The Poor Man's Massage
Self Myofascial Release manual...
DISCLAIMER This should be common sense, but just in case…
These manuals were created to make your life better, not as a shortcut or cure all treatment for anything. The people who wrote these manuals may be certified as trainers and scientific experts but may also be just plain certifiable. Do not confuse their advice with that of a medical professional such as a doctor. Please do NOT use the information presented in these guides to treat any disease or condition you may have, and do NOT begin any nutrition or exercise program without consulting your doctor first.
What is SMR? SMR stands for self-myofascial release. If you’re not a human performance geek it simply means self massage. If you can’t afford to work with or don’t have access to a qualified therapist than as the old saying goes, “something is better than nothing” Think of SMR as self massage affordable to everyone. All you have to do is show yourself a little love….
Why Should We Do SMR? Our body is connected by a thin layer of connective tissue known as fascia.
This “mystery meat” of the muscles actually controls the shape of your body. SMR is a rough way of attempting to relax the connective tissue to relieve stress. Restore ideal posture and untie muscle knots. Everything Affects Everything: The First Step in Stretching
Since fascia connects the whole body pulling it in different ways if the fascia quality is poor or tight. Stretching is ineffective. Think about your muscles as a rubber band. Now let’s cover that entire rubber band with a thin but very tight casing of rubber. Now try to take a segment of that rubber band and stretch it through that rubber coating. Good luck. You’ll get very little length if any. If fascia is tight we can’t even begin to stretch our muscles with all the different forces pulling against it. Before we can stretch we need to relax the fascia. Knotted Muscles
You’ve probably heard of muscle knots. In fact if you’ve ever had someone give you a massage you probably discovered pretty fast where they were and how much they hurt. Sometimes when muscles are extremely knotted they’re known as trigger points. There are two kinds of trigger points: 1. Latent: These only hurt when pressure is applied or something specific aggravates them. Think about the guy you live next door to who doesn’t bother you unless you bring your dog to poo in his yard.
These trigger points aren’t all necessarily bad but we want to reduce the amount of stress and pull through your body if we can help it.
2. Active:These trigger points don’t’ need any help or reminding to hurt. That kink in the neck. That pain on the outside of your thigh. Yep. That’s the neighbor in your apartment who reminds you why you’re saving for a house.
Muscle knots also cause another distinct problem. Similar to fascia being too tight to stretch if a muscle is knotted you can’t stretch it. Picture a thick large rubber band with knots in it.
If I stretch and stretch that rubber band with all of those knots it’s not going to get much length. In addition it’s going to put more stress around where those knots are. Eventually that band is going to SNAP! And it’s going to snap on the sides of that knot. Before we can stretch we need to relax the fascia, work on softening up trigger points, and untie knots to get real length that lasts from our muscles. Blood Flow and Recovery SMR will not only increase your flexibility, have you feeling better, relax your muscles and improve your posture but also increase blood flow to your muscles. The increased blood flow will aid in recovery from training and has in some cases with my client’s, even relieved headaches and migraines.
By untying knots in your body you allow once cut off sections of your muscles to receive blood flow once again. Blood brings nutrients to your muscles which help them recover from training. The faster you recover the more you can train and the better results you can start to see. Before You Start Before you beginthere are some things to keep in mind. Don’t engage in SMR if you have circulatory problems, chronic pain conditions like fibromyalgia, or if you have a recent injury in a certain area or a bony prominence, try to avoid apply pressure in those areas.
The Tools of the Trade These are three basic tools we use at BeFit Tacoma for SMR: 1. Foam Rollers The foam rollers are those large Styrofoam looking implements that resemble padded Nerf bats. These are usually used to roll larger muscle groups. They come in different sizes. We prefer the full length ones for a few cool techniques. If you were going to invest in one SMR tool this would be it.
2. The tennis or lacrosse ball Tennis and lacrosse balls are usually used on smaller muscle groups, areas that require more precise pressure or harder to reach areas. Lacrosse balls are preferable but most people have tennis balls lying around.
3. Massage Sticks Massage stick are, well, a stick with little rollers strung on it. You’ll find they have “the sticks” and also have “tiger tails”. We have used both in the past and find the stick to be more affective. However, if you tend to have a lot of body hair, and are rolling areas without clothing covering such as calves or upper thighs the stick may pull. In that case the tiger tail may be preferable for you. Massage sticks are good for people who may have difficulties getting on and off the floor. The advantage is it allows more targeted SMR and especially useful on calves, forearms, traps, and hamstrings. The disadvantage is you have to manually apply pressure through your hands. Meaning you may find yourself fatiguing
and your massage less effective or if your tissue quality is good you may not find it a very effective tool.
