If your muscles are tight and you’d like to improve your flexibility, performance, and reduce injury risks without paying a deep tissue masseuse named Helga for an hour of unrelenting agony, then keep on reading. For around $20, you can purchase a device known as a foam roller, which, besides offering many physical benefits, can be used at home with your own bodyweight. You control the pace and tension placed upon your body, making SMR, or self-myofascial release, a great option for anyone looking to optimally maintain their body.
Your body operates as a kinetic chain, which is a fancy way of saying one interdependent unit. This means that if a muscle is tight, it will restrict the range of motion of a joint, which in turn changes the feedback given to the central nervous system. Why is this important?
Because of muscle restrictions (which can be tightness, soft tissue adhesions, or neural hyperactivity), neuromuscular efficiency, which is the ability of the neuromuscular system to allow all muscles to efficiently work together, is compromised. This leads to poor movement patterns, which induces premature fatigue and can cause injury. How can SMR help with this?
BENEFITS OF SELF-MYOFASCIAL RELEASE
– Corrects muscle imbalances
– Improves joint range of motion
– Relieves muscle soreness and joint stress
– Decreases neuromuscular hypertonicity (chronic contraction of a muscle)
– Increases extensibility of musculotendinous junction (where muscles and tendons meet)
– Improves neuromuscular efficiency
– Maintains normal functional muscular length
HOW DOES SMR WORK?
When pressure is placed on a muscle with a foam roller, the process called autogenic inhibition is initiated, in which neural impulses that sense tension are greater than the impulses that cause muscles to contract, which leads to a decrease in muscle tension.
USING A FOAM ROLLER
First, let’s establish that foam rollers come in all shapes, sizes, and densities. The less dense a foam roller, the softer it is, and thus your muscles will receive a more gentle massage. Softer foam rollers are highly recommended for beginners and serve as a way to work up to denser and more advanced ones. Dense foam rollers will go deeper into your muscles and some are structured with patterns on their surface, which serve to go even deeper.
If you’re a beginner, go here for a soft foam roller.
When using a foam roller, always brace your core by drawing your belly button into your spine and maintain a neutral head, ears aligned with your shoulders. This provides necessary stability. Roll slowly onto a tender spot and hold yourself there for 20-30 seconds. Now, let’s move on to some specific exercises!
ILIOTILIAL TRACT (IT BAND)
Lie on your side, the foam roller beneath your hip joint, and roll on your side toward the point just above your knee (never roll onto your knee).
Roll from just under your glute to just above your knee along your hamstring, keeping hips off of the floor.
HIP FLEXOR/ QUADRICEPS
Lie in a prone position, foam roller just below your hip joint, and roll to just above your knee.
Lie in a prone position and extend your thigh to the side. Begin rolling just below your pelvis and move down to just above your knee.
Sit just below your lower back with one leg crossed and roll along the posterior hip area (toward the side of the crossed leg). Bring your crossed knee to the opposite shoulder for more of a stretch.
Sit your calf on the foam roller just below your knee and move down to just above the ankle. Cross your other leg onto the one you’re working to apply more tension onto the calf for a deeper massage. Rotate your calf to foam roll either side.
Lie on your side with arm outstretched and thumb pointing up. Position the foam roller just above your armpit and move down along your latissimus dorsi. Lean back into it.
Lie on your back with arms crossed and hips elevated. Position the foam roller just below your neck and move along your upper back.
These are a few of the exercises you can do with a foam roller. If your muscles are particularly tight and you’re looking for some relief or to prevent injury or if you just want to take your stretching routine to the next level, look into self-myofascial release. Either that or give Helga a call.