Foam rolling is a form of ‘self myofascial release’ or self massage.
Research has shown that foam rollers can do four things:
Foam rolling does not change muscle or fascia length or destroy ‘trigger points’- the change in range of motion seen after foam rolling is due to increased tolerance to stretch due to nervous system desensitisation rather than a change in structure.
The foam roller can be used on a wide range of muscles, simply by rolling back and forth over the length of the muscle itself.
It is often uncomfortable, especially over a particularly tight area however it is best to not push in to too much pain as this could be counterproductive.
The good news is, research has shown no difference in 30 seconds of foam rolling versus 5 minutes so don’t spend all day on it!
Foam rolling can be applied before a workout, in conjunction with a dynamic warm up to take advantage of the short term changes in joint range of motion and performance.
Foam rolling can also be used as needed after a workout, particularly if experiencing delayed onset muscle soreness. Test/retest yourself and see the changes yourself, for example try rolling your legs before a leg workout and see how it affects your mobility and performance.