What is foam rolling - also known as self-myofascial release (SMR)?

Self-myofascial release, also known as foam rolling, is a stretching technique that uses a foam roller to apply gentle pressure to adhesions (or knots) found in a muscle, allowing the muscle to relax. When foam rolling, you must find a tender spot and maintain pressure on that area for a minimum of 20-30 seconds, or until the tension in the muscle decreases. This may take longer depending on your ability to consciously relax. Although foam rolling can be uncomfortable, especially on certain areas of the body such as the IT Band, it is important to try to relax as much as possible while holding pressure on a tender spot.

Self-myofascial release can be used as a warm up prior to activity, and can also be used as part of a cool down.

I like to think of foam rolling as an inexpensive massage. You use the foam roll to place over a tender or tight muscle and apply pressure until the tension is released. It is called SELF myofacial release but all of my clients like it when I perform the foam roll for them.


Foam rolling is a way to stretch tense muscles and allows those muscles to return back to normal resting length. Anytime you don't stretch after a workout or only go through a small range of motion with a muscle that muscle begins to tighten and conform to a shorter length and causes inelastic portions of muscle that are called adhesions. These shorter length muscles and adhesions actually inhibit strength seeing as your muscles are strongest at resting length. Self myofascial release/foam rolling is kind of like taking a rolling pin to dough-it flattens your muscle out to its optimum length. This process can be quite painful depending on how tight of adhesions you have.

Brian Floyd

Foam rolling also known as self-myofascial release is great pre and post workout exercises. We create imbalances in our muscles everyday by the way we sit, stand, squat and walk. This causes us to perform everyday movements incorrectly causing knots or adhesions in our muscle. So think of your muscle like a rope and there is a knot in the middle of the rope. Most people will stretch their muscle when they feel tightness. So if we stretch that rope with the knot it gets tighter, thus making it worse. So SMR allows us to apply pressure to loosen that knot by your golgi tendons. Now the rope with the adhesion is loosened then we can stretch that muscle to optimal length tension. Over time that knot will go away and you will see a difference in your body mechanics and feel a lot better. 

Foam rolling is a technique for kneading out knots and lengthening tight muscles. A wonderful self-massage incorporated into your workout in the being and also at the end for increasing your flexibility.

Foam rolling, aka, self-myofascial release (SMR) is a basic stretching technique. The goal of SMR is to release tension and discomfort in a tightened muscle. A foam roll is used to apply gentle pressure to areas of soreness or tightness (tension) in a muscle. It is termed "self" myofascial due to the muscles' sense of tension becoming inhibited with the gentle application of pressure, causing the muscle to relax, and reduce discomfort.
Foam rolling, also known as self-myofascial release is an important part of the flexibility process and is used to increase the effectiveness of a regular static stretch. Foam rolling is based off of massage therapy principles and is used to release "knots" or adhesions that form in muscles (typically due to overuse of some sort), and it is also used to help relax the nervous system. Let's face it; all of us could use some relaxation.
We are going to take a quick peak into each component listed above:
  • Rolling out the knots -- Most of us have felt a knot or tender spot somewhere in our body. By applying pressure to these tender spots or knots, and holding it for 30 seconds or so we can get the body to "release" this area. 
  • Nervous system -- The nervous system can be very tricky and sensitive. It does not take much to get us worked up and for something to get on our "nerves". If you have ever driven in traffic then you know what I mean. By simply taking 10 minutes to "roll out" the body, we can work to calm these nerves and return our nervous system to a state of relaxation. 
If you have questions, I advise either emailing me or contacting one of the many other NASM Certified trainers. 

Foam rolling is a form of flexibility training which is good to use prior to exercise and as part of a cool-down, especially for those who are in the beginning stages of an exercise program. This form of flexibility training uses a foam roll that ranges in different ranges of density, some are denser and provide a deeper tissue release while some are softer density and will not provide as deep of a tissue release. The foam roll can be used to stretch the calves, quadriceps (front of the thigh), hamstrings (back of the thigh), the piriformis (outer hip). When using the foam roll, when you find a tender spot, it is recommended that you maintain your position for a minimum of 30 seconds.

Foam rolling is one technique used to apply self-myofascial release. It is a technique used to apply pressure directly to muscles that have adhesions causing the muscle to shorten. Self-myofascial release inhibits the muscle allowing the muscle to be lengthened with static stretching and followed by dynamic stretching to prepare your muscles for your workout.

Foam-rolling is a stretching technique used to "smooth" out knots or tension spots in a muscle. When pressure is applied to the knot and is held for 20-30 seconds, it causes the muscle to relax, allowing it to return to its proper length and increasing flexibility. Foam-rolling is recommended before and after a workout.

