SMR 101: A Beginners Guide to Foam Rolling

Watch this video for a brief tutorial on foam rolling
Watch this video for a brief tutorial on foam rolling

Feeling tight? Unwind With These Self Myofascial Release Tips...

Foam rolling, massage sticks, and many other tools have gained a lot of admiration in fitness and wellness circles for their ability to help relieve muscle soreness and improve flexibility.  There are a lot of tools out there that aim to aid self-myofascial release (SMR). Anyone who has done some foam rolling would likely attest that it helps in their warm up, cool down and recovery phases of training.  While the mechanisms of why SMR works are still relatively unknown, the benefits have been well documented.

Here are some of my pointer's for more effective use of foam rolling:

The Don’ts

  • Don’t spend too much time on one muscle.  Longer rolling time doesn’t necessarily mean better results. Search for and roll through trigger points and move on.
  • Don’t use hard, dense rolling tools unless you are used to rolling and can tolerate it.  The denser the material the better the release typically is, but that is also accompanied by more discomfort. 
  • You probably don’t need to roll every day.  If you do roll often, shorten the time you spend to a brief warm up/ cool down and spend more time on planned recovery days.  Too much relaxation can be counterproductive if you are training for strength and power.

The DO’s

  • Set aside 2-3 active recovery days to focus most of your time and attention to flexibility/ range of motion/ mobility exercises to help alleviate stress from high intensity work outs
  • Use a balanced approach in your recovery program and make sure to target the major muscle groups including upper body/ lower body, anterior (front) and posterior (back) regions.
  • Search for trigger points (you might call these muscle knots) and focus the majority of your rolling around these areas
  • If you don’t find trigger points while rolling one area for a while then move on to another muscle group. 

-Alex Edwards, CEP

Exercise Physiologist