Any athlete who beats up their body with high-intensity workouts knows that body recovery is a serious issue.
One of the best ways to recover your body is with a full-body massage.
For anyone who’s had a deep tissue massage before, you know how awesome it is to get up from an hour of pampering with a big smile on your face.
You walk out of the massage room feeling like 1000 pounds of crap have been lifted off your back. If people didn’t know any better, they’d say you were floating through the clouds.
Your muscles hurt less… a lot less.
While going in for a deep-tissue massage or owning an expensive massage tool are flashy and can get the job done, neither are viable options for many people, and while they may work, sometimes the best option is the simplest one.
Enter the Massage Ball.
Coming in two different forms – spiky or smooth – and costing next to nothing, massage balls can do wonders for your pre-workout warmup and post-workout recovery.
The ball brings deep-tissue massage to your home.
Using the ball as the massaging hands, the floor as the muscles pushing into you, and your own body as the feedback for where to work, the incredibly versatile massage ball is an excellent and efficient way to make those 1000 pounds of crap slide right off of you, no matter where you’re feeling it.
Here are the top 10 massage ball movements for body recovery.
Start with the massage ball under the arch of your foot on a hard surface (like, you know, a floor).
Moving slowly along the arch, cover the entire length of it and searching for ‘trigger points’ – places where the pain is stronger. Make sure to apply enough pressure that you can feel a good, muscle-sore pain.
After going along the entire arch a few times, go back to the trigger points you found and really dig the massage ball in.
Slowly rock the ball back and forth while maintaining pressure and continue doing this until the pain lessens and you feel the knot of muscle loosen.
After the trigger point has been relaxed, move on to the next knot and start over. Do this to each foot for 3-5 minutes.
Sit on the floor with the calf you want to massage outstretched in front of you. Bend your other knee and plant the foot at a 90-degree angle.
Brace yourself with your hands behind you.
Place the massage ball on the floor at the top of the calf and slowly work your way down, 1 inch at a time. Spend 10-20 seconds on every inch, rocking the massage ball back and forth.
If you find a trigger point, stay on it until you feel it loosen. This may take some time, but it is well worth the effort.
To target the inside or outside of the calf, simply rotate the calf inwards or outwards.
If you want more pressure, lift your opposite leg off the ground and place it on top of the calf being massaged (this doubles as a great ab workout!
As with the calf, start with the leg you are massaging stretched out in front of you with the massage ball under it, and the other leg planted at a 90-degree angle.
Place your hands behind you for support.
Place the massage ball at the top of the hamstring muscle (near the gluteus) and roll your leg side to side for approximately 1 minute.
Then move the lacrosse ball to the bottom of the hamstring and repeat.
With the hamstring, it is important to remember to massage across the muscle and not with the muscle. Make sure to go side-to-side on the leg and not top to bottom.
Lie on your stomach and support yourself on your elbows in a plank position.
Place the massage ball under your leg at the top of your quad (near the hips) and lie down until you can feel the ball pushing into your muscle. Bring your opposite leg up to help support you.
Push backward and forward with your toes to roll the ball in a small area of your quad.
Move the ball around to find trigger points and focus on them, rocking on the spot once you do until the knot loosens and you feel the pain diminishing.
Lie on your side and place the massage ball under your hip. Prop yourself up on your elbow and extend your leg.
Place your hands on the ground in front of you for balance.
Maneuver the ball around until you find the trigger point in your hip.
Once it is found, massage back and forth gently until the knot loosens and some of the pain goes away.
Flip over and do this for your opposite hip.
If your hips are too tight and lying on the ball causes too much pain, try standing near a wall and placing the massage ball between yourself and the wall, gently massaging back and forth.
Sit on the floor with your knees bent and your feet in front of you.
Place your hands behind you for balance. Cross the leg that you are not working on across your other leg and put the massage ball under your glute so that you are sitting on it.
Use your arms and planted leg to either increase or decrease the amount of weight you are putting on the ball.
Roll around and find a trigger point, and then stay on that spot. After 30 seconds of slowly rocking back and forth, move on to the next trigger point.
Flip your legs and repeat for the other glute.
The entire back can be massaged the same way. Find where your back is sore (low back, mid-back, or upper back) and lie with the ball on one side of your spine between your back and the floor.
Prop yourself up on your elbows, and adjust how much bodyweight you put on the ball. You want it to be painful, but not “Screaming in the air” painful.
Gently massage up and down along that section of muscle. Once you have found and worked on a trigger point for 30 seconds, move onto the other side of the spine and repeat.
If lying on the ball is too painful, try placing the ball between yourself and a wall.
Stand and massage the ball slowly up and down by lightly squatting and standing back up.
Be careful not to place the ball under the spine. At best, this will feel very uncomfortable, and at worst, it will cause major injuries.
Stand with your back against a wall. Place the ball between your trapezius and the wall.
Push into the wall until there is a suitable amount of pressure and pain. In small circular motions, move the massage ball around in the meat of your muscle.
Once you find a knot, stay on it for 30 seconds or until it loosens.
If you cannot get enough pressure, try this exercise lying on the ground to get gravity to do your work for you.
Your neck is very important and therefore requires lots of caution.
Lie on your back on the ground and place the massage ball behind your neck to one side of your spine and underneath your skull.
Gently move your head up and down to work the muscles in your neck for 30 seconds. Once you are done one side, flip over and repeat.
Place the massage ball on a hard surface and place your forearm overtop of it.
Place your other hand on top to increase the amount of pressure on the ball.
Push down on the ball while slowly rolling the ball up and down the length of your forearm.
