Effects of foam rolling on performance and recovery: A systematic review of the literature to guide practitioners on the use of foam rolling

J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2020 Apr;24(2):151-174. doi: 10.1016/j.jbmt.2019.10.019. Epub 2019 Nov 2.


Background: Foam Rolling (FR) is currently used by athletes at all levels. It is not known whether FR is more effective being used as a warm up to aid performance or more effectively used as a cool-down for recovery. Therefore, the purpose of this systematic review was to determine the effects of FR on performance and recovery.

Methods: A customized search strategy was conducted to search seven electronic databases: Google Scholar; Science Direct; Pubmed Central; Pubmed; ISI Web of Science; Medline and Scopus. The database search was limited to journals published in English between January 2006 and June 2019. Any study design, for example, cross-over, repeated measures, randomized-control trials, was considered, as long as one of the interventions was using a FR. Studies that tested FR combined with other techniques were also considered, as long as one of the conditions was FR only.

Results: A total of 49 articles met the inclusion criteria.

Conclusion: FR may reduce muscle stiffness and increase ROM and should be used in combination with dynamic stretching and active warm-up before a training session. Furthermore, the optimum dosage to achieve these flexibility benefits seems to be a total 90s-120s of FR. FR reduced DOMS and increased PPT, and therefore may optimize recovery from training. Future studies on the effects of FR should include true controls or sham groups, and consider the FR experience of the athlete.

Systematic review registration: PROSPERO - CRD42017064976.

Keywords: Flexibility; Foam rolling; Performance; Recovery.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Athletes
  • Humans
  • Muscle, Skeletal*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Range of Motion, Articular
  • Warm-Up Exercise*