Foam Rolling: What is it? What’s the Evidence? How to apply it!

Foam Rolling

What is it?

Self-myofascial release is a name given to the use of equipment or tools to perform self-massage and stretching with the aim of increasing joint range of motion and improving muscle recovery and performance. One of the most commonly used tools is a foam roller. You will often see people in gyms attempting to manoeuvre their bodies in various positions over one of these rollers.

Most commonly rollers will be used in a way that the body is positioned with the roller in contact with a specific muscle or muscle group. The user then uses gentle motion to stretch and massage the area while controlling the pressure exerted by adjusting their position and the weight going through the area.

The theory is that using foam rollers used to massage and stretch our muscles, joints and soft tissues can make them more pliable thereby increasing range of motion. It is also theorised that pressure applied to soft tissues can stimulate change through the central nervous system by sending signals which alter the tissue activity and reduce tension levels.

What’s the evidence?

In general terms, self-myofascial release using a foam roller appears to have short-term effects of increasing joint range of motion without exhibiting any negative effects on muscle or joint performance. There is also some evidence to suggest that post exercise muscle soreness can be reduced while muscle recovery is enhanced when foam rolling is used after strenuous or intense exercise.

The overall summary of the evidence to date suggests that foam rolling is a safe tool to use prior to or after exercise to assist with warm up and/or recovery. However, the research is limited and fails to come to a consensus on what the optimal methods, techniques or frequency of foam rolling should be. There is not yet enough research or evidence to define the best way to roll specific muscles or how many sets or repetitions is appropriate.

How can I apply it?

The general consensus is that foam rolling is safe and can be a welcome addition to assist in warm up and recovery. While we do not have enough evidence to create exact protocols there is room here for individual preference and some experimentation to see what works best for you. From personal experience and from reviewing the literature we would suggest trying:

  • 3-5 sets of 30+ second repetitions on each targeted muscle or muscle group
  • Apply gradual pressure in various planes and directions.
  • For larger or longer muscle groups consider dividing the application into 2-3 areas
  • Consistent application aiming for a minimum of 3 times per week
  • Slight discomfort during application is acceptable but strong or intense pain is not
  • Position yourself carefully to avoid unnecessary strain on other muscles or joints


Below are a few examples of positions used to foam roll various muscles 








Foam rolling outer thigh                                                                               









Foam rolling upper back








Foam rolling calf muscle


A word of caution

Foam rolling can be a useful adjunct to any exercise or training routine and may also be used by more sedentary individuals to reduce muscle and joint stiffness. Foam rolling, however, is not an appropriate tool for treating damaged or injured tissues and we would warn that it should not be used as such. Always seek advice from a qualified professional if you are in any doubt.

Foam rolling does not replace or negate the need for adequate warm up and the use of correct techniques when exercising. We would suggest using foam rolling to compliment your existing training or exercising routine but not to replace any aspect.


Article written by Daniel Wray – Senior Physiotherapist and Director at Physio Effect

The dedicated team at Physio Effect provide a full package of services that will ensure you’re supported through your pain management, injury prevention, assessment, recovery and helping you achieve your ultimate performance goals. We offer a range of services including Physiotherapy, Sports Massage, Craniosacral Therapy, Pilates, Yoga and Mobility classes.


Unit 18A, 100 Borron Street, Glasgow G49 XG


Phone: 0141 230 4766

Sedentary job or Lifestyle? We’re here to help, read on!

So, as you know, we’re regular contributors to the Sunday Herald magazine along with our pals at EveryDay Athlete gym here at 100 Borron Street!


This week, Danny wrote a follow up to his “is Sitting the New Smoking?” article where he give detailed instructions, accompanied by some images of a number of stretches you should be able to do in 5-10 minutes to help ease any stiffness…

So… check it out and give us a shout if we can help with anything!




At Physio Effect we routinely treat the general population for injuries and pain which can be attributed to a sedentary lifestyle. We have previously discussed the risks posed by excessive hours of sitting and how this is reaching almost epidemic levels in the Western world. Today’s article provides some general exercise recommendations that can go some way to reducing this risk and counteracting the negative effects of sitting.

