Self Myofascial Release

Self Myofascial Release – Performance and Recovery Benefits

Self Myofascial Release (SMR) is a growing trend among all levels of athletes around the world. Many more people everyday are turning to their foam rollers, mobility and recovery tools for help with musculoskeletal challenges than ever before. Want to know why?… Well, there are several reasons this trend continues. In a nutshell, athletes are having reduced muscle soreness, improved flexibility, faster recovery time and increased muscular force output following consistent SMR practice and application. (1-7) The reasons that these physical improvements occur are due to physiological responses from Self Myofascial Release. Stimulation of blood flow, scar tissue adhesion removal and muscle tissue alignment following SMR all can help to reduce injury prevalence and enhance general physical performance. (4)

Massage aka Soft Tissue Mobilization (STM) and its variety of forms, have been clinically proven for quite some time to stimulate blood flow. Stimulating blood flow helps to improve different mechanisms that assist muscle tissue warm-up for activity and to cool down and recover afterwards. (2) Starting with the warm-up, when you compress, roll and massage muscle tissue, blood flow is encouraged to move and with massage. When blood flow becomes more readily available to the muscle tissue, this allows for more nutrients and oxygen to be distributed and available for use by the muscles. (1)

This increase in access to nutrients and oxygen gives the muscles several other physiological advantages to improve physical energy output, power and resilience. (3, 5) In a study done by Peacock et al. (2014) examiners tested the effects of foam rolling used in conjunction with a dynamic warm up series of exercises. Peacock et al. found that foam rolling improved power, strength, agility and speed when compared to just the dynamic warm up by itself. Another study done by Halperin et al. (2014) described the use of self massage techniques to increase maximal voluntary muscle contraction based on Electromyography (EMG) readings compared to only static stretching done for warm up.

Along with enhancements to muscle function, STM and SMR provide assistance with removal of lactic acid and other cellular byproducts from muscle micro-trauma after use. This mechanism of myofascial rehabilitation works to speed up recovery and reduce pain levels by influencing the degree of damage from local inflammation to the muscle group. (7) Following SMR athletes will basically have less effects from Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) depending on the therapeutic activities performed and their parameters. (4) This process allows the athlete to feel physically better the next day or two after the training session in comparison to not performing SMR.

Finally, SMR helps to improve general flexibility and joint range of motion. Several experimental studies have connected SMR with increased flexibility. Vigotsky et al. (2015) observed increases in hip extension of around 2 degrees measured via the Thomas test following two 60 second sets of foam rolling. Halperin et al. (2014) found improvements in ankle ROM immediately and 10 min after three sets of 30 seconds of plantar flexor rolling massage. Sullivan et al. (2013) found increases in hamstrings range of motion with the sit-and-reach test which were preceded by two 10-15 second sets of rolling massage. The examples of how much SMR can improve athletic performance are out there but each athlete must find the right program for themselves.

“With the evolution of the strength and conditioning field, foam rolling SMR has emerged as an additional component to an athlete’s warm-up.” (5) We hope that you adopt your own unique SMR practice and continue to progress at your own pace while implementing it into your daily training session or routine.

SMR Parameters
References  Sets Time
Peacock et al. (2014) 5 Strokes per muscle 30 sec
MacDonald et al. (2014) 2 Sets 60 sec
Halperin et al. (2014) 3 Sets (at 1&10 min post activity) 30 sec
Vigotsky and Bruhns, (2015) 2 Sets 60 sec


1. Connolly DA, Sayers SP, McHugh MP. Treatment and prevention of delayed onset muscle soreness. J. Strength Cond. Res. 2003; 17: 197–208.

2. Crane, J.D., Ogborn, D.L., Cupido, C., Melos, S., Hubbord, A., Bourgeois, J.M. & Tarnopolsky, M.A. Massage Therapy attenuates inflammatory signaling after exercise-induced muscle damage. Science Translational Medicine. 2012; 4(119): 1-8.

3. Halperin, I., Aboodarda, S.J., Button, D.C., Andersen, L.L., and Behm, D.G. Roller massager improves range of motion of plantar flexor muscles without subsequent decreases in force parameters. Int. J. Sports Phys. Ther. 2014; 9: 92–102.

4. Jay K., Sundstrup E., Sondergaard S.D., et al. Specific and cross over effects of massager for muscle soreness: randomized controlled trial. Int. J. Sports Phys. Ther. 2014; 9: 82–91.

5. MacDonald GZ, Button DC, Drinkwater EJ, Behm DG. Foam rolling as a recovery tool after an intense bout of physical activity. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 2014; 46: 131–42.

6. Peacock, C. A., Krein, D.D., Silver, T.A., Sanders, G.J. and Von Carlowitz, K.A. An acute bout of Self-Myofascial Release in the form of foam rolling improves performance testing. Int J Exerc Sci. 2014; 7(3): 202–211.

7. Sullivan, K.M., Silvey, D.B.J., Button, D.C., and Behm, D.G. Roller-massager application to the hamstrings increases sit-and-reach range of motion within five to ten seconds without performance impairments. Int. J. Sports Phys. Ther. 2013; 8: 228–236.

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