New research from Memorial University of Newfoundland’s School of Human Kinetics and Recreation sought to examine how an acute bout of self-myofascial release (SMR) via foam rolling would influence subsequent measures of range of motion (ROM), muscle activation and total force output within the tissues addressed. Foam rolling, which is primarily used to reduce myofascial restriction, is also believed to improve muscular function, performance, overuse-related issues, and joint ROM. Myofascial restriction is commonly experienced among athletes and recreational lifters who engage in high-volume resistance training due to repeated mechanical loading without adequate fascia treatment and flexibility. With restriction, areas of the fascia can become entrapped, leading to hypersensitive trigger points along the tissue. This is often expressed at the mechanical level by decreased ROM, changes in movement biomechanics and pain-sensitive areas. SMR protocol with a foam roller requires the application of pressure at the greatest points of restriction. A compressive rolling action is engaged in line with the fascia for segments of 30 to 60 seconds; with three second holds applied to troublesome trigger points. Unfortunately, limited research is available on the use of SMR as a recovery or performance-enhancing technique; but nonetheless, it has become a common practice in fitness and sport environments alike.
In the current study, the researchers sought to determine the effects of SMR (via foam roller application) on knee extensor force, quadriceps activation, and knee joint ROM. Eleven healthy male subjects’ quadriceps maximum voluntary contraction force, evoked force and activation, and knee joint ROM were measured before, two minutes after, and 10 minutes after one of the following conditions: (a) two 1-minute trials of SMR of the quadriceps via a foam roller or (b) no SMR. The results showed that knee extensor ROM was increased by 10° and 8° at two and 10 minutes after a foam rolling segment, respectively. Furthermore, the foam rolling did not produce a decrease in muscle activation or force. Based on this study, foam rolling may be considered an appropriate strategy for inducing an acute increase in ROM prior to loading tissues that suffer from significant myofascial restriction and all of the negative biomechanical implications associated with the issue.