Self Myofascial Release-Foam Rolling and its Effect on Training

Self myofascial release (SMR) is a popular method used by people to recover from, or prepare for training. Whether they are foam rolling, utilizing a lacrosse ball, or their own hands, the goal is the same; but what is really going on when we foam roll? Why do we do this? What are the effects of this self massage? Is there an increase in performance? Better range of motion? Do we just like how it feels? There are a ton of unanswered questions with SMR, professionals across the board cannot seem to come to a consensus on whether or not this is a useful technique to prepare/ recover from work. 

Let’s look at the phrase “Self Myofascial Release.” Myofascial tissue is a strong, thin connective tissue that provides protection to muscles and bones. Over time, adhesions can build up from improper overuse of the muscle, or the muscle belly is excessively shortened/ lengthened and this causes flawed force transmission. Massaging, foam rolling, etc are suppose to “release” these adhesions amongst other things. Self implies that you are performing this treatment ... on yourself. 

According to (Weerapong, Kolt 2005) there are 4 mechanisms behind SMR body alterations: biomechanical, neurological, physiological, and psychological. Without going too deep in these mechanisms, the changes that occur aim to enhance the body’s preparedness for training. Whether we increase the blood flow to the working muscle, altering nerve excitability, or we just “feel better” at the end of the day we are preparing to train. 

The importance of a warm up cannot be overstated; it is just as- if not more important than the actual training itself! But Coach Nate, Tigers don’t warm up and you see how they work! Well, we ain’t tigers for one, and for two we are training for the long haul of life, not taking down an animal for a meal. At TP, we treat foam rolling as a part of the warm up. A study looked at that very idea and compared foam rolling to walking. What they found was the foam rolling group out performed the walking group in a few performance measures: range of motion (ROM) via the sit and reach test, and counter movement jump (CMJ) (Erick, Brian, Clayton 2019). HOWEVER, when they combined dynamic stretching with both the walking, and rolling groups, there was a negligible difference in performance. What I take away from these findings is that SMR does a better job of preparing the body for work when compared to walking, but nothing tops completing a dynamic warm up before a session. 

We require our athletes to foam roll for a few reasons. One, as mentioned previously, it seems to do a better job in preparing the body for work. Two, we do not have the facility size to tell our athletes to walk or jog for 5 minutes. Three, it gets the athletes comfortable with the setting of the weightroom. We are able to chat with our guys and roll at the same time, get a feel for how their day went and what they are feeling like before we start; which gives us a chance to make mental modifications to program if needed. 

We are training for the long haul. It is not about the “now” for the majority of our athletes. Training is not going to be successful if it is only completed every so often. You have to be consistent to see improvements. Overtraining, lack of recovery, and lack of preparedness are  all factors that will prevent training from taking place. This will subsequently result in stagnant training or detraining. SMR is a mechanism you can use to prepare for, and recover from training. I really do not care if there is a debate on whether it actually does what we think it does. As long as there is no detriment to performance, it’s not illegal, and the athlete likes it, I am all for it. 


-Thank you for your time! If you have any questions please let us know!


Coach Nate Garcia 

nate@tpstrength.com

tim@tpstrength.com

scott@tpstrength.com 

914-486-7678

Instagram: tp_strength


References: 


Richman, E. D., Tyo, B. M., & Nicks, C. R. (2019). Combined Effects of Self-Myofascial Release and Dynamic Stretching on Range of Motion, Jump, Sprint, and Agility Performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 33(7), 1795–1803. doi: 10.1519/jsc.0000000000002676

Weerapong, P and Kolt, GS. The mechanisms of massage and effects on performance, muscle recovery and injury prevention Sports Med 35: 235-256, 2005. 



Instability Training... Why?

There seems to be an increased popularity in the utilization of unstables surfaces in the weight-room to improve balance, strength,  core strength, and sports performance. Why add another variable to a skilled movement? What does training on an unstable surface enhance, and/or hinder? To what capacity should you incorporate this modality in your own training regimen?

In the rehab setting, when an individual is returning from injury, it is very common for the usage of unstable surfaces to strengthen all muscles associated with the area being rehabbed. Without going too far out of my scope of practice, the unstable surface promotes co-contraction of agonist and antagonist muscle groups to stabilize the joint and prevent future injury. 

Once someone is cleared from the rehab setting, the capacity to which someone would use instability training methods vary quite a bit. As I have discussed in previous posts, it all depends on what the goal of your program is! Let's look at two people: 1- a sprinter who has 5+ years training experience, 2- an average person not training for competition with < 5 years training experience. 

The sprinter has one goal in mind, and that is to get from point A to point B faster than everyone else. Peaking for these events require detailed programming in order to get the best out of the athlete at the time of the event. A sprinter needs to the ability to put a high amount of force in the ground in a very short amount of time. To aid in force absorption and redistribution, sprinters have the ability to disinhibit the natural inhibitors of muscle contraction. This is part of the reason why they look so fluid running down the track! This has a lot to do with co-contraction of muscles, sprinters want agonist muscle groups to shorten rapidly while the antagonist muscle groups relax. This increases the range of motion of the movement, allowing more time for force generation, and shortens the amortization phase of the stretch shortening cycle. I say all that because unstable surfaces promote co-contraction, thus fighting the results we are looking for! They also limit force production in one direction, meaning as you put force in to the unstable surface like sand, or a bosu ball, the force is distributed across the platform rather than back into the movement. Training to improve balance focusing on the usage of unstable surfaces for the sprint athlete would not be recommended. 

As an average person looking to improve overall fitness, I see no problem with using instability training as long as it’s performed safely with a purpose. Exercise should be fun for people, and if someone is inclined to use a bosu ball to do push-ups because they like the challenge… why not? Sure, they might be emphasizing efficient strength development, but there isn’t strength competition to prepare for either. Instability training provides a unique challenge, and easy way to track improvement with added variables to the exercise. As long as someone has a general strength foundation, and demonstrates that they can do the movement safely, I say go for it. BUT, you should know what instability training promotes if you are utilizing it in your program. If the goal of your program is to increase maximal power output, and one of your programs pillar’s is the utilization of unstable surfaces… I will shake my head in disappointment. 

People use unstable surfaces to promote balance ability, core development (abs, obliques, erectors, etc), a warm up to “activate” muscle groups before the session, rehabilitation from injury, and sometimes just to show off! These are all true statements, but are there better ways to accomplish these goals? For example, nothing has been shown to better develop core strength than performing standing, total body movement with an external load (LIKE A BACK SQUAT), and that includes the 30 minute crunch class. There is a time and a place for unstable surfaces, and IMO that is in the rehab setting, a warm up, a new challenge for someone not training for a competition, and to only be attempted safely by someone with training experience. 


Thank you for your time! If you have any questions, please reach out to us!


Instagram: tp_strength

train@tpstrength.com (Coach Nate)

scott@tpstrength.com

tim@tpstrength.com

Phone: 914-486-7678