How Foam Rolling Maximizes Your Performance

Throughout the season, all the training, competitions and outside stress can lead to chronic soreness and impaired recovery. Built up tension in the body can make you feel “knots” in places that restrict your movement and even refer pain to other parts of your body. Along with proper sleep, nutrition and stretching, foam rolling plays a critical role in maximizing your performance. Foam rolling uses your own bodyweight against a cylindrical foam roller to produce some of the same positive effects on your body that deep tissue or sports massages provide, at a fraction of the cost. Foam rollers are inexpensive, easy to use, and can be taken anywhere.

So how does foam rolling help you? Fascia (particularly deep fascia) is a layer of fibrous connective tissue that surrounds muscles, ligaments, tendons, bones, nerves and blood vessels of the body. Think of fascia as an elastic layer of tissue that helps the body keep shape and move with the different organs. Occasionally, due to muscle overuse, training, lack of stretching or disuse, the layer of fascia can stick to the muscle (a process known as adhesion). This can result in restricted movement, pain, soreness, and reduced exchange of nutrients and waste due to poor circulation of blood. The rolling motion produces a lengthening and release of the fascia along with the breakdown of scar tissue and adhesion to muscle. When the fascia releases, circulation to and from muscle tissue improves, and pain and soreness diminish as the body can process lactic acid quicker. This reduces post-exercise fatigue and increases range of motion by up to 10 degrees around a joint1,2!


Nick’s Video Series on Layover Foam Rolling is a great place to start learning your basic techniques on a roller, which can be useful in any pre-competition or pre-training scenario. When you begin rolling, you may feel discomfort with the pressure on your muscles, so go slowly. Focus on particularly knotted areas for a longer time (30 seconds), but don’t overdo it. I generally foam roll for about 5-10 minutes prior to warm up. Any time of day is perfect, but foam rolling before and after exercise will impact your performance and recovery the most. White rollers are soft, blue or green are medium, and black or purple ones are firm. The travel-sized roller is ideal for athletes to take to travel meets. Integrate rolling into your pre-meet routine and you will feel the difference in your warm up and your races!        
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1. J Strength Cond Res. 2014 Jan;28(1):61-8. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3182956569.

The effects of myofascial release with foam rolling on performance.

Healey KCHatfield DLBlanpied PDorfman LRRiebe D.

2. J Strength Cond Res. 2013 Mar;27(3):812-21. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31825c2bc1.

An acute bout of self-myofascial release increases range of motion without a subsequent decrease in muscle activation or force.

MacDonald GZPenney MDMullaley MECuconato ALDrake CDBehm DGButton DC.

About BridgeAthletic

BridgeAthletic Logo 3BridgeAthletic works with elite professional, collegiate, and club swimming programs to provide a turnkey solution for dryland training.  Led by Nick Folker, the top swimming strength and conditioning coach in the world, our team builds stroke-specific, custom-optimized dryland programs for each of our clients. The individualized workouts are delivered directly to athletes via our state of the art technology platform and mobile applications. Check Nick and BridgeAthletic out as recently featured in SwimSwam.

About Nick Folker 

Nick FolkerNick Folker is the Co-Founder and Director of Elite Performance at BridgeAthletic. Nick’s athletes have won 22 Olympic Medals, 7 team NCAA Championships and over 170 individual and relay NCAA championships. Megan Fischer-Colbrie works as the Sports Science Editor at BridgeAthletic.  Megan was a four-year varsity swimmer at Stanford, where she recently graduated with a degree in Human Biology.

The Championship Series by BridgeAthletic is designed to empower athletes with tips from the pros that will help them reach peak performance come race day.  We will be covering competition-focused topics such as nutrition, recovery, stretching, and mental preparation.

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7 years ago

And here I thought this article was just going to be one line:

“It doesn’t.”

No no, its good for you. Carry on. 😉

Kari K
7 years ago

A month or so ago I got a deep tissue massage that almost brought me to tears because i was so tight. As a former runner, I used to use my foam roller a lot on my legs, but never thought about it for swimming. I’ve been using it regularly while watching TV and have been feeling a ton better and, like this article suggests, recovering more quickly. It works!

David Guthrie
7 years ago

Great to see this information getting attention! Myofascial release is essential. I personally couldn’t train and compete effectively without it. No exaggeration! And yes, the deep tissue massage required to work out the adhesions feels like surgery without anesthesia. The choice is a brief (relatively) acute bout of pain, or chronic pain, limited mobility, and migrating “injuries”. Foam rollers go a long way in aiding muscular health and recovery, but they’re not a substitute for the hands and elbows of a skilled MT. A therapist can feel the adhesions and pinpoint where and how to apply pressure.

One detail I want to point out is the suggested image of fascia as “elastic”. It is inelastic, which is why addressing it… Read more »