MacDonald et al. (2013). An Acute Bout of Self Myofascial Release Increases Range of Motion Without a Subsequent Decrease in Muscle Activation or Force. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 27(3): 812 – 821.

Athletes and fitness enthusiasts all around the world use self-myofascial release techniques to improve range of motion and recover between workouts. New research out of Newfoundland has validated the use of foam rolling to improve flexibility pre workout. Given recent research showing the negative impact of long held, static stretches, particularly the potential for increased risk of injury when participating in dynamic activities or sport, these are important findings.

MacDonald et al. (2013) found that 2 minutes of foam rolling (as depicted here), which was performed as three to four passes over each quadricep permitted increased flexibility (i.e. heel closer to the glutes) of the stretch shown in this picture below by approximately 10%.

This degree of flexibility improvement is similar to that seen with static stretching, but without the negative outcome of decreased strength prior to working out. While many people have begun to embrace fascia and foam rolling, it’s still not commonplace for fitness enthusiasts to do so. The researchers stated that “repeated stress placed on the soft tissue / muscles of the body due to overuse or inactivity may cause abnormal cross-links and scar tissue to form in the fascia. Subsequently, the cross-links and scar tissue may inhibit proper body mechanics and reduce joint range of motion. self-myofascial release may mechanically shear these cross-links and break down scar tissue, therefore mobilizing fascia back to its gel-like, smooth, free to move state”.

The take home message: 1-2 min of foam rolling / self-myofascial release per major muscle being trained that day can improve functional range of motion, potentially permitting fitness clients and athletes to effectively strength train with reduced risk of injury or mechanical error. Show up for your workout 10 min early and save yourself the unneeded pain, time and costs of rehabilitative care.

*Available at Steve Nash Fitness Clubs throughout the lower mainland