Adhesions (knots in muscle tissue) are areas of tightly contracted muscle tissue that cause pain and hinder muscle performance. Self-Myofascial Release (SMR) using a foam roller relieves this pain and improves muscle quality by loosening tight muscle tissue, improving flexibility, mobility and blood flow.
Like knots in a rubber band, stretching alone does not make adhesions go away. You have to actually remove the knot, and that’s what SMR with a foam roller does. As you roll each segment of your body, be aware and look for the sore spots. Those are the trigger points you are looking to release. You want to focus the pressure of the foam roller over these sore trigger points to really work out the pain and tension.
As part of your pre-workout warm up, SMR with a foam roller should be the first thing you do when you come into the gym, before any lifting, cardio or stretching. Working out the painful tension in your muscles will improve their performance and increase blood flow. In addition, you will feel great. Be sure to address problem areas where you frequently feel pain, especially before heavy lifting.
Keep your SMR routine on the short side. You do not want to tenderize every muscle in your body. A thorough SMR session should take only about 5 minutes, rolling each segment of your body for about 30 seconds each.
The above video demonstrates some of the basic foam rolling moves you can use as an all-purpose pre-warm up routine. There are additional techniques and tools to address other problem areas such as your hamstrings, calves, feet, shoulders and pectoral muscles. Check out this link for additional information and video demonstration of these more specific SMR techniques: http://stronglifts.com/soft-tissue-work-release-your-pain/
Here is a breakdown of the techniques used in the above video demonstration:
- Upper Back / Thoracic Spine – Lie back with the roller across you upper-back at the shoulders. With arms crossed over the chest, raise your hips off the ground and roll from your upper back to your mid-back. * Never roll to your lower back or neck (excessive pressure can cause injury to the discs).
- Latissimus Dorsi (Lats) – Lie on one side with the roller under your armpit and arm out stretched. Roll just a few inches down your side along the lat muscle. This roll can be challenging and a little painful. Use your legs and feet to balance yourself. Roll both sides.
- Glutes / Piriformis – Sit on the foam roller and lean to one side, lift the lower leg (the leg on the side you are leaning into) and cross it over your other knee. Roll a few inches up and down. Use your other foot and one arm for support. Roll both sides.
- Outer Thigh – Lie the outer thigh on the roller just below the hip. Cross the top leg over in front of the lower leg. Use one or both hands for support. Roll from the upper thigh down to just above the knee and back. Roll both legs.
- Front & Inner Thighs – Lie face down with the roller across the front of the upper thigh. Use the edge of the roller so only one leg is on the roller, using the other leg and both hands for support. Roll from the upper thigh to the knee. Rotate at the hips to switch focus from the front (quads) to the inner thigh (adductors).
I would encourage just about everyone to include foam rolling as part his or her warm up. Consider it a pre-warm up. It should only take about 5 minutes total, rolling each segment of the body for about 30 seconds. This will improve the overall quality of muscle, increase blood flow, improve mobility and you will feel great.
I usually follow up SMR Foam Rolling with some dynamic stretches (movement based stretches specific to the exercises in your workout) and warm up sets with the weights themselves. Your entire warm up including SMR should take about 10 minutes.
SMR can also be done post workout or any time between workouts to aid in recovery of sore muscles. A daily practice can be beneficial to anyone who has frequent stiffness, pain or immobility.
For my Metalhead friends out there, the music used in the embedded video clip is “The Isle” from the album “The Boats of the Glen Carrig” by AHAB. A great album for lifting inspiration: