*I received this product in exchange for my honest review. As always, all opinions are my own.*
Have you ever gotten a massage? One of those “oh wowww” massages that just loosens up all your tight muscles and makes you feel like a new person? Those are the best, aren’t they? Well if you are working out or running often, you probably have some tight muscles or imbalances that need to be massaged. And you can actually do it all by yourself.
What is self-myofascial release?
It’s a mouthful, that’s for sure. Self-myofascial release (sometimes referred to as “foam rolling”) is a method of stretching or massaging the connective tissue in your muscles that may develop tightness, knots, or trigger points. Sometimes muscles can become too tight, causing an imbalance that leads to injury. If you’ve ever felt knee pain after running, you may have had tightness in your IT band. Hip pain after a lot of lower body exercises? That could be due to a tight piriformis. When you squat, do your heels come off the floor? Probably due to tight calf muscles. Foam rolling or SMR of these muscles can help to release tightness and prevent injury due to muscular imbalances.
Does it hurt?
It really shouldn’t be painful to foam roll tight muscles. If it is painful, you probably have too much inflammation and should wait until the intense soreness subsides. However, you will most likely feel some degree of discomfort with SMR. The muscles you are rolling or massaging are tight and may have knots. After you apply sustained pressure to those areas with SMR, the muscle fibers will stretch and relax, resulting in less pain over time.
How do I do it?
Before engaging in exercise or stretching, you should foam roll any muscles that are tight or cause trouble with activity. This will help to loosen up your muscle fibers before you add stress to them. Can you imagine doing work with muscles that don’t allow your body to demonstrate full range of motion? By releasing your muscle tension before you exercise, you are able to move with proper form and get the full benefit of the exercise you are attempting. Additionally, you can foam roll at the conclusion of your workout (during your cool down time) to potentially reduce muscle soreness or stress on the joints from overly tight muscles.
Foam rolling is not something that should be rushed or done quickly. It takes time and deliberate movement to effectively release the muscle fibers. Use your body weight to apply pressure to the muscle you are targeting, until you find a spot that feels somewhat tender or tight. You can gently move back and forth in that spot, or even hold still on the knot for 30-90 seconds. It takes this much time for the muscle to decide to release the tension.
Here is a video that shows some common foam rolling positions:
What should I use for self-myofascial release?
There are a few different tools that fitness professionals use for SMR: a foam roller, a massage stick, and a lacrosse ball are the most common. I was given the Live Infinitely Foam Roller to test out and provide a review. I’ve previously used very basic foam rollers, cylindrical in shape with a flat surface. They get the job done, but definitely are not fancy. This foam roller uses high density foam and can support up to 500 pounds. It has a channel in the middle to reduce spinal pressure (never roll directly on your spine) while still targeting sore muscles. With your purchase, you also get access to online downloadable massage guides and videos! I can honestly say that this foam roller is more comfortable than other products I have owned and used, yet just as effective (if not more effective) at reducing tension in my muscles. I highly recommend this foam roller and will be using it often as I ease back into the exercise world.
Have you ever tried foam rolling or SMR? Has it helped your performance in your workouts? Share your thoughts below!