The Technique When performing SMR you want to be careful about not overdoing it by going all out on your first attempt. Overdoing it may damage your tissue quality. Just like exercise. Work your way into it. Your first few sessions with the foam roller may take a while to work out all the kinks. If you’re a newcomer you’ll probably spend at least a minute or two on each body part, more if there are many knots and overall poor tissue quality. The more consistently you practice SMR, the more your tissue quality improves and the less time you will have to spend on SMR. Here are some common areas that really benefit well from SMR. For the more technical minded or those who just really want to learn Latin, I’ve included the technical names for some muscle groups. This isn’t as important as where they are located, what they do, and how to perform SMR on them properly.
It’s just so when you hang out with me we can say tensor fascia latae, look at each other, nod our heads and then start foam rolling together. Now… onward!
The Plantar Fascia What is it? “Plantar fascia”is the fascia on the bottom of your feet. It starts at your toes and goes to your heels working its way up your Achilles tendon.
Some days you got it… If this tissue becomes inflamed, the nerves become pinched causing a pain condition called plantar fasciitis. People who
stand or sit excessively may have had the displeasure of experience this. You’ll find your foot most likely will be tender regardless of if you suffer from this condition or not. Work it out!
The best tool to use for this is a tennis or lacrosse ball. 1. Take off your shoes and place the ball under one foot. 2. Press your foot down and roll the ball back and forthunderneath apply pressure 3. If you have difficulties standing on one foot feel free to use a wall or to lean on or something to hold on to. 4. After 30 seconds to a minute switch to the other foot and repeat.
Gastrocnemius soleus and the Achilles tendon What is it? The gastrocnemius is the wider part of your calf. The soleus is the smaller part underneath nearing your Achilles tendon.
Some days you got it… Muscle knots and stress here can cause tightness around the ankles and pain through the back of the knee. Work it out!
The best tool to use here is the stick. 1. Put your foot up on a low-sitting chair or bench
2. Press the stick with your palms facing forward against the back of your lower leg and roll up and down, focusing anywhere you feel a knot or other resistance 3. After about a minute, repeat on the other side OR
Foam Roller 1. Lie face up on the floor and position the foam roller underneath your calf starting on the middle of the widest part. 2. Lift your buttocks off the floor and support your weight on your hands. 3. If you need more pressure, cross the opposite leg over the ankle. 4. If you still need more pressure, point your toes on the leg being foam rolled towards your nose. 5. To work the Achilles tendon, do the same thing but focus on the region from the heel to the mid-calf.
The peroneals and tibialis anterior What is it?
The peroneals run along the sides of your calfwhile the tibialis anterior is the front part of your shins. Some days you got it… Tightperoneals can lead to knee injury most notably pointing of the foot to the outside known as pronation and possibly leading to outside knee pain (lateral knee pain for the geeks out there). the Tibialis anterior you know these well if you ever started running and jumping without building yourself up to it. Yep, we call these shin splints. Work it out!
Stick or Foam Roller works well for these. 1. Take a foam rollerand roll just like you would for the Calves but turn your feet outwards so you’re rolling the outside of your calves. OR 2. Take a stick and roll it up and down the sides and front of your shin bone. Focus on any knots or particularly tense places.
The illiotibial (IT) band and tensor fascia latae (TFL) What is it?
The IT bandand TFL is a doozy for everyone. It’s a strip of tissue that connects the top of your hip to your shin.This muscle plays a vital role in supporting your hips so it tends to very tight. If you walk or stand at all, your IT bands will be tight. Some days you got it… Excessive tension can cause knee pain and tight hips Work it out!
Foam roller is the instrument of choice 1. Lie sideways with a foam roller at the top of your hip 2. Place the same hand or elbow on the ground.
3. Cross the leg on top over and plant it on the floor in front of you to relieve some weight off the roller 4. This is a very tight area and you may find it is still too sensitive. In this case to decrease stress place two foam rollers underneath you 5. If you’re a champ to increase weight on the roller stack both legs on top of each other 6. Roll up and down the length of the thigh. This is a big one to hit so if you have to do it in sections that’s fine. Just go from just below the hip to mid-thigh, then reposition and go from mid-thigh down to the knee. You will find tight and sore spots here so work them out as best you can.
