Whether you’re a coach, personal trainer, or salesperson, chances are you stress how much foam rollers like the TheraBand Foam Roller are effective tools for self-myofascial release. More specifically, you share how it improves muscular function, performance and joint range of motion. There’s just one problem; there isn’t actually any real evidence supporting these benefits – well, there wasn’t evidence.
A 2013 study put these claims to the test by analyzing the foam roller’s effect on knee extensor force and knee joint range of motion. Performed as a warm-up protocol to enhance muscle performance, the researchers yielded some impressive results.
Neuromuscular Performance of the Quadriceps
The study results revealed there were no significant differences in muscular performance between foam rolling and not. The subjects were able to produce similar forces during both conditions, as the coefficient of variation for muscle voluntary contraction (MVC) force was just 5% (MacDonald et al. 2013)
Knee Joint Range of Motion
Those who used a foam roller on knee joint range of motion saw significant results, as opposed to those who did not; a difference of about 7-10º (MacDonald et al. 2013).
Correlation between Quadriceps Force and Knee Joint Range of Motion after Foam Rolling
Subjects’ quadriceps force and range of motion (ROM) negatively correlated with one another before foam rolling, meaning more ROM is associated with less force. However, after the subjects foam-rolled, force and ROM no longer correlated (MacDonald et al. 2013). Therefore, in contrast to static stretching’s association with decreased force, foam rolling increased knee ROM without decreasing muscle force.
Concluding the study, the results show that using foam rolling as a self-myofascial release technique may be an effective alternative to static stretching without the negative side effects on muscle strength.
Foam roller exercise examples can be found on the TheraBand Academy.
Source: MacDonald et al. 2013. An Acute Bout of Self Myofascial Release Increases Range of Motion Without a Subsequent Decrease in Muscle Activation or Force. J Strength Condition Res 27(3):812-821