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Foam Rolling and Contractile Muscle Properties by Jose Fernandez

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article by Jose Fernandez




After reading last week´s posts from Coach Boyle and Carl Valle I decided to do a little research on Self Myofascial Release and foam rolling. What motivated me is that there is not a clear protocol stablished regarding when, how and for how long athletes should use foam rollers. Some coaches recommend to roll before working out and others after, some coaches prefer to just continuously roll over the muscle surface and others recommend to hold on the trigger point for a few seconds.

What is foam rolling? (by wikipedia):

“Foam rolling is a self-myofascial release (SMR) technique that is used by athletes and physical therapists to inhibit overactive muscles. This form of stretching utilizes the concept of autogenic inhibition to improve soft tissue extensibility, thus relaxing the muscle and allowing the activation of the antagonist muscle.

It is accomplished by rolling the foam roller under each muscle group until a tender area is found, and maintaining pressure on the tender area for 30–60 seconds.”

Looking at the scientific evidence, I could not find a lot of published material either. See below some of papers I found:

A comparison of the pressure exerted on soft tissue by 2 myofascial rollers

Foam Rollers Show No Increase in the Flexibility of the Hamstring Muscle Group

The Acute Effect Of Self-Myofascial Release On Lower Extremity Plyometric Performance

In this case study we used Tensiomyography (TMG) to assess the change in contractile muscle properties (contraction time and muscle tone) after applying 2 different protocols with foam rollers. Click here to see one of my previous post with a detailed explanation about TMG and the information that it provides.

Foam Rolling & TMG Case Study:

The purpose of this case study was to analyse the change in contractile muscle properties assessed with TMG before and after applying two different SMR protocols using a foam roller. Characteristics of the roller that we used can be found here.

A professional basketball player (Age:22, H: 6.2ft, W: 198.4lbs, no injuries) with more than 6 months experience using foam rollers volunteered for the test, which was performed after a day off and consisted of assessing the Left Vastus Lateralis (dominant leg) with TMG before and after applying two different rolling interventions.

Protocol 1: Holding on the trigger point

- TMG Initial assessment on resting conditions

- Roll until the area of maximum pain is found. Hold the roll on that point for 30 seconds. Immediately after the 30 seconds continue rolling 5-6 times over the whole muscle surface

- TMG Post treatment Assessment 

Protocol 2: Cotinuous Rolling

- TMG Initial assessment

- Continuously roll over the whole muscle surface for 60 seconds

- TMG Post treatment Assessment


Protocol 1:


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