Wish I Knew This This Before I bought My Foam Roller!

SMR Table 1

Firstly, it is important to reiterate that foam rolling does not ‘increase muscle flexibility’ and should never be used as a replacement for efficient warm up and stretching protocols before physical activity.

As mentioned in one of our previous articles, foam rolling (SMR) is used to ‘inhibit’ overactive muscles that are causing a problem with human movement and function. To define, ‘Inhibit’ means to ‘decrease over activity of neuromyofascial tissue’. Thus, foam rolling acts as a training modality in the corrective exercise continuum. 

What are overactive muscles?

A muscle or group of muscles that are over-stimulated or restricted that in turn affects simple human movements such as squatting or lunging.

How do you know what muscles are overactive?

Remember everyone is different, and it would be careless to hand out generic foam rolling programmes; this will only serve to potentially cause more problems. Simply saying to someone ‘go and roll your quads because they are tight’ isn't going to help them. Why are they ‘tight’? Are they actually ‘tight’ or ‘over active’ or is there restriction due to another group of muscles not working effectively?

That said, there are general overactive/underactive possibilities associated with certain dysfunctional movement patters and pain symptoms as you can see in the example below. 

SMR Table 1

  • SMR helps to ‘release’ these knots and micro-spasms, by breaking down fascial adhesions that are created via the above reasons. 
  • SMR is most effecting when the object is held on an area that is particularly tender for a short period of time (approx. 30 seconds).
  • SMR increases muscle extensibility – NOT muscle flexibility!

How do we get overactive muscles in the first place?

It is well known and documented that poor posture and repetitive dysfunctional movements can create tissue stress which in turn can cause an ‘injury’. The body’s response is to instigate an inflammatory process which then triggers the body’s pain receptors that causes a protective mechanism – muscle tension; this is how ‘knots’ are formed (see diagram below). This is where you can get a ‘burning’ sensation or a dull aching pain. Muscles lose their elasticity because of these ‘knots’ which causes a joint range to begin to decrease and become more dysfunctional. The cycle begins again.

SMR - Knots

Basically, to find out what muscles potentially need SMR for any individual requires an assessment of their movement via a movement competency screening process; we have developed our own called the Performance Deficit Test. We look at your movement patterns which tell us what muscles are overactive, underactive, restrictive or compliant. Put simply, you’ll know what is working and what isn't, which could be the underlying problem that’s impeding your athletic performance, or what's causing that persistent shoulder pain as you sit at your desk.

So, if you would like a personalised foam rolling programme for your warm up routine, or are just interested in finding out more about foam rolling and how you can use a roller then do get in contact with us.