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The Tennis Ball and Trigger Points

A few weeks ago I blogged about foam rollers and how useful they are in preventing injuries as well as helping with recovery.  I don’t however, limit my self-inflicting pain to just the foam rollers.  I have a few other torture tools, including a tennis ball, a baseball, and The Stick.  Although all of these can be just as effective as the foam roller, I do not use them like I should.  I’m not sure if it’s because of the pain they cause or if I don’t know all the right exercises.  In staring at my collection of random sports balls this morning, I found myself asking…

What are the best exercises to do with my tennis ball?  And why do I want to do this?

The idea behind using a tennis ball (or anything similar) is the same idea behind the foam roller.  Over time our tissues get knotted up, we compensate and change our stride, and this is in turn makes us worse off than before.  The knotted up tissue forms trigger points that need to be worked out.  To find these trigger points, lay on the ground with the ball between you and the floor (or you could use the wall).  Roll around until you find a painful spot.  Once you find it, keep the ball there for a period of time, relax, and feel the knot begin to release.  The amount of time you hold it there can be anywhere from 10 seconds to a few minutes.  After you feel the knot release, it is super important to stretch out those muscles so they reach their normal resting length.  This also prevents the trigger point from returning to its previous state.

There are many different ways you can use a ball for therapy.  You can use it for your back, hips, feet, glutes, quads, and calves.  I decided to look into what are some of the best exercises for the lower body.  Here are some of the things I found

1) For the plantar fasciitis, roll the tennis ball beneath your foot to release the tightness that has developed in your arch.  A golf ball also works really well for this exercise

2) For the Quadricep – Lie down on your stomach and support  your upper body with your arm.  Place the tennis ball between your quad and the floor and then start rolling.  You can also get your inner quad but turning your leg out and rolling.  This exercise is also beneficial for your knee.

3) For the IT Band – Turn to your side and support yourself with the arm closest to the ground.  Place the tennis ball between the floor and your IT band.  Start rolling up and down until you find a tight spot.

4) For the glutes – Sit on the ground and simply place the tennis ball between your butt and the floor and start rolling.  This exercise is also done really well with a baseball because it can be harder and allow more pressure

5) For the calves – extend your legs out in front of you, place the ball between your calf and the floor.  Then lift yourself up with your arms and start rolling back and forth.  For added pressure you can place the other leg on top of the one  you are rolling

Really, there are a wide variety of exercises you can do with a tennis ball or anything similar.  The key is to find a tight spot, hold the pressure there and wait to feel a release.  And since my leg is still bothering me a bit, I’m now off for a little self-therapy.

Happy Trails and Happy Running,

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