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Neck & Traps Exercise: Self-Myofascial-Release (SMR)

Updated: Oct 3, 2021

The neck self myofascial release (SMR) exercise consists of rolling a foam muscle roller against each side of your neck. It helps to release any muscular tension and knots, improving flexibility and reducing neck tightness.

The only piece of equipment you actually need is a foam roller. There are a variety of neck SMR exercise variations, such as the rolling pin variant.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Hold a muscle roller behind your head and against the muscle one side of the neck. Don't roll directly against the spine behind your head and neck, put it at an angle.

  2. Starting at the top of the muscle, slowly roll down the muscle on the side of your neck.

  3. Roll it for 10-30 seconds, pause and roll further at any areas of tension.

  4. Repeat this on the other side of the neck.

Other Variations

There are multiple variations of the SMR neck exercise, such as using a solid roller pin, the foam roller pin, you can also have someone else massage and roll your neck muscles for you.

You can also use a wall to roll against, a spherical or egg shaped massager will work best for this type of neck SMR.

A foam roller will likely give the best results, but you should try the other types of SMR equipment and see what works best for you.

neck self-myofascial-release exercise

Muscles Worked

The primary muscles targeted in the neck SMR exercise is the levator and trapezius (mostly the upper trapezius). Other underlying and minor muscles may also be affected in this exercise, such as the splenius capitis.

The diagram below highlights in red the muscle groups that are primarily targeted in this exercise.

neck SMR muscles worked

Tips & Precautions

  • Don't roll the roller against your spine, turn it slightly at an angle so that the muscles on each side of the neck it are being targeted.

  • While doing this exercise, make sure you maintain a straight posture and look ahead.

  • Don't use too much force or pressure, this is a stretching and massaging exercise and only requires a small amount of force.

More Information

Below is more technical information about this exercise, such as the type of exercise equipment needed, main muscles worked, etc.

  • Type: Stretching / massaging

  • Main Muscles Worked: Levator & upper trapezius

  • Equipment: Foam roller

  • Mechanics Type: Isolation

  • Level: Very easy

  • Force: Static

  • Stretch Type: Other


Written by Billy White

billy white

Billy White is a qualified Kinesiologist and Personal Trainer. He is an aspiring bodybuilder, fitness enthusiast, and health and fitness researcher.

He has multiple years of experience within the fitness, bodybuilding and health space. He is committed to providing the highest-quality information.


The information provided in this article is not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the guidance of a physician or other competent professional before following advice or taking any supplement. See our terms and conditions.


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