Foam rolling is a self massage technique used to release the knots with in a muscle, and is and important part of a corrective exercise program. It helps you move better, and can be used before a workout to release overactive muscles that can negatively affect form. It can also be used after a workout to prevent muscles from becoming overactive. As part of an injury prevention program foam rolling can be followed by static stretching of the overactive muscles which will allowed the antagonists or underactive muscles to be activated. An example would be foam rolling the hip flexors to be able to activate the gluteus maximus.

Foam rolling is an example of a stretching technique referred to as self-myofascial release that is used to enhance flexibility. It is effective in addressing problem areas in muscles where adhesions or knots are present. By placing the foam roll against the knot in the muscle and applying gentle force for a minimum of 20 to 30 seconds, the muscle will be stimulated to relax. Self-myofascial release is suggested to be performed before static stretching, i.e. stretching a muscle and holding for a minimum of 20 seconds, for optimum results.

Foam rolling is ideal to help with overactive muscles, muscle tension, and a whole range of muscle and joint related issues. It is a favorite amongst avid exercisers, but can also be used in therapy. It helps to increase range of motion and decrease muscular tension. Foam rolling has also been referred to as "self massage" and is performed on a foam roller (which comes in a variety of sizes and prices). Foam rolling compresses the muscle tissue, helping to ease over activity (used before working out) and over sensitivity (used after working out). Think of it has truly working out the kinks. If you have knot in the muscle and simply stretch (think of the calves) then that knot can actually become tighter and more tender. Foam rolling compresses it to help work the tension out from the source. I recommend 5 minutes of foam rolling before working out (especially intense workouts) holding the tender spots for 30 seconds or until tenderness subsides. After the workout, you can spend 5 minutes using the compression of the foam roller to get the muscles ready for a stretch.

Foam rolling is an important part of a successful fitness plan. A foam roller is a round piece of firm foam that you essentially lay and roll on to loosen tight muscles. By gently rolling out your legs, arms, middle and upper back, and shoulders you help loosen tight muscles and work out adhesions that impact you’re over all mobility. Think of it as a do it your self-massage. Foam rolling before a work out helps to warm up and prepare the body, foam rolling after a good workout can serve as a cool down.

It's like self-deep tissue massage, in many ways. Foam rolling is a technique to "sweep" through the muscles and breakdown or smooth adhesions in the muscles that are likely limiting range of motion or flexibility. It's important to speak with a health and fitness professional on whether or not SMR is a technique you should use, as it's not recommended for a variety of health conditions.

Self-myofascial release is another form of stretching that focuses on the fibrous tissue that surrounds and separates muscle tissue. By applying gentle force to the knot the muscle fibers are altered. Once the knot is located sustain pressure on that spot for a minimum of 20-30 seconds.

Foam Rolling or Self Myofascial release is an inhibitory technique used to release tension or decrease activity of the target muscle or tissue. Scientifically speaking it used for two things:

  1. To treat effects of active or latent trigger points 
  2. To influence the autonomic nervous system

In practical terms it used to help deactivate, and increase blood flow to a muscle or group of muscles. This inhibition then allows the muscle increased range of motion when being stretched.

Within the corrective exercise continuum, practitioners first deactivate an overactive muscle group through myofascial release so that said group can be lengthened towards acceptable levels. All this is done in order to get closer to reestablishing proper length/tension relationship around joints.

For the novice fitness to the expert athlete foam rolling is by far the best use of warm up time for all.

First it helps to relax and release adhesions or tight-knotted muscle fibers through out the body through applied body weight to a cylinder shaped dense piece of foam. A technique known as foam rolling.

Once a fitness professional has shown you how to use the foam roller through out your body from head to toe your fitness program will be made a lot more effective. 

What foam rolling does is helps to elongate muscles and prepare them for a work out. 

A common error by novice and some professional athletes is to not properly stretch before a work out. Foam rolling takes care of this and in the end will effectively help reduce the chances of injury in the long run.

Foam rolling or SMR is a soft tissue technique used to break up knots or tightness in the muscle and to relieve chronic pain and improve flexibility. The idea is to apply pressure to the muscle with the foam and roll on it to reduce tension, increase blood flow and lengthen the muscle. Foam rolling can be an effective way to aid flexibility and to reduce injuries.

Jesse Gernert

Foam rolling is a self-myofascial release technique (SMR), which is another stretching technique that focuses on the neural and fascial system in the body. The objective of using SMR is to apply gentle force to an adhesion or more commonly understood a "knot", which alters the elastic muscle fibers (aka knot) into a straighter alignment with direction of the muscle or fascia. When the gentle pressure is applied by a foam roller it stimulates the Golgi tendon organ and creates autogenic inhibition, in return, decreasing muscle spindles excitation and ultimately releases the hypertonicity of the underlying musculature.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.