Foam rolling is a form of self-myofascial release (SMR), which is said to increase flexibility, range of motion (ROM) and blood flow while reducing pain in muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints – collectively called your connective tissues.
Its advocates say it helps relax your muscles so you can perform certain movements – such as squats – more easily, or relieve tension from sitting at your desk all day. It is also proven to be more effective than static stretching because it can target sore or stiff spots more effectively.
Unfortunately, the positive effects of foam rolling on your connective tissues lasts no more than 10 minutes because the force it exerts on your connective tissues is small.
Take the iliotibial (IT) band – a ligament that extends from the hip to the shin – as an example. “Exerting 900kg of force onto your IT band would deform it by only one per cent, so by foam rolling it, you’re doing very little to it,” explains Ian Shaw, who is set to be a chiropractor with the Chinese Olympic team, and is a strength and conditioning specialist.