Before we get into what exactly Self Myofascial Release (SMR) is, we need an EXTREMELY simple overview of how the musculoskeletal system works as one unit. The entire body is made of hundreds of muscles that are not isolated entities with clearly defined borders and individualized functions. Our musculoskeletal system is connected from head to toe, linked together by a web of connective tissue called fascia. After intense exercise, fascial tissues can become knotted up just like a rope and won’t allow for the tissues to glide smoothly forming adhesions. These adhesions can negatively affect performance and/or recovery. Adhesions often develop around the site of previous injury and in areas that receive repeated loading such as the upper back, quads, rotator cuff, glutes, and calves.
Self myofascial release, or SMR, is a popular form of self-massage used to increase range of motion in a joint, reduce soft-tissue stiffness, aid post-workout recovery, and maintain normal muscle function. In the past, this kind of therapy has been reserved for extremely specialized practitioners. However, with the use of some simple mobility tools such as foam rollers, lacrosse balls, and mobility sticks all of which are readily available at the Aspen Club, you can help break up those adhesions. Research completed at The School of Human Kinetics and Recreation at Memorial University of Newfoundland supports the use of Self Myofascial Release. In the study, researchers analyzed the effectiveness of foam rolling the quadriceps for two minutes and found that after rolling just one time their quadriceps increased the available range of motion an average of 8-10% in a group of male athletes1.
Application of these mobility tools is simple, yet the use of any of them requires a brief overview. To properly use the foam roller, lacrosse ball, or mobility stick follow this simple sequence: (1) It’s best to begin rolling muscles at their proximal (closest to the body) attachments, then work distally (away from the center), (2) roll up and down on the desired tissues relatively slow 5 -10 times to get a feel for areas of increased tightness or soreness, (3) maintain constant pressure over the desired tight area or roll over the mobility tool slowly for 30 seconds to 2 minutes, depending on the comfort level. During your SMR session’s avoid bony prominences and focus on muscle and/or fascia. If at any time pain increases stop rolling and rest the muscle for 1 minute to allow for the muscles to relax.
The benefits of SMR will be seen with increased range of motion (both pre- and post- activity), decreased recovery time, and decreased soreness post-activity. So before or after that long hard Hi2T, TRX, Body Pump or Booty Barre class grab one of these simple mobility tools and get to work!
1. MacDonald GZ, Penney MD, & at el. An acute bout of self-myofascial release increases range of motion without a subsequent decrease in muscle activation or force. J Strength Cond Res. 2013; 3: 812-821.
2. Vogel A. Beginner's Guide to Self Myofascial Release. Available at: http://www.pureperformancetraining.com/blog/a-beginner039s-guide-to-selfmyofascial-release. Accessed August 5, 2014.