Tight muscles, limited Range of Motion, pain while working out? If you are working out on a regular basis, you will experience one or more of those problems at least once. To prevent or eliminate such problems, you should integrate Self Myofascial Release (SMR) aka Foam Rolling into your training-regimen.
How does SMR work?
SMR relies on the principle of autogenic inhibition. Autogenic Inhibition is a mechanism that prevents the muscles from exerting too much pressure on bones and tendons, to reduce the risk of injuries.
We have so-called Golgi-Tendon-Organs (GTO) in our body. The GTO is a proprioceptive sensory receptor organ and is located among muscle and tendon. If a muscle is contracted or stretched, the GTO senses the muscle tension and sends signals to the brain about the force being exerted to the muscle. If the tension increases so much, that a tendon could rupture, the GTO stimulates muscle spindles to relax the muscle and thus preventing injuries.
A good example for autogenic inhibition is weightlifting or bodybuilding. Most of the weightlifters raise a heavy load until muscle failure. The massive amount of force being exerted by the weights activate the GTO and the GTO then signals the brain to relax the muscle to prevent ruptures and injuries.
How to do it?
GTO also helps in making stretching techniques highly effective, because it is very sensitive to changes in muscle tension. This is where SMR comes into play. SMR on a foam roller is an inexpensive and very effective way to breakdown scar tissue and adhesions and thus increasing flexibility and performance. Ten Minutes on the foam roller every second day is all you need.
You can get a foam roller for 10-15$ at Amazon or some other retailer. Most of them are 6 inch by 24 inch. But a pipe with the same ratio will do, too.
Once you have your foam roller, you can start with the exercises. Place the foam roller on the floor and get to work. Use your whole bodyweight to roll over the foam roller and try to locate tender spots (so-called 'Hot Spots') that feel tight. Once you located a tight spot, you should hold that position until the pain diminishes or the spot feels softer (mostly 20-30 seconds).
There are some basic exercises you can do, but i encourage you to experiment with different positions and exercises as well. If you go to YouTube and type in "Foam Roller Exercise Video" you will get a great video on the best SMR exercises.
Harmstrings: Your Harmstring should be resting on the foam roller. Gently roll up and down the foam roller from the Gluteus to the knees. You can do this with either one or two legs at the same time.
Quadriceps: Same as with the Harmstring, but your Quadriceps should rest on top of the foam roller. Gently roll from the Hips down to the knees.
Gluteus: Sit down on the roller and support the weight with your hand. Then simply roll your butt.
Back: Lie with the roller positioned under your upper back. Cross your arms and roll down to the lower back and up again.
That's it. I cannot stress enough, how well these techniques work. They will help you prevent injuries and increase performance in the gym. Just try it out and see for yourself. Definitely the best 10-15$ i have ever spend.