The Best Self-Myofascial Release Techniques and Excercises

September 15, 2015

Last updated: August 31, 2022

Struggling with muscular tightness and pain? Self-myofascial release (SMR) can help to ease pain and soothe your muscles, particularly after exercise.

Self-myofascial release can be likened to self-massage and is a hands-on approach to alleviating pain and physical discomfort. It’s also a therapeutic technique often used by physical therapists to smooth out the body’s connective tissue, also known as fascia.

Here, we cover the best self-myofascial release techniques and exercises you can try, to soothe your muscles and help your body unwind.

What does self-myofascial release do?

Self-myofascial release can be a way to manage pain by smoothing out the body’s connective tissue, also known as fascia. Our muscles tighten up from a variety of causes, but the three most common are:

1. Trauma
2. Overuse
3. Dehydration

The three of these work against natural, functional movement by locking the muscles attached to a joint, or causing heavily worked muscles to stick to the nearby muscles and tissues. This hinders performance, increases discomfort, and can lead to injury. Myofascial release exercises are used to target these areas and reduce discomfort.

Regardless of any training goals, there are some foundational self-care exercises that should be practised daily. They address the most influential regions for proper hip, back and shoulder function. These regions are the largest contributors to full-range functional movement and shouldn’t be neglected.

Self-myofascial release techniques to try

Ready to have a go yourself? Here are some self-myofascial release techniques to try, to soothe your muscles and reduce discomfort.

1. Quads Roll

The most important area to address on a daily basis, as one of the quad muscles attaches to both the kneecap and the front of the hip. You don’t want your quads to lock up because knee movement would be compromised. All work and no stretch make for dysfunctional muscle compensation which is neither good nor comfortable!

2. Inner Thigh Roll

Again, very important to do on a daily basis if you can. If your knees roll inward when squatting or landing on a jump, it is a sign that your inner thigh muscles (adductors) may be tight, which can lead to excessive wear and tear on your knees, lower back and hips. To compensate, many people become ‘quad dominant’ which causes imbalances that are completely preventable.

3. Lats Roll

A lats roll works down the path of the latissimus dorsi, the muscle that attaches to your upper arm, some of your ribs, most of your spine, and the top of the back side of your hip bone. As you work your side from armpit to hip, you’ll also work lots of other muscles, which will enable your hips and shoulders to move much more freely. If done regularly, you will see fast improvements here.

There are endless problems that can arise when muscles lock up but the good news is that each separate issue is completely preventable.

Guidelines to follow for SMR:

Looking to try out self-myofascial release? Here are some guidelines to follow to ensure your technique is beneficial to both your body and mind.

– Spend 1-2 minutes per SMR technique and on each side (if and when applicable)
– When you find a painful spot (a trigger point), hold for 30-45 second
– Keep focusing on any trouble areas every day until it no longer gives you any trouble
– Keep the abs tight as this will keep you stable while rolling
– Breathe slowly at all times to reduce any tense reflexes caused by discomfort
– Complete your SMR exercises 1-2 times per day

Take a look at our guide on the best tools for self-myofascial release to help reduce pain and improve circulation.

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