Static stretching is often performed as part of a warm-up prior to exercise or sports. While static stretching can increase flexibility and range of motion, it’s also associated with an immediate decrease in muscle performance.
Myofascial rolling has recently increased in popularity as part of both warm-up and recovery to improve range of motion and reduce muscle soreness. Myofascial rolling is thought to affect the connective tissue and nervous system to increase range of muscle, rather than the muscle itself (Macdonald et al. 2014). Because of this mechanism, myofascial rolling may be able to provide immediate gains in flexibility without reducing muscle performance.
Exercise scientists at Memorial University in Newfoundland, Canada have been leading the research investigating the effects of myofascial rolling on flexibility and muscle performance. The researchers recently published a study on the effects of self-massage using the TheraBand Roller Massager. The purpose of their study was to compare static calf stretching to roller massage of the calf on ankle range of motion, muscle activation, and balance.
14 recreational athletes performed either static stretching or self-massage using a TheraBand Roller Massager for 3 sets of 30 seconds. Each subject performed each intervention on different days. The Roller Massager intervention was performed from origin to insertion of the calf muscle for 1 second over the length of the muscle with a pressure rated 7 out of 10.
The researchers found that both static stretching and the Roller Massager significantly increased ankle range of motion (Roller Massager: ~4%; Static Stretch: ~5.2%). Interestingly, the Roller Massager also led to a significant improvement in immediate calf muscle force production compared to static stretching. Balance and muscle activation levels were not affected by either intervention.
Based on the findings of this study, the authors recommend “the use of a roller massager prior to an activity that relies on maximum strength and power.” This suggests that the TheraBand Roller Massager might be more beneficial than static stretching during warm-up activities for athletes performing jumping or sprinting activities.
REFERENCE: Halperin I, et al. Roller massager improves range of motion of plantar flexor muscles without subsequent decreases in force parameters. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2014. 9(1):92-102.
Disclaimer: Performance Health supported this study