Widely used and often the focus of hot training takes, SMR (or Self Myofascial Release), is a warm up and recovery mechanism we believe in here at PLT4M. SMR is by no means a be all end all cure for mobility, recovery, or performance goals, but when used in conjunction with a balanced training program, it can be a very useful pre- or post-workout tool.
But what is it, really?
Self Myofascial Release is just a fancy name for a massage you give yourself, often performed with a foam roller or other instrument. We are simply applying pressure to the muscle with slow controlled movement.
But why? In an attempt to make a long story short, the theory is as follows…
1. Your muscles are surrounded by a soft, fibrous connective tissue called Fascia. You can think of it like a strong but flexible sleeve of sorts, that surrounds all components and compartments of the body to maintain integrity, support, and protective structure.
2. When irritated (through intense exercise, poor movement or posture, lack of regular stretching, or even emotional distress) the fibrous tissue sometimes forms adhesions. Essentially, the fascia and muscle fibers have become stuck together. These adhesions restrict muscle movement. This limits an athletes flexibility and range of motion, and can cause soreness. These adhesions are often referred to as knots or trigger points.
3. By applying pressure, we incite blood flow to the tissue and work to break up those adhesions. The goal is to stretch and loosen the fascia so that it and the muscle may more freely, independent of one another. Returning this relationship to its original state improves mobility by maximizing muscle range of motion while reducing soreness and speeding up recovery. We can also apply the same principle to breaking up scar tissue within a damaged muscle.
While there is a distinct lack of official research on the topic, our experience and that of many top-level coaches and athletes indicates a certain value in adhering to this belief.
So how should you go about it?
To put it most simply: you really can’t do it incorrectly. Blood flow is the name of the game. So long as you are applying pressure to soft-tissue areas, you are increasing blood flow to the area. In the videos linked below, we walk you through 2 very basic foam roller progressions to get you started!
Lower Body: https://youtu.be/1I7CFtAGoeE
Upper Body: https://youtu.be/NDbI4AfaDAE