Have you ever walked into the gym and seen those pastel colored foam rollers and asked yourself ‘what the heck are those for?’ I definitely have and I did some researching into how and why they’re used. Here’s a summary of foam rollers and the form of muscle tissue therapy — self-myofascial release (SMR).
What is self-myofascial release?
SMR is a form of soft tissue therapy. In the fitness training world it is typically practiced by use of a foam roller or small round object such as a medicine ball or tennis ball. This form of tissue therapy is possible mainly due to the occurrence of autogenic inhibition reflex. This reflex occurs after our muscles contract when under tension or pressure. When tension is reaching the point of risking injury to the muscle, the golgi tendon organ (GTO) stimulates the muscles to relax. This reflex relaxation event is called autogenic inhibition. The muscle contraction followed by muscle relaxation creates a passive stretch which will allow for greater range of motion within the joint.
SMR takes advantage of this autogenic inhibition effect by focusing pressure on a muscle group leveraging body weight over a foam roller or round object. Therefore, the user of the object can position himself and leverage the appropriate amount of weight and pressure to achieve autogenic inhibition in the desired muscle group.
What are the benefits?
SMR is another technique of relaxing the muscles and preventing injury. It is another option that individuals can use in addition to active and passive stretching techniques. The technique also requires less active work and its effect on the muscles is similar to that of deep tissue massage.
Below are a couple videos for both lower body and upper body SMR techniques using the foam roller – enjoy!
Lower Body SMR
Lower Rear Leg (muscles: gastrocnemius, soleus, achilles tendon) Lower Lateral Leg (muscles: peroneals) Front, Middle and Side of the Hip (muscles: vastus lateralis, tensor fascia latae, anterior gluteus medius, gluteus minimus and IT band) Rear (muscles: gluteus maximus/medius)
Many of these SMR techniques can be used with a medicine ball, tennis ball and/or lacrosse ball (harder). These objects focus the pressure on smaller surface areas and may help concentrating the effect of SMR on smaller muscles or muscle groups.
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