The Cooper Institute

Founded in 1970 by the "Father of Aerobics"
Kenneth H. Cooper MD, MPH


Myofascial Release with the Foam Roller

Written by
Michael Harper, MEd
Posted in
Fit Tips

Monday, Jun 16, 2014

Post workout soreness can result in inflammation, pain and discomfort, delayed recovery, and temporarily decrease strength and range of motion. Recent research has shown self-myofascial release can combat delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and can be easily implemented with a foam roller.

DOMS is a result of micro tears in the muscle and normally develops 24-48 hours post exercise. Activities like downhill running, heavy lifting, and lowering a weight slowly tend to cause increased soreness. It is associated with a high volume of eccentric exercise; Eccentric muscle contractions occur during the lowering phase of an exercise. Using a slow tempo or performing a high number of repetitions of the lowering phase also increases DOMS.

In a recent study (Macdonald, 2014) investigating ways to combat DOMS, post exercise soreness was induced by having subjects perform 100 repetitions of squats at 60% of their maximum. During the lift, the downward phase was four times longer than the upward phase. Between sets of 10 repetitions, subjects rested for 2 minutes. Following exercise, half of the participants did self-myofascial release with a foam roller.
Foam rolling markedly reduced muscle soreness while substantially improving range of motion. Foam rolling was also beneficial in attenuating muscle soreness while improving vertical jump height, muscle activation for voluntary muscular contractions, and passive and dynamic ROM compared to the control group.

To perform self-myofascial release, body weight is applied to the foam roller after exercise or a dynamic warm-up. Slowly roll forward or backward until you find a point of soreness or stiffness. Hold that position until a 75% reduction in pain is felt. Then roll forward or backward until you find another tender, tight, or painful area. Repeat holding body weight pressure against the dense foam roller until 75% pain reduction is achieved.

This video shows self-myofascial release being performed on one of the hip muscles that commonly restricts range of motion when performing squats or lunges. It is also an important stabilizer when walking or running.

To use the foam roller to help release the deep hip muscle called the piriformis, one should:

  1. Sit on the foam roller.
  2. Cross the right ankle over the left thigh.
  3. Grasp the right knee with your left hand pulling the right leg towards your chest.
  4. Gently, roll towards your right hip until you find a pressure point on the piriformis.
  5. Hold the body weight over the trigger point until there is a 75% reduction in pain.
  6. Repeat on the other side.

Discovering the best way to target each muscle with the aforementioned technique along with other methods can be achieved in the half day Flexibility & Myofascial-Release training course. This course is offered in the afternoon following the Core Training course.

Macdonald, G. (2014). Roam rolling as a recovery tool after an intense bout of physical activity. Medicine & Science In Sports & Exercise, 46( 1), 131-142.