If you have access to a gym, chances are you have access to a barbell. We all know that a barbell is a tool to build strength and muscle, but did you also know it can be used to increase mobility?
A barbell can be used on certain parts of the body as a type of self-myofascial release - commonly abbreviated as SMR. In layman’s terms, this basically means that it is a tool that can be used to give yourself a massage. Typically, people use a foam roller on muscles in their body that experience soreness or tightness. It helps provide relief to those areas.
When it comes to your lower body muscles, it is common to see people in the gym using the foam roller on their quad muscles, calves, hamstrings, and glute muscles. But did you know that you can use a barbell to smash out your muscles as well. Specifically, we are going to discuss how you can use it on your hamstring muscles. Your hamstrings are a major player in your ability to move throughout the day, so you want to be sure that you give them the attention they deserve.
If you are ready to start smashing with the barbell, keep reading this article. We talk more in depth about this practice of using the barbell to help with mobility. We also walk you through how to safely and effectively smash out your hamstring muscles.
What is Self-Myofascial Release?
Like I briefly mentioned above, self-myofascial release is soft muscle tissue therapy that you are able to perform on your own body; it is like having your own personal masseuse within the comfort of your own home. Most often, an SMR session does not have to take longer than ten or fifteen minutes.
When used correctly the barbell allows you to apply pressure on certain spots on your body. Oftentimes, these places are called trigger points and they are particularly bothersome areas. By applying steady pressure to the trigger point, it can help release tension on the muscle and provide relief from tightness and soreness. This helps the muscle function as it should.
Regular active mobility work has been shown to:
- increase blood flow to the muscles
- lengthen and elongate muscles
- increases flexibility and proper muscle function
- repair tight and fatigued muscles
- improves joint range of motion
- relieve joint stress
With that being said, it is important to note that SMR techniques will not “break up” these tight knots in the muscles or change the actual structure of the tissue. It does help change our perception of the pain, though, and that is why many of us feel relief after foam rolling or smashing muscles with the bar.
How to do Self-Myofascial Release
First, let’s cover how to properly do self-myofascial release. If you have never tried foam rolling or a barbell smash before, we suggest taking this practice slow, especially if you have really tight muscles. Depending on the type of tool you use and the tightness of your muscles, it can be a quite intense feeling.
To start, bring your desired area of your body down onto the roller or bar gently. Avoid dumping all of your body weight onto the piece of equipment as this could be painful. Try to support yourself by keeping some of your weight in your hands or legs braced against the floor.
Using the tool, roll slowly over the length of the muscle. If you have any particularly tight or “sticky” spots, keep pressure on that spot and hang out for an extended period of time. You can make subtle movements on top of the tight muscle, but stay there as you breathe deeply. It is generally recommended that you stay on trigger points for at least 30 seconds each.
How to do the Hamstring Bar Stretch
Now that you know how to properly perform SMR, let’s discuss how to perform the hamstring bar stretch. The hamstrings are a group of four muscles: the long head of the biceps femoris, short head of the biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus. These muscles can be found on the backs of your thighs - crossing both the knee and hip joints. If you feel tightness in these areas, using the hamstring smash could be beneficial for you.
You will need a barbell and a squat rack to perform this movement. Put a barbell on a rack and step over it with one leg. Brace your right leg against the barbell applying pressure to the hamstring muscle. Move your leg forward and back, using the barbell as a foam roller to roll out the tissue. Alternate and move your leg side to side as well to work out any tightness in your muscle.
Breathe deeply as you do this for your desired amount of time. Once completed on the right side, switch over to your left leg. Complete on this side as well.
Put a barbell on a rack and step over it with one leg. Move your leg forward and back, using the barbell as a foam roller to roll out the tissue. Alternate and move your leg side to side as well to work out any tightness in your muscle.