Foam rolling

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Two women use foam rollers on their legs.

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.[1]

This technique can be effective for many muscles, including: gastrocnemius, latissimus dorsi, piriformis, adductors, quadriceps, hamstrings, hip flexors, thoracic spine (trapezius and rhomboids), and TFL.[2][better source needed] It is accomplished by rolling the foam roller under each muscle group until a tender area is found, and maintaining pressure on the tender areas (known as trigger points) for 30 to 60 seconds.[3]

The equipment that is used for foam rolling usually consists of a foam cylinder of various sizes; commonly 12 inches long, 6 inches in diameter. However, longer foam rolls up to 36 inches in length are produced for rolling over certain muscles in the back. A variety of foam roller densities exists, often denoted by the color of the roller. Those new to foam rolling, or those who have particularly tight muscles or severe trigger points, often start with a softer foam roll.

Foam roller technology is increasingly evolving for home self-myofascial release therapy, exercise and stretching. Historically, since as recent as 2005, the first foam roller was patented for use as a therapy tool for self-myofascial release muscle therapies. Foam rollers have evolved to offer individuals options other than simply just size and density characteristics. Foam rollers with handles are now available for home therapies and exercise. Another unique feature available for home foam rolling therapy is a vibrating foam roller.


  1. ^ Gossman MR, Sahrman SA, Rose SJ: Review of Length-Associated Changes in Muscle: Experimental Evidence and Clinical Implications. Phys. Ther. 62:1799–1808. 1982
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