What is fascia and why should you Self-Myofascial Release (SMR)?

Fascia, simply put, is the body’s outermost layer of muscles. SMR, also known as foam rolling, is a technique specifically targeting these fascial systems that have been negatively impacted through repetitive motions, poor posture, and improper exercise techniques. This cycle starts out with inflammation which then leads to the development of soft tissue adhesions “knots or trigger points” and therefore, limiting range of motion.

Benefits of SMR:

  • Helps to improve range of motion
  • Decreases effects of stress on the human movement system
  • Aids in correcting muscle imbalances
  • Increases blood flow to aid in overall recovery
  • Reduces soreness

When should it be done?

SMR should be done before any type of static or dynamic stretching. When done first, the SMR helps the muscle tissue to lengthen while you engage in the other stretching afterward. Ideally, you should be foam rolling every single day.

How to do it correctly?

Relax your body while slowly rolling along the muscle you are targeting. It is important to keep the muscle relaxed. Once you hit a “trigger point” or area that is sore, stop rolling and remain on that point for 30–90 seconds. You will then feel the “trigger point” release, thus successfully completing self-myofascial release for that specific area. Some muscles will have muscle trigger points, so take your time and do not rush. After successfully doing SMR, you will notice that the number of trigger points you have is decreasing and it will start to become less uncomfortable.

  • Tip #1: Maintain core activation while foam rolling. This will aid in the activation of the correct muscles and help you keep the correct posture.
  • Tip #2: Avoid rolling over any joints or bones. This can lead to injury.
  • Tip #3: Some muscles may require that you use more or less pressure while rolling. Listen to your body and adjust pressure accordingly.

Calves (gastrocnemius and soleus)

Start by sitting on your glutes. Place the foam roller under your calves. Use your hands to assist as you gradually elevate your body while activating your core. Slowly roll across your calves, targeting any “trigger points” you may find. Cross one leg over the other to increase pressure if needed.

Hamstrings

Start by sitting on your glutes. Place the foam roller directly under your extended leg where your hamstrings meet your glutes, with the other leg bent to a 90-degree angle. Use your hands to assist as you gradually elevate your body while activating your core. Start by slowly rolling backward. Finish rolling directly above the back of your knee.

Quadriceps

Start by laying down on your stomach. Place the foam roller under your leg, starting below your hip joint. Press your body up on your forearms while activating your core. Slowly roll your body forward until you finish directly above the knee.

IT Band

Lay on your side, place the foam roller on the outer thigh/IT band while supporting your body weight with your arms and legs. Starting at the base of your outer leg, by your hip, slowly roll back and forth along the length of the outer leg.

Glutes

Place foam roller below the glutes (essentially, sit on the foam roller). Using your arms to support your body, slowly roll back and forth along the glutes. Keep in mind that your glutes may need extra attention, as they are a key muscle group for mobility, stability, and posture.

Latissimus Dorsi (lats)

Start by lying on your side with your arm extended. Place the foam roller perpendicular to your body under your armpit. Slowly roll back and forth along the side of your torso until you find a tender spot. This may take some practice or feel a little awkward at first but will help loosen up those muscles that are often difficult to target.

Thoracic Spine (upper back)

Place the foam roller under your mid-back while laying on the ground. Next, lift your glutes off the ground in a half bridging position by engaging your core and pulling your belly button to your spine. Put your hands behind your ears, with your elbows facing out. The goal is to have your chest open up. Slowly roll along your thoracic spine (upper back), stopping at each trigger point you may find.

There you have it! SMF (foam rolling) is a great tool to use not only as recovery after a workout but should be added as part of your everyday routine. Keep in mind that there are many other areas to foam roll that may have not been touched on during this post (but stay tuned for more to come!).

We would love to hear about your success with foam rolling and how it is improving your performance, recovery, and quality of life!

Keep rolling!

Bryn Knowles & Mecayla Froerer