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What is SMR? (2019 Ultimate Guide)

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“What is SMR?” we hear you ask. A very good question. SMR is an acronym that you may or may not have come across before in the fitness industry or in the general world of fitness. Either way, you’ll be glad to know that this article is going to cover everything you need to know about SMR - the SMR meaning, what it is and how to do it, why to do it, pros and cons etc. So keep on reading to find out all about SMR!

 

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What is SMR?

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First things first, let's answer the question “what is SMR?”. SMR stands for self - myofascial release, which is a method of releasing trigger points throughout the body to restore normal function. Trigger points are a type of muscle stiffness, usually tender or painful areas of the body, that generally cause pain in other areas of the body when stimulated. They usually develop when the body is injured or overworked, but can also be caused by muscle trauma (for example accidents, falls or high contact sports), repetitive movements, improper posture (for example, the most common cause is usually if you have a desk job and sit for long periods of time), emotional stress and nutritional deficiencies. The purpose of SMR (self myofascial release) is to release the tension in these areas to help relieve the pain they cause.

SMR: A mini glossary

For your reference, we’ve included some of the more technical terms used in this article below along with their meanings.

Fascia - Fascia is internal connective tissue beneath the skin that attaches, stabilizes, encloses, and separates muscles and other internal organs.

SMR - An acronym that stands for self - myofascial release

Trigger point - A particularly sore point that causes pain when stimulated, either locally or in other areas of the body.



What is SMR: How to do it

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So, now you know what SMR is, we bet you want to know how you can get to work on releasing those trigger points! As the name suggests, self-myofascial release can be done by yourself, in the comfort of your own home. You may want to seek professional advice from your local fitness professional to help you get a good base knowledge before you try it, or alternatively, there is just as much information online, just ensure that you are getting it from a trusted source!

And speaking of trusted sources, we’ve put together some of the main points to help you get started, so keep on reading for our mini beginners guide to self-myofascial release (SMR)!

First things first, you need to ensure you have the correct equipment. You can use something that you may already own, for example a tennis ball or a cricket ball. Alternatively, you can buy a decent foam roller pretty inexpensively from most local fitness stores, for example Sports Direct, or online at places like Amazon. If you really want to get serious, you can get equipment designed specifically for self-myofascial release work, and you can get different sizes, shapes and hardness for different muscles of the body. But we promise, a regular tennis ball or foam roller will do the job just as well, so don’t worry!

The next step is to identify your trigger points and get to work. This is the fun part, but prepare to grimace as it can get quite painful! To start off, we suggest working from the bottom of your body upwards and covering each muscle group as you move up, so you don’t miss any areas of your body out. For example, start with the soles of your feet, then progress to ankles, calves, hamstrings, quads, glutes etc.

To begin with, you should roll the particular muscle that you are working on the foam roller/ball. For example, if you’re working on your quads, lie on your front and place the roller/ball under your leg either just above the knee or you can start at the top of the thigh, and then slowly roll until you find a trigger point. But how do you know you’ve hit a trigger point? Well, you’ll know you’ve found one when it hurts! Ouch.

When you find a trigger point, you should stop and rest on the foam roller for 10 to 20 seconds. Contrary to popular belief, it’s actually the pressure and not the rolling that releases the fascia. You should focus solely on your muscles and avoid applying pressure on your bones and joints, for example the knee and hip joints.

This is a great guide that explains in detail how to work each muscle, using both a foam roller or a small tennis/cricket/sports ball.

But why should you do it?

So now you know all about SMR and how to do it, but why should you do it? Well, self myofascial release is a great technique used to release tension in the muscles. This can help relieve the pain from DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) after a workout. Additionally, SMR can reduce muscle pain and boost recovery by encouraging blood flow to the muscles. It also releases endorphins meaning it feels great! 

Still need some more reasons? Then carry on reading to the next section where we’ve highlighted some more benefits for you!

SMR: Pros and Cons

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There are plenty of pros to self myofascial release, and although there are of course cons to balance these out, the list of pros outweighs the cons considerably.

The first and most obvious pro to self - myofascial release is that it releases your trigger points. This can relieve pain and help any niggles that you may have. Another bonus, as mentioned above, is that SMR increases the blood flow to the muscles, which helps aid muscle recovery, especially after a tough workout. When done after a workout, SMR can help to flush out lactic acid and keep blood circulating to help with a more efficient recovery.

If you perform self-myofascial release before a workout, as long as you have warmed up appropriately beforehand, it can temporarily improve flexibility and range of motion (ROM) - another pro. However, the improvement in flexibility and ROM is not scientifically backed and is only a similar effect to that of being able to stretch a little bit further when you are warmer. This effect is therefore only temporary, and does not result in long term improvement in flexibility. It is important to note that SMR should not be used as a replacement for a suitable warm up or in place of regular stretching if you're looking for increased flexibility. 

The main cons to consider are the risk of causing further injury and the level of pain that self myofascial release causes. While SMR will be painful, it shouldn’t be unbearable pain. If you experience unbearable pain at any point you should stop immediately and consult a professional. Furthermore, if you perform SMR incorrectly, for example, if you constantly roll over bones and joints, you will have an increased risk of injury. The risk of injury is also heightened if you are already injured, as foam rolling could worsen the issue. Another con is that your pain and trigger points may be caused by underlying issues such as muscle imbalances, and if you are only using SMR to correct the trigger point, you will likely see minor improvement or no improvement at all, because the underlying issue is still there. A good way to tackle this is to use SMR as one method of treating trigger points, but do not rely on it solely. If you suspect you have a muscle imbalance or other issue, consider physiotherapy or other options to help treat the cause.

One final note…

And that’s everything! Our miniature guide to What Is SMR, with everything you need to know. You can now put it all into practice and start releasing those knots and niggles! Don’t forget to rehydrate properly after an SMR session.

Have you used the SMR technique before? Will you be giving it a go after reading this article? Let us know in the comments below! We’d love to hear from you.

You can also get in touch with us on Facebook or Twitter, and if you’re interested in becoming one of our students, get in touch with one of our enrolment team at 0800 002 9599 or via enrol@origym.co.uk. We’ve got a variety of courses to choose from, ranging from Level 2 Fitness Instruction right through to our range of Continued Professional Development Courses (CPDs) including Boxing and Pad Work and Suspension Training. We also have a Level 3 Sports Massage Therapy course, perfect if you fancy exploring a different type of muscle release!

 

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Written by Hannah Oxbrough

Fitness Professional & Blogger

Hannah is qualified in Exercise to Music and is passionate about fitness and discovering alternative ways to make exercise as fun as possible. She enjoys aerobics and Zumba classes, and taking part in obstacle mud runs for charity. In her spare time she loves reading, practicing her Spanish and walking her miniature schnauzer, Stella.