When Do I Practice SMR?

Many of us "out there" do not know when we need to practice a little SMR, or instead a little stretching, or when we should go harder with our workouts, or when we should take a recovery day, etc.

We will not answer all of your training related questions in this post, but we will begin the decision-making process for when to stretch or practice SMR prior to your workout by providing a nifty little flowchart you can refer to when you are beginning your warm up.

Workout-Self-Care-FlowchartIf you can stretch properly and lengthen all of your muscles without any massage work, then your body is working as it should. Simply continue doing whatever it is you are already doing! It's like the saying, "If it isn't broken, don't fix it!" You should stretch and exercise regularly. If you are fully capable with only these two elements in your schedule then you do not need to seek additional methods and assistance.

583_cropped_730x4122-625x360We must stress the need to conduct an assessment of whether or not you truly have the Range Of Motion (ROM) to do all the things you wish to do in your life. To do this assessment you will not need any special knowledge, equipment, or training (no, you do not need a wired hat like in the picture above).

Try to lift or move the normal things in your home or work life. Are these movements easy? Now try to move just a little farther than the ROM you need for those activities. You should be able to move much farther without a load than you can with the load, and well beyond the range you require for any movement (such as touching your toes or reaching straight overhead).

QuitterInstead of challenging themselves to maintain or increase their ROM, many people simply make excuses to no longer do certain activities because they hurt or they have a mistaken belief that the movement in-and-of-itself is dangerous (like squatting below parallel or running is bad for you).

We believe quitting is bad! We want to help you find ways to learn or revisit activities without injuring yourself. Scaling the ROM, loads, and repetitions in any program is almost always a must at times, especially in the beginning, but quitting should never be your answer. If you do not know how to modify your movements to make them safe, hire a personal trainer to guide you.

Workout-Self-Care-FlowchartSo how do you know when to stretch, exercise, practice SMR, or seek the help of a qualified professional? The flowchart above makes it simple. The text below walks you through it...

  1. Start moving.
  2. Feel stiff and restricted?
  3. Stretch and do some light exercises.
  4. Still feel stiff and restricted?
  5. Practice some SMR and more stretching/light exercise for the tight areas.
  6. Still feel stiff and restricted?
  7. Are you hydrated? (especially hydrated with balanced electrolytes)
  8. If you are capable of safely performing the movements in the workout, proceed. If not, contact your local hands-on therapist to get the help you need. Here is a link to help you find some local therapists.

Does this list cover everything you need to know about self care? No. Does every problem have a complicated answer. No. Some of the simple things that will solve your problem you are not in the habit of doing. The most common cause to movement limitations in the gym that we've found in over twenty years of instruction is the lack of effort a person makes into changing the bad habits they have. Start with hydration. Add some stretching. Move in ways you might not be doing while you are at work. Limber up those joints and extend your reach just a bit outside your comfort zone. When stretching is not improving your ROM, add in massage work (both on your own and with a professional). If that isn't solving your movement limitations, then take it a step farther but with professional guidance. Take a concerted interest in your own health and well-being. It is not the physician's job to be your nanny and clean up after all of your mistakes. You need to clean up some of them yourself.

You just might be surprised by how much you can improve your quality of life by diligently practicing your SMR homework, some complimentary stretches, and keeping yourself hydrated. Take it one day at a time. Now go take care of yourself!

Core Concepts

We utilized the following concepts to build the Alexander Method of SMR.

These physiologic processes, laws, and principles provide the foundational concepts to fully understand how to approach self-care in the safest, most effective manner possible.

We provide definitions and descriptions of the concepts below, as well as link to external sites when possible to offer more resources.

If we can help you understand the relationship of these concepts to each other and how to use them in managing your muscle issues, do not hesitate to call on us. You can sign up for one of our upcoming certifications at SMRCerts or email us at info@smrtips.com.

We are here to help you get more out of your self-care efforts!

Davis's Law

soft tissue models along...

lines of stress; tight stays tight, weak stays weak (shortened stays shortened, overstretched stays overstretched). A person with rounded shoulders exhibits this...the pecs are shortened and tight while the rhomboids are overstretched and weak.

In other words, how and what you do with your body will determine what you will be able to do in the future, because your muscles and other soft tissues will literally grow to accommodate the stuff you do throughout the day. Don't work on being more flexible and you will grow less flexible over time.

Although not immediately apparent, this is the most influential factor controlling your ability to move properly as you age.

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Autogenic Inhibition

is a process whereby a sensor in the tendon (golgi tendon organ or GTO) sends a signal to...

the brain to release the sensor in the attached muscle (muscle spindles).

The GTO is triggered by a constant level of just the right amount of tension for just the right amount of time. For most people, this period of time is at least 20 seconds, but can be substantially longer.

Static stretching and self-myofascial release both elicit this response. This is partly why slower SMR techniques tend to produce a more profound result.

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Stretch Reflex

the knee-jerk response your thigh does when...

the doctor gently whacks your knee. The muscle spindles are “hard-wired” to your spinal cord to react to muscle fibers being stretched too quickly. This is also the reason your muscle will cramp when you apply too much pressure too quickly to a knot when doing SMR.
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Relative Flexibility

using a combination of joints to accomplish...

a movement goal when one or more joints lack full functional range of motion. (e.g., allowing your heels to rise off the ground and your chest to face down during a deep squat due to poor soleus and psoas flexibility; raising your hips to reach something overhead because you can’t raise your arms completely up to your ears, etc.)
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Reciprocal Inhibition

the process of one muscle activating (agonist) and causing...

the opposite muscle (antagonist) to release.

