Self Myofascial Release | Explanation, Technique and Benefits

Self myofascial release (SMR), or ‘foam rolling’ as it is more commonly termed, was originally an elusive practice for athletes, coaches and therapists has now become widespread amongst regular gym-goers.

For those unfamiliar with this  technique, this article will outline some of the basic theory behind this recovery technique, cover the basic technique and highlight some of the benefits of SMR.

What is Self Myofascial Release?

SMR is a technical term used to describe self-manipulation of various muscles within the body  in order to physically break down painful or restrictive skeletal muscular adhesions (also called knots) or thick, fibrous scar tissue which has resulted from injury.foam rolling exercises SELF MYOFASCIAL RELEASESMR can be performed using a foam roller, a lacrosse or hockey ball, or by hand. Foam rollers are extremely versatile tools, and can be applied to almost any body part.

Muscular knots are thought to arise when areas of the muscle fibres become taut and tense.

This causes restriction of blood flow to the area, depriving cells of essential oxygen and nutrients. Certain academic theory on this subject matter suggests that several knots can form in a muscle, leading to formation of a so-called ‘trigger point complex’.

Moreover, muscular knots often refer pain to other areas of the body by potentially causing unwanted stimulation of nerve endings.

One factor thought to produce muscular knots is muscular overuse.

How does Self Myofascial Release work?

Research into this topic suggests that pressure applied to a particular body part using one of the  instruments described above acts to physically break down and remove muscular knots and/ or fibrous scar tissue.foam rolling exercises SELF MYOFASCIAL RELEASEMoreover, the good news is that you don’t need to spend hours and hours trying to pierce through painful regions of muscular tissue. In general, you should shoot to ‘hover’ around painful areas for around 30 seconds.

NOTE: Practicing SMR should NOT be painful in itself. Massaging a trigger point complex or knot should feel pleasant, alike a mild stretch. If applying pressure to a particular area causes pain, then back off as you’ll likely be doing more harm than good!

Why should I do Self Myofascial Release?

Muscular knots and trigger point complexes can arise from muscular overuse, which is a problem often  encountered by gym-goers. Overused muscles often become chronically shortened, dense and stiff. This can cause bio-mechanical restrictions which lead to faulty movement patterns and potential injury.

foam rolling exercises SELF MYOFASCIAL RELEASE

As such, if you’re hitting the weights on a regular basis you should make a regular habit of including SMR within your training schedule to relieve and/or  prevent painful movemement and tissue restrictions.

Moreover, regularly performing SMR is also great for relieving the delayed onset muscle soreness commonly experienced 24-48 hours after lifting weights. The act of moving in a controlled manner and applying pressure to sore tissues will stimulate blood-flow to these areas, delivering oxygen and nutrients to muscle cells, which is a critical part of your recovery process.

A sample novice SMR routine

Obviously, you want to focus your attention on relieving painful knots and adhesions which are specific to you, however, the routine below appropriately groups muscles to make it easier to follow. In addition, you can modify this routine to suit both your frequency and style of training, rendering itboth customisable and effective! To perform this routine, you’ll need a high quality foam roller.

Other tools such as a lacrosse ball are optional but can be helpful for applying sufficient pressure to those hard-to-reach areas. If In doubt, you should always seek advice from a qualified Medical Practitioner if you feel that SMR could exacerbate a pre-existing condition or injury.

Day 1

Muscles: Pectorals, Tricep complex, Bicep complex, Forearm extensors and flexors, Rotator Cuff complex  and Latissimus Dorsi.

Order: Pectorals, Rotator Cuff Complex, Latissimus Dorsi, Tricep Complex, Bicep Complex, Forearms extensors and flexors

Technique: Using a foam roller, slowly apply pressure to different areas of each muscle (complex), spending about 30 seconds on particularly tender regions.

Ensure that you DO NOT roll over any joints, and if you feel pain – STOP.

Day 2


quad foam rolling exerciseMuscles: Quadriceps complex, Hamstrings complex, Gluteus Maximus, Gluteus Medius, Gastrocnemius & Soleus, Tibalis Anterior & Peroneals

Order: Gluteus Maximus, Gluteus Medius, Hamstrings Complex, Quadriceps Complex, Gastrocnemius & Soleus, Tibialis Anterior, Peroneals

Technique: Using a foam roller, slowly apply pressure to different areas of each muscle (complex), spending about 30 seconds on particularly tender regions.

Ensure that you DO NOT roll over any joints, and if you feel pain – STOP.

Day 3

Muscles: Rectus Abdominis, External Obliques, Serratus Anterior, Hip Flexor Complex

Order: Serratus Anterior, Rectus Abdominis, External Obliques, Hip Flexor Complex

Technique: Using a foam roller, slowly apply pressure to different areas of each muscle (complex), spending about 30 seconds on particularly tender regions.

Ensure that you DO NOT roll over any joints, and if you feel pain – STOP.

Take Home Message

With an understanding of SMR and how-to and the general technique – you can now try the modifiable sample routine which can be tailored to your particular training needs.

You can now start to effectively incorporate this valuable recovery tool into your training schedule and reap the benefits of potential improved muscular recovery and a reduced incidence of injury!

Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you’re concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or introducing any major changes to your diet.



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