Two minutes of foam rolling enhances flexibility just as much as static stretching, according to a March 2013 report published in The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research.
One benefit of foam rolling is that it does not fatigue muscles, whereas static stretching can impair muscle strength for an hour or more, according to researcher Duane Button, PhD, of the Memorial University of Newfoundland.
Button and colleagues also discovered that foam rolling can help you recover more quickly after an intense bout of physical activity. His study, published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, shows that in addition to improving range of motion, the self-massage technique substantially decreases muscle soreness.
Foam rolling works because the friction it produces raises muscle temperature and softens the fascia — the layer of fibrous tissue that covers muscles. “When the fascia softens, you have a greater range of motion,” says Button.
But even if you add foam rolling to your routine, don’t give up on stretching postworkout. “Static stretching can put your joints in positions that foam rolling will not, so it’s still important,” says Button.
Whether you’re focused on weight training, sports performance, or just retaining flexibility as you age, it’s important to regularly expose your joints and muscles to a full range of motion, he explains.
Ready to try Foam Rolling?
Roll out each muscle group for about 40 seconds, relaxing for about 15 seconds between sessions, and completing two sessions per muscle group. Repeat daily. For a video showing rolling techniques, go to “Rachel Cosgrove’s ‘One Month to Muscles’: Foam Rolling (Video).”