If you're a sports fan, you know that this is one of the best times of the year for collegiate athletics. The NCAA Division 1 Mens Basketball Championship is well underway. I'm married to a former Division 1 ball player, so needless to say, the tournament is always on in my home. Being residents of the Carolinas for 20 years before moving to Florida, we're big fans of North Carolina teams. As such, we tuned in early for the Duke vs. San Diego State game.
While broadcasters shared pre-game stats, cameras cut away to San Diego State players engaging in what happens to be one of my favorite pre- and post-workout activities: self myofascial release (SMR). Huh? What's that, you ask? Simply put, it's self massage using inexpensive props such as a small inflated ball (a tennis ball works in a pinch) or foam roller to release muscle tightness or trigger points.
An article on realsimple.com explains that myofascial release manipulates the fasciae, thin membranes that cover each muscle, which may alleviate knots and soreness better than massaging muscles alone does. To try it, place your prop of choice on the floor or against a wall and lean on it so it’s under the tender spot. It should feel slightly uncomfortable. Hold for 30 to 45 seconds. To increase the effect, gently roll the prop back and forth on the area.
“When it’s healthy, the fascia over a muscle is like a pillowcase that slides easily over a pillow,” says John R. Martinez, a doctor of physical therapy in New York City. “But when you have injuries or chronic inflammation, the fascia can bind onto the muscle and restrict its movement, which causes discomfort.” Myofascial release therapy helps “unstick” the fascia, he says.
So, what are the benefits of SMR exactly, when should I do it, and are there other guidelines I should follow? Consider these answers, courtesy of finishlinept.com:
Foam rolling BEFORE exercise is used to:
Foam rolling AFTER exercise is used to:
Guidelines for foam rolling:
Many health clubs now keep foam rollers on hand for members to use, but if you'd like to use one at home (which I highly recommend), just do a Google search for "foam rollers" and find the best deal. Keep in mind that rollers come in different lengths and densities. Longer ones are easier to use, but smaller ones travel easier. As for density, softer, less dense rollers are best to start with, then work your way up to firmer rollers as your muscles adapt and become more supple. Myo therapy balls are also useful for rolling your lower back, hamstrings, glutes and other areas requiring a more specific pressure point. They come in various circumferences, densities and textures. As mentioned above, a tennis ball will suffice. Give it a try!
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I am not a registered dietitian, nor a medical professional. My blog is a representation of my views and experiences, which are not intended as medical advice. While I am a certified personal trainer, descriptions of things I eat and exercises I perform may not be suitable for everyone. Please speak with a medical professional before making any changes to your current routine.