QuadricepsRectus Femoris, Medailis and Vastus Lateralis
What is it?
Quadriceps or quads are a muscle group that make up are your front thigh muscles and are the largest muscles in your body. They’re made out of three different muscles primarily leading up to your hip flexors. Middle, inside and outside or if we’re speaking geek yourRectusFemoris, VastusMedailis and VastusLateralis. Some days you got it… Excessive stress here can cause pain in your hips and/or knees.
Work it out! The foam roller is the ideal instrument for this 1. Lie face down on a floor with the foam roller under one hip only 2. Army crawl with your elbows dragging yourself along the ground from the top of your hip to the bottom of your knee 3. Roll multiple times shifting your weight from the outside of your thigh and again with the weight on the inside 4. If you need more pressure curl your knee towards your butt changing the stiffness of the muscles OR
1. With a stick place your foot on a bench or chair and bend the leg you’re working on to ninety 2. Roll the stick across the top of your leg like a rolling pin. 3. We are thinking about three muscles. Middle, inside and outside. This muscle is hugeso make sure you roll the middle, inside and outside too to hit all areas of the quadriceps.
What is it? The adductors are a group of muscles on the inside of your thighs
Some days you got it… When these muscles are bundled and tight they pull the knee in and can be responsible for inside knee pain. Work it out!
The foam roller or massages stick both works well for this 1. Lie face down on the floor with one leg straight and the other up and out to the side with the knee bent 2. Position the foam roller on the inner thigh near the groin and pull your body away from the roller so it moves towards the inside of your knee 3. Roll back and forth then switch knees 4. You can increase the pressure by straightening your knee (you’ll find this is especially sensitive near the knee) OR 1. Place your foot on top of a chair and bend your knee to ninety degrees 2. Take the massage stick and roll the inside of your thigh up and down applying pressure working from the top of the thigh down to the knee
The gluteus maximus and medius
What is it? It’s your butt, plain and simple in all its glory. Some days you got it… Finally! We get to get rid of the pain in the butt! Tightness in the glutes can lead to bad posture and pain in the lower back, as well as pain in the knee due to excessive tension in the IT band (remember that lovely gem from a few sections ago?) Work it out!
Foam roller 1. Sit on a foam roller with both hands on the floor behind you and both feet on the floor in front of you. Now roll back and forth. Shift your weight from side to side to hit each side separately. One of the few cases where sitting on your rear actually helps you! 2. Hit the gluteus medius which is usually tighter than the maximus by crossing one leg over the knee. Best to think “Sit man style.” 3. Roll the cheek that is now crossed. This is going to seem weird for most people. You are going to roll the side of your hip that has the knee bent.
What is it? Hamstrings are the muscles on the other side of your quads. They are backside of your thighs. Some days you got it… Everyone at one time or another has had tight hamstrings. Tight hamstrings can results in pain in the back of the knee or injuries from hamstring pulls. Work it out!
Foam roller or stick depending on your tissue quality the stick will be more precise
1. Lie face up on the floor with the foam roller underneath your thighs. 2. If you need more pressuresimply lift one leg up and cross it over your thigh 3. Lift your hips up and roll the foam roller up and down the back of your thigh OR 1. Place your foot on a bench or chair and bend it to ninety degrees. 2. Take a stick and roll it against the back of your thigh like a rolling pin.
What is it? Pecs are your chest muscles. They attach up into the top of your shoulders and strip down to the bottom of your rib cage. Some days you got it…
Unfortunately, pecs are very stiff and shortened due to overtraining, everyone working on those “beach muscles” or from sitting all day with poor postures. This stiffness can cause poor posture and form on many exercises, whether or not they target the chest. Work it out!
Best tool for this purpose is the tennis ball 1. Place the ball at about chest height on the wall and lean into it with your pec. 2. Roll the ball back and forth over the pec. If you need to do this in sections, that’s fine. Also if you want to hit it harder, pull the arm back and roll it outward to stretch your pec.
The latissimus dorsi and thoracic spine
What is it? The lats are your upper back muscles. They run from the armpits down to your lower back. When you see bodybuilders flex their lats it’s what gives them their width and helps establish the elusive V shaped torso. Our society sits so hunched over that our upper back (thoracic spines) are usually in poor shape contributing to even worse shoulder health. Some days you got it… The lats have many of the same problems as the pecs for the simple reason, we sit hunched over and the only real time we reach overhead now days is to get cookies off the top shelf. Work it out!
