Updated: Oct 25, 2019
Post Written by Josh Elsesser
Self Myofascial Release (SMR), better known to most gym-goers as foam rolling, is a technique that has been embraced by the fitness community. You may have even done some yourself, or have seen others in the gym “rolling out.” SMR can provide some incredible results for overactive muscles, improve flexibility, relieve tension, and increase muscle recovery.
How It Works
SMR is like deep-tissue massage you do to yourself. When you workout, you create tiny little knots in your muscles that result from micro-spasms and trauma. Those knots, or adhesions, inhibit the function of the muscle and can contribute to increased neurological stimulation to those muscles resulting in movement dysfunctions. Using a foam roller, or other devices such as Trigger Point balls, medicine balls, or other assistance devices, work to break up these adhesions, thus reducing the over-stimulation of these muscles.
I use SMR with all of my clients as part of a structured Corrective Exercise Program that first looks to fix movement dysfunction, allowing for proper movement patterns on which strength and endurance can be built.
Using SMR Correctly
Unfortunately, most people do not get all the benefits of SMR simply because they are doing it wrong. All too often I see people rolling much too quickly, negating any of the positive effects. So here are some simple guidelines for performing SMR on yourself to make sure you reap all the rewards.
Slow Down! Rolling fast over your muscles may feel great, but that does nothing to release any tension, or better yet, inhibit the over-stimulation of that muscle from your CNS.
Hold Tender Spots for at Least 30 Seconds. Those tender spots in your muscles are the adhesions that have formed over the years. I know it is uncomfortable, but holding those spots for at least 30 seconds will start to shut off that neurological stimulation.
Foam Roll BEFORE stretching. Static, Active, or Dynamic stretching should be used to further improve movement dysfunction, but only after SMR is applied to those muscles.
Of course, having a Fitness Professional perform a movement screen on you, and identify the specific muscles that need to be rolled would be the most effective way to begin using SMR in your routine.