Context: Foam rolling has been proposed to improve muscle function, performance, and joint range of motion (ROM). However, whether a foam rolling protocol can be adopted as a warm-up to improve flexibility and muscle strength is unclear.
Objectives: To examine and compare the acute effects of foam rolling, static stretching, and dynamic stretching used as part of a warm-up on flexibility and muscle strength of knee flexion and extension.
Design: Crossover study.
Setting: University research laboratory.
Participants: 15 male and 15 female college students (age 21.43 ± 1.48 y, weight 65.13 ± 12.29 kg, height 166.90 ± 6.99 cm).
Main outcome measures: Isokinetic peak torque was measured during knee extension and flexion at an angular velocity of 60°/second. Flexibility of the quadriceps was assessed by the modified Thomas test, while flexibility of the hamstrings was assessed using the sit-and-reach test. The 3 interventions were performed by all participants in random order on 3 days separated by 48-72 hours.
Results: The flexibility test scores improved significantly more after foam rolling as compared with static and dynamic stretching. With regard to muscle strength, only knee extension peak torque (pre vs. postintervention) improved significantly after the dynamic stretching and foam rolling, but not after static stretching. Knee flexion peak torque remained unchanged.
Conclusions: Foam rolling is more effective than static and dynamic stretching in acutely increasing flexibility of the quadriceps and hamstrings without hampering muscle strength, and may be recommended as part of a warm-up in healthy young adults.
Keywords: lower extremity; muscle performance; myofascial release; stretching exercise.