Every athlete should include some form of mobility training into their existing workout routines. Mobility training improves performance and injury prevention through better movement execution due largely to less tissue restriction which improves range of motion. Self Myofascial Release (SMR) in particular is a type of mobility training that you can do for free, all by yourself.

In this article I will summarize some important Do’s and Don’ts for SMR so you can get the best results possible.

Here are the Do’s & Don’t of SMR for Mobility Training:


DON'T limit yourself to just one specific tool for SMR (like only using a foam roller).

DO use lacrosse balls, rolling pins, PVC pipes, smooth rocks, as well as your own bare hands if necessary. Different tools work better on certain body than others. For example, a lacrosse ball works better in and around your hips and pelvis, whereas rollers work better for your quadriceps, and smaller diameter cylinders work great for your feet. The key is to find the right shape and density tool that works best for the specific job at hand.


DON'T try to get all your SMR done in one session.

DO work it into your workout routines frequently - like everyday. SMR has to be done consistently on a daily basis to make meaningful change and maintain your body’s full ROM. This is especially true if you like to train hard.


DON'T apply too much pressure and don’t apply too little.

DO find the correct amount of “discomfort” to make change. The best phrase I know of is to create “Delicious Discomfort”. It has to “hurt”, but you want to relax and yield to the pressure. Putting too much pressure to the point where you have to grit your teeth and brace won’t be so effective. Apply too little pressure and the effort is generally pointless. Find the pressure that is uncomfortable but let’s you maintain a relaxed face and breathe throughout.


DON'T race through SMR skimming through it too fast.

DO take your time when executing your SMR. You may often hear people advise that you should spend no more than 20 seconds in one spot. This is not long enough to produce meaningful change much of the time. The time frame may be two minutes or more when you find a problem spot. The reality is, you have to adjust and account for your own body; there is no one-size fits approach in terms of time, and which body parts may need more or less attention.


DON'T only work the areas that feel tight or just focus on the “typical targets”.

DO include other areas of the body north and south of the problem areas. Practically everyone who foam rolls hits their IT Bands (lateral thighs), but how many people get into the abdominal region? The sides of your body above and inside the iliac crest, and under the ribs is a region of the body that is often restricted. You may not even realize this until you apply SMR (and feel the release in your hips). You won’t be able to target these areas with an actual foam roller, but your fingers and/or other implements can work very effectively. You’ll be surprised just how much better the other areas in your body feel when you release these regions.


DON'T create more problems in other areas because of improper posture

DO make sure you set your body in a sustainable position to do your foam rolling. Don’t create a knot in your shoulder trying to release your IT Band (by using the shoulders to prop up your body in an uncomfortable, tensed position). As you’re releasing one area of your body, find a good position for the rest of your body and use props (like a cushion) if necessary.


DON'T localize pressure directly on the lumbar spine.

DO target your soft tissues and not your bones when foam rolling. Be conscious of your alignment while rolling so you don’t cause unnecessary stress to a joint. When applying SMR on your back, the foam roller should not be perpendicular across the lower lumbar spine.


DON'T forget that water is your best friend.

DO take in plenty of water and electrolytes, and eat a good diet with plenty of vegetables to stay hydrated which will make you stronger and less tight. You can do all the foam rolling you want, but If you don’t hydrate your body properly you will be tighter and more constricted.

So there you have it, a list of Do’s and Don’ts of SMR mobility training. Give these a try and please let me know about your experiences in the comments below.

In Balance & Strength,


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