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
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.