5 WAYS: … to Use a Lacrosse Ball

Whether you want to re­lease ten­sion in your back or get a

Muscle & Performance - - Contents - By Je­nessa Con­nor, CPT

Re­cently, the lacrosse ball has rolled off the play­ing �ield and into your gym. A com­pan­ion to the foam roller, this hard rub­ber ball makes an ex­cel­lent tool for a num­ber of rea­sons: It’s cheap, ac­ces­si­ble and small enough to carry around in a gym bag. And, un­like rollers and wands, which ap­ply pres­sure to a rel­a­tively large sur­face area, the lacrosse ball can be used in a tar­geted way to hit iso­lated ar­eas.

Not sure where to start? Here are �ive ways you can use a lacrosse ball to im­prove mo­bil­ity and per­for­mance while also re­liev­ing aches, pains and even in­som­nia.

1 PULL THE TRIG­GER

Ideally, all the struc­tures of the body — skin, bones, mus­cles and con­nec­tive tis­sue — should slide eas­ily over and around each other. But in­jury and repet­i­tive move­ments cre­ate in�lam­ma­tion in the soft tis­sues, caus­ing the for­ma­tion of ad­he­sions, aka knots.

Although noth­ing breaks up a knot like the el­bow of a well-trained mas­sage ther­a­pist, a lacrosse ball and your own body­weight can come pretty close. This tech­nique, called self­my­ofas­cial re­lease, tar­gets those trig­ger points, help­ing break up and loosen ad­he­sions to im­prove mo­bil­ity and de­crease pain. Po­si­tion the ball un­der the af­fected mus­cle and roll around un­til you �ind the ten­der­est spot. old here and use your body­weight to press against the ball, re­lax­ing and breath­ing deeply for 30 to 90 sec­onds.

2 RE­LEASE FOR ROM

Some­times it’s not enough to smash a mus­cle into sub­mis­sion, es­pe­cially when your aim is im­proved range of mo­tion. In these in­stances, com­bin­ing SMR with slow move­ment — oth­er­wise called ac­tive re­lease — can help. Ac­cord­ing to re­search pub­lished in the Jour­nal of Phys­i­cal Ther­apy Sci­ence, peo­ple with pro­longed neck pain and stiff­ness were able to signi�icantly in­crease their range of mo­tion with twice-weekly ses­sions of ac­tive re­lease in only three weeks time.

To do ac­tive re­lease, �ind the ten­der spot in your mus­cle and press your body­weight into the ball, as with SMR. Hold that pres­sure as you move your limb through its full range of mo­tion. For ex­am­ple, place a ball be­tween the leg of a squat rack and your shoul­der/ pec con­nec­tion. Press into the ball as you move your arm up, down, side to side and around in a cir­cle.

3 RE­LAX THE BACK

The back is a con­stant source of ten­sion, and tight­ness here can af­fect your pos­ture and per­for­mance in and out of the gym. Un­for­tu­nately, mas­sag­ing the mus­cles on ei­ther side of your spine can be a tricky af­fair, since you can’t re­ally roll a rock-hard rub­ber ball along the ten­der nubs of your spine.

Time to Mac­gyver it: Tape two lacrosse balls to­gether into a peanut shape. Lie on the ground and place the balls un­der your back so your spine rests in the space be­tween them. Roll up and down along the spine for 60 to 90 sec­onds af­ter a work­out, or af­ter a long day of sit­ting.

4 SAND­WICH AND SAY AHH

On Tues­day you crush your pullup work­out; on Wed­nes­day you can’t open a jar of pick­les. Sound fa­mil­iar? To re­lieve achy fore­arms and a fried grip, place one lacrosse ball on a ta­ble and po­si­tion your fore­arm over the top of it, palm fac­ing up. Place a sec­ond ball on the op­po­site side of the arm, so your arm is sand­wiched in be­tween the two balls, and use your free hand to press down �irmly. old the balls in place as you �lex, twist, turn and stretch your wrist for 30 to 90 sec­onds, then re­po­si­tion the balls and re­peat.

5 SLEEP SOUNDLY

You know you should pri­or­i­tize rest and re­cov­ery, but some­times it’s tough to turn off the lights (and your brain). Gen­tle SMR can help ac­ti­vate the parasym­pa­thetic ner­vous sys­tem, de­creas­ing your heart rate and re­lax­ing your mus­cles as you en­ter “rest and digest” mode. While main­tain­ing a pas­sive, rest­ful po­si­tion (sit­ting or ly­ing down), roll the ball gen­tly over and un­derneath tense mus­cles, breath­ing deeply and let­ting your mus­cles re­lax and re­lease for sev­eral min­utes. 

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