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How To Perform Self Myofascial Release (SMR)

This is a comprehensive step by step guide on how to do SMR, if you wish to know MORE about, trigger points and self myofascial release (SMR) please refer to our article, WHAT IS SMR.

Equipment you will need?

You will need a roller and a lacrosse ball.

The roller is a good tool to cover more surface area as you roll. This means that it is more like a sports massage and does not penetrate as many layers of tissue. The lacrosse ball is smaller and harder. This is going to get results similar to a deep tissue massage.

General Guidelines

  • You want to start from the bottom up. That means roll your feet, then ankles, then legs before working your way up to you upper body and extremities.

  • Roll on the roller/ball until you find the “trigger point”. You will know you have found one who it ‘hurts good’. Remember its the pressure and cross friction that smooths the fascia not the rolling.

  • Avoid applying pressure on bones or joints, we only release/roll muscle.

  • Relax the muscle to be rolled as much as possible. Excessive tension will limit how much you can penetrate into the tissue and create change.

  • Don’t forget to breath, breathing helps oxygenate the blood and you want to increase/restore oxygenated blood flow to the tissue.

  • Drink plenty of water after an intense SMR session to keep you hydrated and keep tissue supple.

SMR Protocol

Types of SMR movements

For both the roller and the lacrosse ball, there are 3 types of release you want to achieve

  • Rolling

  • Shear or cross friction (pivot over the tissue)

  • Stretching or (Tack & Release)(twist and move/stretch tissue whilst maintaining pressure on the spot)

To properly release the tissue you want to make use of all 3 movements to restore the sliding surfaces and get a complete release.

You want to hold pressure on a tender spot for 20-30 seconds. (Ideally you want to hold until you feel a change in the tissues, such as a reduction in discomfort or tension. If no change is felt, give that sport a break and come back to it later.

Everyone's a bit different, but shoot for a subjective pain scale rating of 6-8 out of 10.

If you feel a sharp or radiating pain, different from trigger points in soft tissue, discontinue your pressure. You're most likely on a nerve or vasculature. Move off that point and continue your treatment next to the nerve. Many nerves become sticky, just as soft tissues do. Treat the tissue, not the nerve.

For all rolling you always want to start from the feet and work your way up.

Remember to work through the 3 movements

  • Rolling

  • Shear or cross friction (pivot over the tissue)

  • Stretching or (Tack & Release)

Don’t forget to breathe and try to relax the muscle you’re working on. Happy rolling!


1.Start with a golf ball on heel. (Keep the toes down and bodyweight onto of the ball.)

2.Roll to ball of foot, stopping and applying pressure on any trigger points you find along the way. 3. Roll to the inside of your sole.

4. And on the outside.

5. Do the same with the other foot.


1. Put one leg on top of the foam roller with your other leg crossed on top.

2. Roll up and down your inner-calf to find your hot spots. When you find a hot spot, stop and lift your butt off the ground with your hands to apply more pressure on your leg.

3. In addition to applying steady pressure on your trigger points, you can also rock side-to-side on them and stretch/tack and release by rotating your foot clockwise and anticlockwise whilst maintaining pressure.

Gastrocneumius (Outer Calf)

  1. Using the lacrosse ball find a hot spot, use your non-supporting hand to rock your leg back and forth on the ball.

  2. Work your way up and down the leg sandwiching the tissue between the shin/bones of the leg and the ball. It’s going to hurt, but it’s the good kind of hurt.

Quadriceps (Quads or front of thighs)

  1. Place the roller just above your knee. (Rolling)

  2. Lie down and prop yourself up on your forearms. Roll the roller up and down your quad, stopping on any trigger points. Gently rock side-to-side. (Cross friction)

  3. In addition to rocking side-to-side on hot spots, bend your leg back at your knee. Hold for a few seconds. (Tack and release)

  4. Straighten your leg. Hold. Alternate bending and straightening your leg on your hot spots on your quad.

Hip Adductors (Inner thigh)

  1. Place roller on inside of your thigh.

  2. Lie down, propping yourself up on your forearms. Roll the roller up to your groin, stopping on any

trigger points. Apply pressure.

  1. Straighten your leg and hold for a few seconds.

  2. In addition to rolling your leg rotate the leg outwards to expose more the the quadricep and head of the muscles.

  3. Bend your leg at your knee and hold. Alternate between straightening and bending on hot spots.

Iliotibial band (IT Band)

  1. We’re going to roll the foam roller up and down the side of our leg starting at the top of the hip and down to just above the knee.

  2. Lean back on your arm and bend your non-treated leg for added support. Roll up and down IT band, stopping on any hot spots.

  3. If you really want to dig into those trigger points, lift both legs off the ground.

  4. Turn your body in so you really work the inner part of your IT band.

  5. Turn your body out to work the outer part.

  6. In addition to applying steady pressure on hot spots, rock side-to-side on them (shear) and bend and straighten the leg that is being rolled (tack and release). Repeat on other leg.

Piriformis (buttocks)

  1. Place ball on piriformis.

  2. Find hot spots on piriformis and hold.

  3. To really dig into it, lift the knee up on the side that you’re working.

  4. Lower your knee like you’re doing a butterfly stretch. Hold. Bring back up. Alternate between a down and up position. You can also pivot the leg making sure to pivot whilst maintaining pressure down on the ball rather than rolling just the ball.


  1. Lay on your side with the roller beneath your lat near your armpit.

  2. Work the roller down your side stopping and holding on trigger points. Don’t go too far down, though! You always want to stay on muscle.

  3. To really work those hot spots, rock back and forth on the foam roller.

  4. Rotate until your face is looking up at the ceiling and roll up and down to work the lats closer to your spine. Repeat on other side.

Upper back/Thoracic

  1. Place roller at base of spine. Use the last of your lower ribcage as a reference. You DO NOT want to roll your lower back

  2. Lean back and lift your hips off the ground.

  3. Work your way up and down roller stopping on any hot spots. Be careful about applying too much pressure to your spine.

  4. When the roller reaches your trapezius, arch your back and hold. You can also pivot/ lift arms from down by your side to overhead. Draw big circles like you are steering a truck as well as give yourself a big hug and rock gently side to side.


  1. Place ball between the wall and upper part of your trapezius.

  2. Turn your body away from the wall.

  3. Roll back on ball until you find your hot spots.

  4. Lift arm straight out. Apply pressure on hot spot. Repeat on other side.

  5. Give yourself a hug.

  6. Pull your arm on the side that you’re working on the ball across your body with your other arm.


  1. Place ball on pec and press down pinning ball between chest and the wall.

  2. Roll ball around on pec until you find a hot spot and hold for a few seconds.

  3. You can pivot the arm from your side to overhead.

  4. And in addition add some shear to the muscle as you move across it.

Common mistakes:

  • Using tools on a slick surface, or a surface with too much give will result in too little pressure and on the ball or roller slipping.

  • Moving too fast or too slow through a manipulation

  • Choosing the wrong tool for a manipulation

  • Addressing a condition in the incorrect order can be a sequencing error with muscles that haven’t been released ‘pulling’ and not improving the condition.

  • Positioning, incorrect placement or using the tool on the incorrect area

  • Rolling over bony prominences is not a good idea

  • Keeping excessive tension in the muscles does not allow them to relax during a manipulation

  • Holding the breath, mouth breathing or improper breathing pattern doesn’t help to properly oxygenate the blood.

If you've got any questions or want to find out more, do shoot us a message or better still, come on down to one of our on ramp classes where we can show you how to perform these and MORE! Happening every Tuesday and Thursday at 7pm, it'll be an experience you won't wanna miss!

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