What Is Self-Myofascial Release? Here’s What You Need to Know
From massage guns to foam rollers, self-myofascial release has become a growing part of every athlete’s bag of tricks to get an edge on their performance and recovery.
This article will cover what Self-myofascial release is, the wide variety of tools and devices you can use, how it works, and the benefits it provides.
What is Self-Myofascial Release?
Traditional myofascial release usually meant taking a visit to a massage or physical therapist. They would then apply a hands-on technique to apply pressure to the fascia to help restore the tissue.
Self-Myofascial Release (SMR) is taking the concept of applying sustained pressure to the fascia from traditional myofascial release and transforming it into ways you can do at home or the gym by yourself.
Many athletes have adopted it into their pre-workout ritual to help temporarily improve their range of motion. And also post-workout to get a jump start on their workout recovery.
There are quite a few methods and packages that SMR comes in. So before diving into the technicals of how self-myofascial release works, let’s briefly go through the different types of tools used to get the job done.
It will help give you a picture in your mind of “what’s happening” when you also have an idea of each devices’ form and function. It will also help you figure out what tools might be best for your own fitness goals!
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The Different Types of Self-Myofascial Release Tools
Each type of SMR device is similar in purpose but usually differs in how effectively they reach different body parts and the amount of pressure they provide.
Here is an excellent list of the most common types and classifications of myofascial release tools:
- Foam Rollers
- Massage Guns (Percussive Therapy Devices)
- Muscle Rolling Sticks
- Massage Balls
- Trigger Point Massage Canes
- Bodyweight Massage Tools
- Acupressure Mats
If you’re looking for ways to decide which foam roller is best for you, check out our article on how to choose the best foam roller.
How Self-Myofascial Release Works
The underlying mechanisms for “what’s happening” in the body still have much room for additional research. But here’s the prevailing logic to it.
When you’re foam rolling or using a massage gun, two different parts of the muscle come into play: spindles and Golgi Tendon Organs (we’ll call them GTOs for short.)
When spindles get triggered, they help with the contraction of the muscle. You can think of it like a metal spring that expands out, and then when it retracts, it comes back to its original shape.
GTOs keep track of the contraction and limit the spindle from stretching any further if you’ve gone too far.
If you want to dive deeper into the technicals, check out this Meta-Analysis of Foam Rolling and SMR.
To use foam rolling as an example, the pressure from the foam roller on your muscles causes the GTOs to switch off the spindle activity, making your muscles stretch and allows them the opportunity to re-align.
This is what can help reduce the muscle tightness and tension that enables you to improve your mobility. As we talk about at length in this article, it has an enormous effect on your athletic ability.
The Benefits of Myofascial Release
Here are some of the ways that self-myofascial release can benefit your workout recovery and training performance:
- Improved Mobility and Range of Motion
- Restores Proper Balance of Muscle Tension
- Reduced Soreness Post-Exercise
- Improved Recovery After a Training Session
- Increases Blood Flow
- Decreased Trigger Point Sensitivity
- Muscle Relaxation
- Improved Flexibility
As always, before starting a new exercise protocol, or if you are feeling any form of pain or suspect that you might have an injury, don’t hesitate to see your doctor or healthcare professional for an expert opinion first.
A lot of focus goes into what happens during your training sessions, making it easy to leave out the pre and post-workout tools and protocols at your disposal to maximize your training sessions.
Self-myofascial release, in all its forms, is a popular choice for a reason. Many athletes have come to find the benefits that it’s provided them to get them to their fitness goals.
But like most things in fitness, the results come from disciplined consistency – and keeping the focus on getting the time in is what will give you the results that you’re looking for to get you to your goals faster.