The foam roller is the king of this and we’re going to show you a technique to improving your T-spine mobility as well. For lats 1. Lie sideways on a roller with your armpit underneath it 2. Turn you hand up towards the ceiling 3. Roll yourself up and down from the bottom of your armpit to the bottom of your rib cage Then 1. Lie face up on a foam roller starting with the roller at the bottom of your rib cage 2. Place your hands behind your head and squeeze your elbows towards your nose 3. Lift your hips and pull yourself with your heels towards your head 4. Only roll from the bottom of your rib cage to the top of your shoulders
THEN 1. Start the roller at the bottom of your rib cage 2. Place your hands behind your head and squeeze your elbows towards your nose 3. Drop your hips to the floor, tuck your chin to your chest and reach back with your upper back towards the floor bending over the foam roller 4. Crunch back up, roll yourself higher up on the roller towards your head and repeat step 3 5. Work your way up your back and then back down
What is it? Triceps are the back part of your upper arm. The opposite side of your biceps, and the part that you notice stops jiggling when you start resistance training. Some days you got it… Yet another victim of overtraining of the “beach muscles”, the triceps can become stiff and sore easily. Triggered up triceps can be endangered of tearing on certain exercises when stress is applied and triceps are in a stretched position and also be responsible for elbow pain. Work it out!
Tennis or lacrosse balls are your best bet 1. Find a wall, bend the elbow you’re going to roll and place the ball between your elbow and the wall 2. Roll the top of your elbow to bottom of your arm OR 1. Lie on the floor with your ball
2. Positing the ball underneath your arm with your hand facing towards the ceiling 3. Roll the bottom side of your arm up and down with the ball
Look Good Feel Even Better By using the techniques in this guide you’ll find nagging injuries will disappear. Your flexibility will increase. You’ll recover better from workouts and your SMR time may become your favorite part of your workout. Proper recovery and care for your body is one of the most important things you can do to stay in shape for the long run. You can’t exercise if you’re injured. Remember, fitness is a lifelong journey not a quick fix. The same goes with the care of your body and tissue quality. Don’t expect it to be perfect in a week. It’s great to look amazing. It’s even better to feel amazing. It’s a simple piece of foam, a plastic stick and a rubber ball but you’ll be amazed at the difference it can make in your life.
About the Authors Probably the last person you’d expect to be fitness professional. Growing up Isaac was plump, never played sports and spent his sunny days indoors learning how to tinkle the ivories and pluck nylon guitar strings. In his teens he started his fitness journey. After being picked on too many times and a brief stint in ballet class he went on to learn Israeli hand to hand tactics, grappling and Thai boxing. His love for the combat sports led him into strength and conditioning, human movement, soft tissue therapy and personal training where he has now been a Nationally Certified Personal Trainer for over half a decade. He attended Tacoma Community College for Nutrition and Anatomy and Physiology as well as ventured out to Highline Community College for their personal training program. Locally, Isaac has had the great opportunity to learn from trainers, coaches, physical therapists and massage therapists including internships at Unlimited Athlete with Coach Tim Vagen and at Hocevar Performance with Luka Hocevar. He has been extremely blessed having been able to travel around the world, meet and personally learn from writers of leading fitness publications including Alwyn Cosgrove, Martin Rooney, and Mike Robertson. Isaac has worked as a consultant for personal training studios across the nation but his proudest accomplishment will always be the success of his clients. He is the owner and operator of BeFit Tacoma.
Rhone is a man for all seasons who wears many hats. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Campbell University in Biology with a minor in Computer Information Systems. He was born and raised in North Carolina and yes, he still has a bit of an accent and will often speak in scientific techno-babble with a Southern drawl which people tend to find quite amusing. Growing up he was always fascinated by the world around him, asking questions, taking things apart and putting them back together, and getting lost in books and in random places, trying to figure out what made the world around him work and also testing the limits of his parents’ patience (you don’t want to know how many VCRs they went through). He moved to Washington one cold, rainy December to decide on what his own ambitions were and make them happen. In January two years later he started getting involved in fitness and has taken a particular interest in how food fuels us and heals us, how our body processes what we put into it, and how the body adapts to various stresses, combining his lifelong interest in science with his new love of fitness. He has had the honor of learning from nationally certified personal trainer Isaac Ho. He is currently a freelance nutrition consultant, webcartoonist, and blogger. His other interests include music, theatre, dance, reading, cooking, urban exploration, stand-up comedy, and spinning poi. Look it up. For more information or to contact Isaac or Rhone visit befittacoma.com