Self-Myofascial Release (SMR), better known as foam rolling, has become a familiar practice in the fitness world after being a mysterious technique used only by therapists, professional athletes and coaches for many years.
Many are familiar with deep tissue massage to release muscle tightness. You would work out the knots in your muscles and apply pressure in these precise locations to release them.
Where traditional stretching would only increase tissue length above and below the knot, foam rolling can address these knots and release them fairly quickly, usually between 1 and 4 minutes.
Despite foam rolling being uncomfortable and at times painful, this process empowers us to control the healing and recovery process of our muscles. It can be performed with a foam roller, lacrosse ball, a kettlebell, a barbell, your own hands…
WHAT IS FASCIA
To better understand how foam rolling works we need to know what the fascia is. This is a fibrous matrix which surrounds muscles, bones and joints as well as penetrating our internal organs including the heart, lungs, brain and spinal cord.
The primary structural component of fascia is collagen which is proportionally stronger than steel cable despite its lightness.
Fascia is interconnected throughout the body from the top of the head to the bottom of the feet, like a tissue woven with the same thread. For this reason it provides the body structural integrity and strength and the free movement of our muscles and bones, allowing a great range of motion.
When fascia tissue becomes dysfunctional it can cause great movement restriction, chronic pain, reduced flexibility, and decreased athletic performance.
WHAT CAUSES MUSCLES KNOTS
Also known as “myofascial trigger points”, muscles knots are hard, sensitive areas of the fascia that tighten and contract even when the muscle is at rest. They can cause pain when touched, also in other parts of the body.
Muscles knots can occur anywhere in the body, but they are usually found in the back, shoulders and neck. They happen when your body is not able to compensate the stress is put under and can be caused by a different factors, such as poor posture, muscle overuse or injury, stress and anxiety. Dehydration, unhealthy eating habits, rest and other lifestyle factors can also contribute.
HOW FOAM ROLLING WORKS
When stretching is not enough to release muscle tightness and knots, that’s where foam rolling comes into play. You can use a foam roller, a lacrosse ball or your bare hands.
Start by applying pressure on the triggers points which helps break up the knot and relax the tight muscles. When you start to feel that an area is too painful to apply direct pressure, shift the roller and apply pressure on the surrounding area and gradually work to loosen the entire area.
By pressing these specific points on your body you allow normal blood flow to return and restoration of healthy tissue. This speeds up recovery and ensure your muscles are more elastic, healthy and ready to perform.
This process can be painful, however pain does’t have to be unbearable. In this latter case, you would need to consult with a specialist or your coach.
LET’S GET FOAM ROLLING
At Andfit we love recovery and highly encourage it within our athletes and beyond as we want them to be performance-ready and injury-free at all times.
Join our free Recovery Seminar this Friday evening to learn more about myofascial release and how foam rolling can work for your body. Book your spot below!