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Improving performance through self-myofascial release or instrument-assisted soft-tissue mobilisation

Improving performance through self-myofascial release or instrument-assisted soft-tissue mobilisation

Created by Mikey Lau


4 minute read

What are Quick Articles?

This blog post is a part of a series where we summarise the current literature on anything health, fitness and well-being related. These are research articles that can give you a better insight into different ways that you can train your clients to get better results - faster. Be sure to sign up to our weekly newsletter to get the latest exclusive contents and offers.

Stroiney, et al. (2018)

Fascia is the connective tissue that surrounds the muscles, which mainly consists of water, blood vessels and nerves. These fascias can affect an individual's flexibility and performance if they are injured. Common techniques to alleviate such stress are self-myofascial release (SMR) and instrument-assisted soft-tissue mobilisation (IASTM). Studies have shown that both of these techniques could improve the range of motion (ROM) and post-exercise recovery of athletes.

With the recent interest in improving athletic performance, the question now posed "can SMR and IASTM act as a tool to improve performance?". Studies have shown that only 5-10 seconds of SMR with a foam roller could improve hamstring flexibility by 4.3%. Interestingly, another study proposed that higher massage forces does not significantly improve ROM.

Regarding IASTM, the practitioner utilises an instrument to assist in the release, as to using their hands. There are no standard time recommendations but positive effects could be generated anywhere between 40 seconds to 18 minutes. It's clear that there's a lack of research comparing SMR and IASTM. Therefore, the aim of this study was to determine if such differences exist for SMR and IASTM between each other and sexes.


  • Participants were designated into two groups where they will receive either the SMR or IASTM treatment.
  • SMR used a piece of equipment called ‘The Stick’ which is a hand-held massage tool.
  • IASTM received treatment from a certified professional.
  • Both groups targeted the quadriceps, hamstrings, and triceps surae.
  • Forty-nine recreationally-active individuals aged 18-25 took part in the study.
  • Participants were asked to abstain from any exercises 24-hours prior to the session.
  • Exclusion criteria included any musculoskeletal injuries or any health risk factors.
  • Performance measures included a vertical jump and a 40-yard sprint.
  • Perceived pain was also recorded.
  • Preliminary measurements were taken before the session was conducted.
  • In the first session, the subjects warmed-up on the Monark cycle ergometer for 5 minutes at 50W before performing the vertical jump test. They rested for 5 minutes before the 40-yard test,
  • The second session followed the same warm-up procedure; on completion, the subjects received their randomised intervention. Immediately after the SMR or IASTM, they rated the pain experienced. The same testing procedures were followed after the intervention.


The findings suggested a medium to large effect size for the vertical jump on all participants. In addition, there was little/no effect for the 40-yard sprint across all groups.

Comparing the baseline vertical jumps with the intervention groups, SMR significantly improved the score compared to IASTM. There was also no significant difference between intervention groups and sexes. It was noted that men performed significantly better than women in both vertical jump and 40-yard sprint. Finally, there was no significant difference between pain scores and the different treatments prescribed.

Practical applications

Self-myofascial release used before exercise could improve vertical jump in the recreationally active population. However, instrument-assisted soft-tissue mobilisation did not improve or deteriorate performance. Furthermore, practitioners can utilise self-myofascial release to act as a warm-up due to the increases in tissue temperature and blood flow even if performance would not improve.


The recreationally active population could present a wide variability in performance and experience with training. This could affect the results gathered.


Stroiney, D., Mokris, R., Hanna, G., and Ranney, J. (2018). Examination of Self-Myofascial Release vs. Instrument-Assisted Soft-Tissue Mobilization Techniques on Vertical and Horizontal Power in Recreational Athletes. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 34(1), pp. 79-88.

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