Dynamic flexibility elicits this response, which in a way can be considered the opposite of autogenic inhibition (in which sensors in a tendon "turn off" the same muscle they are connected to).

Alternating between high kicks and butt kicks with the heels is a good example of using either side of the thigh to help loosen the other side.

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Arndt-Shultz Rule

(formerly Arndt-Shultz Law), relax and take...

it slowly; weak stimuli activate physiological responses, while very strong stimuli inhibit physiological responses.

Although the dominant theme of pharmacologist Hugo Shulz and Dr Rudolf Arndt's work is centered on poisons and toxins, the physiologic responses are somewhat consistent when looking at physical stresses to the body as well as chemical ones.

Doing deep tissue work on yourself slowly and gently using leverage, gravity, and torque is more effective than using force.

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Law of Facilitation

the path of...

least resistance; when a nerve impulse has passed through a certain set of neurons, it will tend to use that same path in the future. Each time the signal passes this same path the resistance is less.

This is why old injuries tend to get re-aggravated with less stimulus.

It is also why the more often you get massaged, the easier it is to relax a tight muscle.

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Elliot’s New Manual

We received the following email last week:


So Jeff and Carolyn talked and decided to send Elliot a link for the now twice revised manual for the Alexander Method of SMR Clinic. Here is his response:


You are most welcome, Elliot. It was and is our pleasure to assist you.

When we learn we have helped someone as much as we did Elliot we will bend over backward to serve them. Learn what the Alexander Method of SMR can do for your self-care efforts by clicking here to access our online education. Better yet, click here to see our workshop schedule and sign up for a hands-on class.

We wish you well in your efforts taking care of yourself. If you have any questions for us, we are here to serve you.

Less Pressure is better than More Pressure

When you roll out does it hurt too much? Does it seem like it never gets any more comfortable or pleasant? Maybe you are actually working too hard or using the wrong tool....

In the video clip below Jeff explains why less is more and you should be working smarter, not just harder:

Get the right tools in your toolbox to get the results you need. Get the know-how to work out your issues when you can and make that call to a professional when you need a little extra help. Over time the process of SMR should get easier to maintain and see results. If it isn't shoot, us a message and we'll help you get the relief you are seeking.

Muscles tighten up for a number of different reasons. Let's not make finding the solution more complicated than necessary.

Good luck!

Supported Corpse into Marching Corpse

Had a few clients ask about our upcoming release of the "Marching Corpse" stretch and how to perform it in combination with the Supported Corpse stretch. So here is a quickie vid demonstrating how to mix the two stretches together to provide greater relief from hip & lower back discomfort.

Where Did the Alexander Method and SMR Originate?

Self-myofascial release has existed as long as people and animals have rubbed their bodies against something to scratch an itch or relax a muscle. Jeff & Carolyn Alexander began exploring the tools and concepts available to recover following intense workouts or competitive events around 2001. What they found was a collection of techniques loosely linked together around using a foam roller, tennis ball, golf ball, and frozen water bottle with little or no real guidance other than to "roll around to find the sore spots."

Over the course of 5-6 years Jeff and Carolyn searched for classes, tools, and experimented with themselves and their clients until they had the beginnings of a logical, step-by-step program that anyone could pick up and use to help take care of their own muscles. This system has evolved over the last 6 years to become an approved educational course for trainers to maintain their professional credential as well as a starting point for many coaches to use when teaching their clients about their own anatomy and how to manage the normal aches and pains that come from daily life as well as pushing one's body to it's physical limits.

The Alexander Method of SMR is a system of self-care that you can see (and feel) immediate results from when dealing with a muscular dysfunction. You do not need to learn complex anatomical terms or physiological systems to understand how to do the techniques, as the system is a simplified step-by-step approach to understanding how you can move better by practicing certain specific techniques each day. We start with the most important muscles and groups of muscles that lock up your hips, knees, and shoulders when they don't work right. Once you begin to understand how these three key areas can be addressed (and how helpful it can be when you work on them regularly) we help you address the other key areas to improve or maintain your quality of movements so you can enjoy your day and your activities.

Here is Jeff at the beginning of a SMR Clinic in Southern California describing why the Alexander Method was developed:

Show Us Your SMR Love

This was posted on Jeff's wall on FaceBook today:

"Thank you for the add Mr. Jeff Alexander. As you can tell from all my pics of SMR at CrossFit FTF, I am a HUGE fan. Thank you for your products. I'm honored that you choose to use my pic for your cover page as well. Thank you for all you do."

Matt, your supportive feedback and commitment to continual improvement are the reasons we do what we do. You keep up the good work, and we'll keep trying to help you get there!

Matt put this picture up, and Jeff made it his cover image:

Post your SMR-related pics on Jeff's wall or the SMR FaceBook page. If we like it we might repost it to remind others to make SMR a regular part of their day. You'll move better and get faster results through your efforts by practicing the techniques regularly. Good luck!