FitnessResearch Study

Research in Review: Does foam rolling decrease DOMS and aid performance?

See how research on foam rolling after an intense strength training session aided in reducing DOMS and improving exercise recovery.

Journal Article:

Pearcey, G.E.P., Bradbury-Squires, D.J., Kawamoto, J.E., Drinkwater, E.J., Behm, D.G. & Button, D.C. (2015). Foam rolling for delayed-onset muscle soreness and recovery of dynamic performance measures. Journal of Athletic Training, 50(1), 5-13.

Purpose:

To determine the effects of self-induced massage via foam rolling as a recovery tool from an intense exercise protocol (10 X 10 barbell back squat) on the pressure-pain threshold, sprint speed, power, change-of-direction speed, and dynamic strength-endurance.

Participants:

8 healthy, college aged men volunteered for the study. The participants were moderately active and were recreational resistance trainers.

Procedure:

All participants completed both the control and the experimental protocols.

The experimental study examined the effects of foam rolling the quadriceps, adductors, hamstrings, IT band and gluteal muscles at a cadence of 50 bpm for 45 seconds on the following performance parameters:

  • Pain-pressure threshold
  • Sprint speed (30 m sprint time)
  • Power (broad-jump distance)
  • Change-of-direction (T-test)
  • Dynamic strength-endurance (maximal back squat 15-squat reps at 70% of 1 RM)

This was to all take place after a 10 x 10 (10 sets of 10 reps at 60% 1 RM) squat protocol to induce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Participants emphasized the eccentric phase. Total squat time was more than 8 minutes.

The control group completed the 10 x 10 squat protocol with no foam rolling.

Each group completed an orientation 24-48 hours before the testing sessions began.

The beginning of each testing session pressure-pain threshold of the quadriceps was measured. Then, the participants completed 5-minutes on the cycle ergometer. The Testing Sessions proceeded as follows:

  • Testing Session 1: Completed 10 x 10 squat matrix and foam rolling
  • Testing Session 2: (24 hours later) 3 of 4 performance variables were measured in random order, with dynamic strength-endurance occurring last, followed by foam rolling
  • Testing Session 3: (48 hours later) 3 of 4 performance variables were measured in random order, with dynamic strength-endurance occurring last, followed by foam rolling
  • Testing Session 4: (72 hours later) 3 of 4 performance variables were measured in random order, with dynamic strength-endurance occurring last.

Results:

The authors concluded the following:

  • DOMS had pain quicker. Especially in the quadriceps at 24 post-exercise.
  • DOMS negatively impacted performance. Each performance test varied on when (24, 48 or 72 hours) the performance was the worst.
  • Foam rolling had a moderate effect on the decline in the pressure-pain threshold of the quadriceps at 24 hours post-exercise and a large effect at 48 hours post-exercise. However it was unlikely to have a substantial effect at 72 hours post-exercise. In other words, the quadriceps felt substantially better 24 and 48 hours after exercise with foam rolling.
  • Foam rolling had a moderate effect on the increase in sprint time at 24 hours and 72 hours. That is, sprint time after foam rolling was less than when not foam rolling.
  • Foam rolling had a small effect on the decrease in broad-jump performance at 24 hours post-exercise but a large effect at 72 hours post-exercise. That the broad jump was greater after foam rolling than after when not foam rolling.
  • Foam rolling had a moderate effect on squat endurance at 48 hours post-exercise with participants squatting 1.9 reps more than the when not foam rolling. There did not appear to be any effect in squat endurance at 24 and 72 hours.

Discussion:

The results of this study suggest that foam rolling after intense exercise is a great way to reduce soreness and aid in recovery. Showing that those who foam roll after exercise are able to perform better at 24, 48 and 72 hours after exercise that induces soreness.

This is great for the personal trainer to identify because having a client spend some time rolling after exercise will help them be able to train intensely on subsequent sessions, thus getting better results quicker.

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The Author

Kyle Stull

Kyle Stull

Kyle Stull, DHSc, MS, LMT, NASM-CPT, CES, PES, NASM Master Instructor is a faculty instructor for NASM who has taught the NASM methodology since 2010. Kyle is also the education content manager and senior master trainer for TriggerPoint Performance, where he collaborates with leading universities and industry professionals conducting researching creating evidence-based support for educational material.