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Why are you using a foam roller?

Why are you using a foam roller? Foam rolling should work as a self-myofascial release. What really surprises me is that when you search for the benefits of the foam roller or reading various recommendations from different fitness coaches, they usually come up with quite a clear statement. Using a foam roller should help your mobility, increase range of motion, help with DOMS. Are these the reasons why you do foam rolling? Or do you use it just because it makes you feel good?  If you search for more appropriate sources, it doesn’t seem so clear after all to state such conclusive benefits. So, I thought I will put together some pros and cons and highlight my belief about foam rolling.  When we use a foam roller, we are exerting pressure on soft tissue. It’s important to say that the force applied is very small. Very small to be able to create changes in connective tissue. The studied and observed effects were acute responses. The chronic effects are unknown. Moreover, it remains a question of what an optimal rolling duration is (I can imagine people spend very little or too much time foam rolling). The argument is that external pressure can’t influence the fascial connective tissue. But what it does is that the mechanical pressure effects the nervous system – your brain and spinal cord. As we know, the brain has many functions, such as cognition, emotion, conscious and subconscious control, sensory function, etc. Every movement has an emotional component. Where I am getting with this is that foam rolling creates some sort of discomfort and the perception is subjective. If you like the way the foam roller makes you feel and you feel good, it may ultimately change the way you move.  You should know what the reason is to use this approach. The effects of static stretching and foam rolling don’t vary. I know that many people don’t like the sensation of the foam rolling action. It’s your choice if want to use a foam roller or not but you don’t have to. You’re not missing by not using it.  I personally love foam rolling and I always use it as a part of my warm-up before a training session.

Simply, it doesn’t create a histological effect, thus, foam rolling doesn’t make you more flexible. Even though you do like the pain sensation and your ability to tolerate discomfort is high, be careful because you really don’t want to overdo it. More pain doesn’t mean better. There’s a chance you are irritating a fracture or causing more issues.  Additional reading:

Couture, G., Karlik, D., Glass, S. C., & Hatzel, B. M. (2015). The effect of foam rolling duration on hamstring range of motion. The open orthopaedics journal9, 450. Healey, K. C., Hatfield, D. L., Blanpied, P., Dorfman, L. R., & Riebe, D. (2014). The effects of myofascial release with foam rolling on performance. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research28(1), 61-68. Okamoto, T., Masuhara, M., & Ikuta, K. (2014). Acute effects of self-myofascial release using a foam roller on arterial function. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research28(1), 69-73. Vaughan, B., McLaughlin, P., & Lepley, A. S. (2014). Immediate changes in pressure pain threshold in the iliotibial band using a myofascial (foam) roller. International Journal of Therapy and Rehabilitation21(12), 569-574. Wiewelhove, T., Döweling, A., Schneider, C., Hottenrott, L., Meyer, T., Kellmann, M., … & Ferrauti, A. (2019). A meta-analysis of the effects of foam rolling on performance and recovery. Frontiers in physiology10, 376.

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