may acutely reduce arterial stiffness, improve arterial function and improve vascular endothelial function. These findings may indicate that foam rolling is beneficial for cardiovascular health.
So with the current research all pointing towards the benefits of self myofacial release