By Christopher Beardsley, director of Strength & Conditioning Research online.
Do foam rolling and stretching improve increased ankle flexibility?
Self-myofascial release is a type of myofascial release that is performed by the individual at home or outside your practice rather than by you, the clinician. Self-myofascial release has been shown to be effective for increasing flexibility at several lower-body joints. However, until now, it has not been clear whether it produces additive effects with stretching.
The study and how it highlights self-myofascial release
Comparing the effects of self-myofascial release with static stretching on ankle range-of-motion in adolescent athletes, by Škarabot, Beardsley, and Štirn, in International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy (2015). Click to read the original study.
What did the researchers do?
The researchers in this study compared the acute effects of static stretching and foam rolling separately, as well as a combination of both foam rolling and static stretching of the calf muscles on passive ankle dorsiflexion range of motion using a weight-bearing lunge test. They took measurements immediately after the treatments and also at 10, 15 and 20 minutes following. All tested subjects were adolescent athletes with >6 months of resistance training and foam rolling experience.
What were the results?
The research team found a significant improvement in passive ankle dorsiflexion range of motion in all treatments (foam rolling, stretching and combined). However, these effects were lost after 10 minutes, suggesting that acute bouts of stretching and foam rolling have mainly transitory effects on flexibility.
In addition, the researchers found a significantly greater improvement in the combined condition than in the foam rolling condition, which showed that a combination of both foam rolling and stretching can increase ankle flexibility by more than foam rolling alone. This may imply that stretching and self-myofascial release improve flexibility by different mechanisms.
Exercise professionals can use a combination of both foam rolling and static stretching at the start of a training or physical therapy session to help clients achieve necessary flexibility prior to a workout or corrective exercise protocol. Care should be taken to provide the foam rolling and stretching directly before the exercise for maximum improvements in joint range of motion.
Want to learn more?
This research review was provided by S&C Research, an encyclopedia of strength and conditioning methods, covering the best ways to build muscle, improve strength, develop athletic performance, and avoid injury.
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