Have you ever asked the question ‘What is Self-Myofascial Release or SMR?’ Probably not but you may have heard of people doing some foam rolling after a workout. Simplified, it is a way we can release the tension in our muscles and fascia on our own.
After my clients complete a workout, I have all of them use a foam roller to perform Self-Myofascial Release (SMR). I have my clients do this because quite simply, rolling works. It’s uncomfortable at first and may seem a bit painful, but both of those issues ease with repeated performance.
The Benefits of SMR Include:
- Correction of muscle imbalances
- Muscle relaxation
- Improved joint range of motion
- Improved neuromuscular efficiency
- According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine, neuromuscular efficiency refers to the ability of the nervous system to properly recruit the correct muscles to produce and reduce force, as well as dynamically stabilize the body’s structure in all three planes of motion.
- Reduced soreness and improved tissue recovery
- Suppression/reduction of trigger point sensitivity and pain
- Optimal length-tension relationships
- Decrease the overall effects of stress on the human movement system
Because stretching a muscle into a lengthened position means it’s in a weakened state, there is potential for injury or instability. Stretching alone will not increase flexibility; but together with foam rolling will help relax the tension on the muscle that makes the stretching beneficial.
When Should You Do SMR?
Foam rolling should be done before static or dynamic stretching activities to improve the tissue’s ability to lengthen during the stretching. It can also be done as a cool-down after a workout.
Who Should Do SMR?
If you are exercising on a regular basis regular foam rolling will warm up the muscles preparing them for full range of motion and after exercising to reduce pain you experience following day. It will reduce the amount of pain you deal with on a day-to-day basis because it eliminates the chronic tightness that causes the pain. When SMR is paired with the strengthening any imbalances, you will have more range of motion and be able to enjoy living with less pain and discomfort.
People who experience chronic “tightness” are usually ones who have their muscles in a shortened position and in a constant state of “on” from the nervous system holding it in that position. Stretching will never overcome this effect of the nervous system if there isn’t enough stimulus to override it. Read more about this at: Foam Rolling Isn’t Stretching, But It’s Still Important. You must generate a specific level of stimulation to get the muscle to relax in the muscle spindle. Foam rolling applies compression force (not shear force), and when the pressure of the body against the foam roller is sustained on the trigger point, the GTO (Golgi tendon organs) will “turn off” the muscle spindle activity, allowing the muscle fibres to stretch, unknot and realign.
How Do You Do SMR?
When working on SMR, use a foam roller or a lacrosse ball. If you use the proper amount of force (not too much), you’ll be able to feel the tissue twitch, contract and then release when it’s properly stimulated. Slowly roll over the targeted area until a tender spot is located; stay on that spot, take a deep breath and relax until the tension releases – usually within 30-90 seconds – and then slowly keep moving until you find another tender spot. Every muscle can be rolled; some more than others, depending upon your specific tight areas. If you experience an area that’s so tight, your muscles tense and become guarded in an attempt to try to reduce the pressure, this contraction is an indication that the pressure is too high and needs to be reduced for the muscle currently being rolled. Find more how-to tips from Dean Somerset and NASM .
Some areas you may wish to concentrate on are the quad muscle group, hamstrings, calves, glutes and back. The ball option is great for your feet, forearms, neck and pecs. Check out this video for how to complete a self myofascial release series for the lower body: https://youtu.be/Uoazu3aQC0g.