In an ideal world, those of us who have sedentary or sitting based occupations should aim to move, stretch, and be active for at least 1-2 minutes of every hour. While some of the exercises shown here may not be suitable for your particular work environment, any effort to perform a routine of this nature for 5-10 minutes before or after work or during a lunch break would go a long way to reducing the risk of pain and injury. General exercise and safe varied movement of any kind is also highly recommended.

Thoracic Rotation

  • Start on all fours with one hand placed behind your head.
  • Slowly turn the elbow towards the ceiling allowing your trunk to rotate and stretch
  • Hold at top position for 3-5 seconds. Repeat x 10 with each arm



  • Lay face down with thin pillow or folded towel for head support
  • Arms by your side, gently stretch your fingertips away from your shoulders allowing your shoulder blades to glide downward and slightly inward
  • Palms facing your hips, have your arms floating just off your side and not touching the floor
  • Keeping the back of your neck long and eyes looking to the floor, gently lift your head and upper body just off the floor – imagine lifting from your breast bone
  • Hold the finish position 3-5 seconds. Repeat 10 times 1-2 sets


Hip Flexor

  • Take a kneeling / lunge position as shown – use support of wall or furniture for balance if required
  • On the kneeling side gently engage your buttock and lower abdominal muscles – imagine you are tucking your tailbone in between your legs
  • You should feel a stretch at the front of your hip/ thigh. If balance allows gently raise the arm on the same side as the kneeling knee.
  • Hold the stretch for 30 seconds minimum and repeat 2-3 times each side.



  • Lay face down with hands palms down about shoulder height
  • Using your arms slowly press out peeling your upper body slowly off the floor
  • Remain heavy in your hips trying to keep them in contact with the floor – relax your buttock muscles
  • Hold the finish position for 5-10 seconds, return to the start and repeat 5-10 times


Shoulder Bridge

  • Lay flat on your back with feet shoulder width apart and knees bent
  • Using your lower abdominals gently tilt your pelvis to press your lower back flat to the floor
  • Pressing through your heels, using your buttock and abdominal muscles gently peel your spine up from the floor starting with your tail bone.
  • Finish with your weight resting across your shoulder blades and your shoulders, hips and knees in a diagonal line
  • Hold finish position for 3-5 seconds, return to start and repeat 10 times for 2-3 sets.


Superman Start Position


  • Start in all fours position with knees under hips, hands under shoulders and spine relaxed
  • Slowly extend out opposite arm and leg pointing the toes behind and the fingertips to the front
  • Keep gentle tension in your lower abdominals – think about drawing your bellybutton in towards your spine
  • Try to maintain spinal position throughout the movement, return slowly to start position
  • Repeat with opposite arm and leg, try 10-12 repetitions for 2-3 sets.


Thoracic Extension with Foam Roller

  • Lying on your back with knees bent and feet flat, place a foam roller under your mid-upper back as shown
  • Take a deep breath in and then, as you exhale, slowly extend back over the roller to stretch your back. Try to keep your lower abdominals engaged to avoid over-arching your lower back
  • Support your head with your hands and be careful to stay relaxed in your neck. If you find this too intense or uncomfortable, try using a pillow or pillows to rest back onto
  • Hold the finish position for 2-3 breath cycles, return to start position and repeat 5 times
  • Move the roller to another position in your mid-upper back and repeat the process, aim to work on 3-5 positions along your spine


Pec Stretch

  • Stand as shown with arm at approximately shoulder height and palm to forearm placed against the doorframe
  • Slowly turn your body away by stepping your feet around to open and stretch the front of your chest and shoulder
  • Lean gently into the stretch, keeping your neck relaxed, hold for 30 seconds+, repeat x 2 on each side
  • Alternatively, use a doorway to position both arms in the stretch position, step forward to feel the chest and shoulder open and stretch. Hold 30 seconds+, repeat x 2.