If you hit a trigger point, stay on it for 30 seconds or until the pain lessens.
Stand facing a wall. Place the massage ball in the muscle of your chest between your pec and shoulder.
Press the ball into the ball with your chest and slowly move around until you find a trigger point.
Stay on the trigger point for 30 seconds or until the knot releases.
When to do Massage Ball Exercises
The simple answer to this is: as often as possible.
However, that is also quite vague and leaves the actual times up in the air.
Therefore, we recommend three times throughout the day to do massage ball exercises, each with distinct effects on the body:
The massage ball is a great way to warm up muscles and increase blood flow before going into a more active, heart-pumping active warmup.
By stretching and warming up your muscles before your exercise, you decrease the chances of soft tissue injuries such as muscle strains or tendon sprains and also decrease how sore you will be after the workout.
By adding massage ball exercises into your post-workout cooldown, you gain numerous benefits. By increasing blood flow through the muscles, you speed lactic acid removal and increase recovery time.
Lactic acid is what causes your muscles to have that dopey, icky feeling later on in the day, and removing that is sure to decrease how sore you are feeling later on.
Post-workout massaging also helps keep your muscles from tightening up. The more your muscles tighten as they cool down, the higher your chance of injury and the more you will feel sore.
By going through these exercises, you decrease your general discomfort as well as the odds of recurring injuries.
Before hopping into bed at night – particularly on days that you completed a workout – rolling out on a massage ball will make you feel like a million bucks.
No matter how much you stretch and roll out after your workout, you will still feel areas of soreness.
By targeting these areas while watching TV or listening to a podcast before bed, you do two things: you decrease how sore you feel and increase the quality of your sleep.
While massaging your muscles with a massage ball, you relax your muscles. These relaxed muscles will, in turn, help you get more comfortable in your bed, allowing you to fall asleep quicker and snore deeper.
Use a massage ball, get a better sleep. It’s as simple as that.
Spiky Ball vs. Smooth Ball
While both are massively beneficial, there are some slight differences in smooth and spiky massage balls.
The smooth massage ball specializes in deep knot removal through trigger point therapy.
Knots, or trigger points, are essential to remove in order to relax your muscles, and the smooth massage balls smooth surface allows it to excel in finding and digging into these spots.
The spiky massage ball can also be used to seek out and destroy knots, but it is more useful for relieving the myofascial system. Myofascial tissues run between your skin and your muscles, serving as a connective tissue.
With its small spikes, the spiky massage ball stimulates the skin and the muscles underneath, increasing blood flow to the area and causing muscles and myofascial tissues to relax.
You can’t go wrong with either type of massage ball, but they do have their specific strengths and weaknesses.
Benefits of Trigger point therapy exercises
Trigger points are small, tight knots of muscle that cause immobility and pain in our body.
Trigger point therapy exercises have a myriad of benefits that will help you feel healthier and fitter before, during, and after each and every workout.
These exercises help release and relax muscles. Most of us have tight muscles without even feeling them. We become so used to them that we accept them as normal.
Although uncomfortable (and sometimes painful) at first, trigger point therapy quickly makes us realize these tight muscles were far from normal.
It helps increase our mobility and blood flow, improve posture, and increase athletic performance in people who do it on a regular basis.
Causes of Myofascial Pain
Myofascial pain is a deep, aching pain in a muscle that generally worsens over time and forms a knot in the muscle.
It forms through myofascial tissues and muscle fibers becoming tight due to overuse or injuries to the muscle.
The trigger point in a muscle may even cause seemingly unrelated pain in other parts of the body and can cause problems with sleep.
As with anything, there are safety precautions that must be followed while doing massage ball exercises.
The first is to consult a physician if you have any previously diagnosed spinal injuries that could be aggravated by using the ball, or if you are concerned that you have an injury that could be worsened by the ball.
In any case, there is one word that needs to be remembered while using the massage ball: control. No matter what part of your body you are rolling, you must do so in a controlled manner and at a slow speed.
Find the trigger point of your muscle soreness and slowly move back and forth over that – going excessively fast is not effective and can be dangerous.
Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions with your lacrosse ball. Use it only as directed, as other uses can potentially cause problems.
BONUS: How to fight bad posture
The modern world wants you to have bad posture. We are constantly hunched over a desk, our necks bent forward and our backs curved at awkward angles while we stare at spreadsheets on our computers.
We look at our phones countless times a day, craning our necks downwards. Our hips misalign as we sit out our wallets or uncomfortable chairs for hours at a time.
But we can fight back.
There are a few simple, efficient ways to get our posture back to good. Make sure you sit up tall in your office chair and stand tall while walking.
These may seem like common sense, but you would be surprised how often you forget to just put your back and neck in a comfortable position.
Roll out your back and neck multiple times each week with a massage ball.
Your muscles tighten as you hunch, and they accept this ‘Hunchback of Notre Dame’ look as the new norm. By stretching these muscles, your posture will improve dramatically.
BONUS: How to Increase Body Recovery (CBD Oil, Bath Bombs, etc)
While massage ball exercises are a strong starting point in the battle of body recovery, they are in no way the be-all and end-all of recovery.
Sometimes, you just need a little more to repair your body. Workouts can be incredibly hard, and no matter how much you stretch and roll out your body, you can still ache.
That is where the next level of body recovery comes in.
Products such as CBD oils and CBD bath bombs – which contain CBD and have been shown to help relax bodies and decrease anxiety in athletes – are a great way to help your body recover better and faster.
You can pick up some today at https://www.wodrecoveryrx.com/shop-rx.