Tennis balls aren’t just for tennis anymore, or stickball for that matter

Tennis balls can be a useful and effective tool when it comes to self-massage.

It’s small enough and just firm enough that you can get to work on trigger points and knots in various muscles on your body. Use this guide to get the most out of your tennis balls. Once you get through these, then you can actually go and play tennis!

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These are the best areas/muscles to address when using the tennis ball (or any suitable ball):

Glutes

The muscles that surround your hip can have a tendency to tight up, especially if you spend a great deal of time sitting on your butt. Most often, the culprit of hip/glute pain is the piriformis or glute medius.

Sitting on a tennis ball can help work those aches and pains out.

I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, because most likely it’s going to hurt something fierce. However I promise you that if you stick with it on a consistent basis, your butt will feel a whole lot better.

What to do: 

1. Sit on the tennis ball on one side and make small circles.
2. Pause once you hit a trigger point and breathe into the pain.
3. Once it dissipates a little you are free to move on.

Hip flexor

A tight hip flexor can cause all sorts of issues and much like the glutes, can be due to sitting on your butt for long periods of time. This can lead to issues in other areas, for example, the knees.

What to do:

1. Lay on your stomach and place the tennis ball right at the top of your quad. From here you have access to many different muscles and their respective tendon attachments.
2. You can lay on the ball and find trigger points, or you can move back and forth and friction the muscles/tendons.

Either way, you will find a lot of relief if this is an area of concern for you.

Calves

Calves have a tendency to tighten up really fast. Between being on our feet for a good portion of the day, to walking in heels (ladies & some gents), to whatever athletic endeavors you choose, the calves get used a lot. Think about how much your legs ache if you stand for long periods of time. Working with a tennis ball on the two heads of the calf can alleviate that pain.

What to do:

1. Place the ball right onto the meaty part of the calf (remember there are two heads so you’ll want to hit both).
2. Much like the hip flexor you can choose to do pinpoint work or roll in small circles to massage the muscle belly.

therapy balls_3Chest

We live in a protracted world and I am a retracted girl or boy. International Bench Day (aka Monday), poor posture, slumping shoulders all contribute to developing tightness and trigger points in both pec major and pec minor.

What to do:

1. Using a wall or the end of a barbell, place the ball between yourself and the wall.
2. Starting at the upper part of the muscle near the collarbone, work back and forth addressing any adhesions you may have. Additionally, you can move your arm while pinning the pec muscles for an extra mobility.

Shoulders

Sticking a tennis ball behind your shoulders can help address the muscles of the rotator cuff. These muscles have the tendency to be overworked due to several factors like poor posture or repetitive motions like throwing a ball.

I know I use this during softball season to keep my arm in working order.

What to do:

1. Place the tennis ball underneath the shoulder while laying on your back.
2. Now from there, you want to place the elbow at 90 degrees and go through internal and external rotation from the shoulder. This will help break up any tension you may have.

Upper back/neck

For a lot of people, tension and stress present in their upper back/neck.

We’ve all had that feeling that we just want someone to massage our neck, specifically the meaty part of the neck known as the traps. That’s the tension spot.

What to do:

1. Placing a tennis ball right between the shoulder blade and the spine, or near the top of the shoulder blade really does a number.
2. Add in some arm/shoulder range of motion while pinning the ball and you may be in for a world of discomfort but much like the other areas we’ve worked on, it will pass!

No tennis ball? Use other tools

In addition to tennis balls, you can use other balls as therapy balls such as: lacrosse balls, baseballs, golf ball and softballs. There are also several companies out there that make their own therapy balls with different purposes and densities.

Which tool you choose to use is going to depend on a couple of factors:

How much density do you want – meaning do you want a hard ball that won’t give as much, or something a little softer.

What kind of area are you targeting? Is it a larger area or a more specific location? – A softball will cover a larger area, so for bigger muscles like your pecs, it may work better. A golf ball on the other hand will be able to work on smaller muscles, like say your forearms.

Self-massage with therapy balls is like brushing your teeth

You do it daily to keep your teeth healthy and to avoid stinky breath. It also makes trips to the dentist not as bad. Unless you just eat candy all day, then I can’t help you with whatever cavities come your way.

Anyway, working on your muscles with therapy balls will help maintain their functionality and keep them healthy.

This way, when/if you go see a massage therapist, it may not be as painful to get knots and trigger points out.

A tennis ball a day keeps the ouchies away!

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