Foam rolling has become a popular tool to aid a multitude of benefits, when used post exercise, among many athletes within a variety of different sports. For instance, foam rolling is considered to be useful for aiding: muscle recovery; range of movement improvements and functional ability improvements (Stull, 2017). Heightening its popularity, there are a vast amount of foam rolling tools. For instance, athletes can choose from the standard foam roller tool, massage bars and many others (Wiewelhove et al, 2019). As such, this is suggested to be why foam rolling has become popular; due to the fact that foam rolling tools are easily accessible and relatively cheap (Stull, 2017). When using the foam rollers, the athlete applies pressure to the soft tissue, using their body weight to roll the foam over the soft tissue they are aiming to target. This can be considered as an additional reason as to why foam rolling has become popular; as the variety of tools are easy to use and the rolling itself can be done by yourself, requiring no assistance (Jordan, 2016).
Holistically, research suggests that foam rolling after exercise, is an effective form of treatment to aid muscle recovery. For instance, Pearcy et al (2015) conducted a study in which the participants performed barbell back squats for 10 sets of 10 repetitions. The results displayed that those that had foam rolled their quadriceps immediately, as well as both 24 hours and 48 hours after their exercise, experienced none/less intense delayed onset muscle soreness in their quadriceps, compared to those who didn’t foam roll at all after exercise. As well as this, Macdonald (2013) also conducted a study in which the participants were divided into 2 groups; no foam rolling after exercise and foam rolling after exercise (the exercise also being back squats for 10 sets of 10 repetitions). As well, Macdonald also concluded that participants that used foam rolling after exercise, as well as 48 hours later, compared to those who didn’t, experienced less soreness within their muscles.
However, in terms of foam rolling aiding other benefits for athletes such as flexibility, range of movement and functional movement, the results from studies lead to ambiguity within the answer as to whether foam rolling can positively effect flexibility and functional movement. For instance, Macdonald (2013) concludes that regarding functional movement and range of movement, those who foam rolled subsequent to exercise, compared to those who didn’t, had an improved vertical height jump, and improved range of movement. However, D’Amico and Gillis (2017) concluded that there was no statistically significant difference in range of movement and improvements in vertical jumps between those who foam rolled after exercise and those who didn’t.
Ultimately, it can be concluded that foam rolling is an effective tool for athletes, for aiding the recovery process of delayed onset muscle soreness. However, the extent to which foam rolling is useful for other benefits, such as improving an athlete’s range of movement or functional ability, is ambiguous. Therefore, it can be concluded that athletes’ use of foam rolling, for anything other than to aid muscle soreness recovery, is a subjective and individualistic opinion, dependent on the benefits the athlete feels as though they are gaining when foam rolling subsequent to exercise.
D’Amico, A and Gillis, J. (2017). The influence of foam rolling on recovery from exercise-induced muscle damage. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 49(5), 1065.
Jordan, C (2016). Balanced Body Breakthrough. California: Inkshares.
MacDonald, G. (2013). Foam Rolling as a Recovery Tool Following an Intense Bout of Physical Activity. School of Human Kinetics and Recreation, 1–90.
Pearcey, G., Bradbury-Squires, D. Kawamoto, J. Drinkwater, E. Behm, D and Button, D. (2015). Foam Rolling for Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness and Recovery of Dynamic Performance Measures. Journal of Athletic Training, 50(1), 5–13.
Stull, K. (2017). Complete Guide to Foam Rolling. Devonshire: Human Kinetics.
Wiewelhove, T. Döweling, A. Schneider, C. Hottenrott, L. Meyer, Kellmann, T. Pfeiffer, M. Ferrauti, A. (2019). A Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Foam Rolling on Performance and Recovery. Fronteirs in Physiology, 10, 376.