While these are general exercise recommendations suitable for the majority of the population they are not prescriptive for any specific pain or injury. These exercises should be performed slowly and gently in a range of movement suited to your own level of ability and flexibility. The exercises should not cause any pain and we recommend that if you are in any doubt or if you are suffering from spinal or joint pain issues you should consult a healthcare professional for advice.


At Physio Effect we provide a wide range of services allowing us to not only treat your pain or injury but ensure that you are given the best advice specific to your individual needs to prevent your problem from recurring. We take a proactive approach to managing your health and offer advice on rehabilitation, strength and conditioning and flexibility as well as Clinical Yoga and Pilates and Mobility classes and products to help you reach your goals.


New Flexible Class Access System for Yoga, Pilates and Mobility Classes!

img_8848  We’re excited to introduce a flexible way of attending the range of wonderful classes we have here in the Studio at Physio Effect Borron Street!

These 6-class and 10-class cards are valid for you to attend any mix of the following classes: Yoga, Pilates* and Mobility

Come January, we’re also  streamlining the pricing structure across the board for these classes which makes it all a little simpler for everyone!

Single Class Drop in: £10

6-Class Card: £55

10-Class Card: £80

Class-goers will still, of course, need to book into the class, and the same cancellation terms will apply, but we hope this offers a bit more flexibility for you to come to      the classes that suit and maybe try a different one every now and again!

Give us a call on 0141 230 4766 or email us to find out more – might make someone a great Xmas present to help with their New Year’s Fitness Resolutions?

*these rates and cards are not valid for Clinical Pilates which is a bespoke, injury-specific service.

Knowledge Share: Shoulder Mobility

Welcome to Knowledge Share!

We thought we’d use this blog to share some tips and advice on different common injuries.

Here’s Jonny from a few years ago demonstrating some exercises to improve overhead range of movement using small equipment you’ll find in your gym.

Let us know in the comments if there are any topics you’d like to see covered!

Class Timetable

Physio Effect Class Timetable

Here at Physio Effect, we’re really keen to ensure your bodies are as strong and capable as they can be all the time.

Yes, we’re great at helping you recover from injury, but we’re also here to help you prevent it too!

We’ve a number of different classes and treatments which are set up to help you maintain your injury-free status as well as recover from existing pain.

So, whether your thing is Yoga, Pilates, Clinical Pilates, Sports Massage, Craniosacral Therapy, Physiotherapy, Post- or Ante-Natal classes or treatments or a bit of Myofascial Release in our Mobility and Stability classes, we’ve just the thing for you! Here, at our new Borron Street Clinic and Studio, housed within the EveryDay Athlete Gym, we have regular classes and 1:1 appointments with our specialised team of experts!

Click on our Class Timetable below and contact us to book in!

Lower Calf Tightness

This weeks mobility video deals with tightness of the lower calf complex. Primarily we are talking about the Soleus muscle- the part of your calf that forms the muscle bulk directly above your Achilles tendon.

Tightness of the Soleus muscle is a problem we encounter very regularly as clinicians treating athletes. Excessive tightness of this muscle may predispose you to a number of overuse type injuries such as Achilles tendonopathy, shin splints/compartment symptoms along the lower inside border of the shin bone and various knee problems.

A tight Soleus will not permit the shin bone to glide forwards over the foot and toes; a movement that is paramount to various sporting movements such as squatting, biking, running etc. What will often happen is the arch of the foot will flatten down and the knee will then translate inwards to accommodate the forward momentum of the body when a tight Soleus/Achilles/Calf will not permit movement through the mid-foot. This will have consequences to the ankle joint, Achilles tendon, knee and knee cap joints due to load being transmitted off centre and asymmetrically.

The Soleus muscle is very prone to tightness due to excessive use and sometimes poor choice of footwear over long periods (high heels). It acts both as an ankle stabiliser and an active heel raiser providing the primary heel raising contraction whenever there is a slight bend in the knee. The other main muscle in the calf, the gastrocnemius, will primarily provide the contraction to raise the heels whenever the knee is almost straight.

Take some time to search the internet and familiarise yourselves with the anatomy and function of the Soleus muscle as it will help you appreciate why taking care of this small muscle can help significantly with injury prevention and performance in your sport.