I think to answer your question is easiest to think of an analogy I heard from Justin Price once. SMR is kinda like part of the act of blowing a bubble. Before you can stretch the gum out and blow into to make the bubble you must chew it. Foam rolling can be thought of as the act of chewing. Without the chewing, the muscle cannot be stretchedout and used properly.
From a physiological standpoint, soft tissue (fascia, connective tisssue, muscle, etc) can lose its hydration if overused or nutrition is deficient, and adhesion can form. These adhesions are analogous to the little pockets of air that you may find in tge saran wrapping if you purchase meat at your market. These pockets essentially wont allow effective communication between brain and muscle to perform movement correctly, thus compensation occurs.
The compressive forces and slow (or no) rolling rate of the foam roller can help increase the hydration to the tissue. This begins to allow the filaments that allow muscle contractions to take place to slide easier. With that being said, foam rolling really is one part of a successful pre-workout plan.
Lets use a knee that “caves-in” during gait as an example for some pre-workout programming. A valgus knee us symptomatic of glutes that wont activate efficiently because of a length tension relationship at the hip. There is all kinds of stuff we need to do at the foot and ankle but for the upper leg, the glutes arent abke to do their job and the IT band is taking the brunt of the tension. A proper warmup to prepare for a walking or running workout would include using the foam roller to u n-tack the IT band and stretch the glutes so that they can handle the load of slowing down the knee.
YIKES! Thats a lot…hope it helps,
Jeremy gave a great answer as the use of foam rollers pertains to self-myofascial release which certainly is a valid technique.
I use foam rollers within the parameters of the MELT techniques, and while the goals are similar, the approach is different.
In MELT, people assess their bodies first and then use certain lengthening techniques to improve the alignment. The techniques go well beyond foam rolling in the SMR sense and usually start with the diaphragm and the lengthening of myofascial lines as well described by Thomas Myers in ‘Anatomy Trains’.
The way I explain is to my clients and students is in comparison with a car. Before you load the car, you at least make sure that the tires are balanced and that structure of the car is sound. A new paint job, however, is unimportant.
When foam rolling, the goal is usually to perform what’s called, self-myofascial release (SMR). Just rolling your body over the foam roller doesn’t necessarily equate to SMR. It’s important to move slowly through foam rolling techniques, focus on deep belly breaths and settle into an area that is tender or what we like to say, feels like a speed bump. Once you “settle” in that tender area, you want to move the limb through a range of motion to produce movement or friction between the skin, fascia and muscle. For example, if you are rolling on your quadriceps, you would settle into a tender area and then flex your knee bringing your heel towards your backside. You could also add a small wiggle side to side like you are scrubbing a dirty dish.
Pre-workout foam rolling is great to increase blood flow and circulation and send a signal to your brain for your muscles to relax and prepare your body for movement.
Trigger Point Performance provides specific programming for all foam rollers and SMR products. Contact me if you’re interested in learning more.