How often have you had aching muscles the day after a workout? Or maybe a week sat at your desk is making you feel stiff? A massage ball might just be the missing link you're looking for!
Perfect for getting into those tough to reach places and pinpointing specific trigger points a massage ball is ideal for waking up your muscles, increasing blood flow and speeding up recovery!
Professional massages aren’t for everyone, but the benefits a massage can bring certainly are, so we highlight some of the top exercises to get the most out of your massage ball.
NOTE: If you’re feeling considerable pain in any of your body it’s always best to consult a physiotherapist or other relevant healthcare professional. Additionally, if you feel pain while doing any of the exercises stop immediately and consult a professional.
Why Use a Massage Ball?
Adding a trigger point massage ball into your fitness routine can bring a host of benefits. From helping to tackle common issues people face like plantar fasciitis, to more general effects we can all benefit from, like increased flexibility and increased blood circulation.
They provide all these benefits while being much more affordable than massages, small enough to keep in your bag easily and take around with you and only take a few minutes out of the day to get some relief!
Whether you’re using it before a workout to help activate your muscles, or after a workout to help recovery everyone can add in some myofascial release to their schedule.
There are a variety of different types, from massage balls with spikes to smooth ones and softer balls to hard density balls. The Swifty Massage Ball is made from solid natural cork. This means it won’t pull on the skin, feels warm to touch and has natural anti-microbial qualities!
Swifty Fitness’ cork massage ball is also quite dense, meaning that you can be much more in charge of how deep the massage goes. Whether you’re looking for a light roll over your pecs, or a deep dig into your quads you can control your recovery completely!
How to Use Massage Ball
Using a massage ball couldn’t be easier, you just need to roll the ball across the muscles you’re feeling tension in. Doing this increases blood flow to that area and increases circulation and if done right it can help improve muscle function, flexibility and help remove any pain and stiffness.
There certainly are benefits to just rolling the massage ball over your muscles but you’re specifically searching for trigger points. That’s when a certain area feels like there’s a ‘knot’ or particularly tender area within it. When you find one you’ll know about it, it’ll be a sort of ‘good pain’.
When you do find these trigger points during the exercise the best practice is generally to spot moving the massage ball, and just hold on that point. You can lean more into the ball to add some extra pressure but stop and hold the position for around 30 secs before continuing with massaging the muscle.
You can use a massage ball on the floor, the wall, or sat down. Either way, you’re in control of the depth of the massage, choose how deep you want it to be by how much of your bodyweight you lean into it.
If you’re only looking for a light massage you can just roll the ball over the area with your hand too. Massage balls are very versatile and can be adapted to fit your needs easily.
Looking for a bigger massage of the whole muscle? Learn how to use a foam roller to target specific muscles
Massage Ball Exercises
There are tonnes of different exercises you can do on each part of the body with a massage ball but we’re going to focus on some of the main areas you’ll want to target, as a jumping-off point.
The highlighted exercises below are just one variation on taking on those muscles too, a lot of the floor exercises can easily be transferred to the walls and vice versa. The beauty of the massage ball is that it’s so small you can get specific with your massages to tailor it to the exact points you’re feeling the pains.
We’ll start from the head and work our way down to give you some jumping off points and exercises you can try for a full body massage.
MASSAGE BALL NECK
Sore necks are fairly common these days with a lot of us looking down at our phones or laptops for most of the day. It's a great place to start with your massage ball with plenty of trigger points likely hiding away in those muscles!
It’s a sensitive area so make sure to be careful when rolling around your neck, in particular, make sure to NOT roll the ball over the top of your spine or your throat/front of the neck. Also, it’s not recommended to using the massage ball around the jawline and upper parts of the side of your neck.
Wall – Place the ball at the top of your neck just to the side of your spine and lean against the wall. Slowly lift your body until the ball rolls down to the top of your back. Slowly lower yourself back down and repeat on the other side.
Handheld – Sit down and lean your head forward, with the ball in your hand, roll it around your trapezius. Repeat on both sides.
MASSAGE BALL SHOULDER
Shoulder pain is another of the most common aches, as we’re constantly moving our shoulders throughout the day it doesn’t take much to cause some aggravation. Neck and shoulder pain can also come hand in hand, so now we’ve sorted our neck best focus on the shoulder!
Often when we think of shoulders we concentrate more on the joint itself but there is a whole host of muscles contributing to movement, that’s what we’re targeting here.
Wall – Side on the wall, place the massage ball at the top of the side of your arm, just below the shoulder joint. Roll the ball around and if you don’t find a tender point lower the ball down a bit and repeat. Don’t go any lower than the elbow.
Floor – Lay face down with the massage ball at the top of your pectoral. Using your arms to control your weight roll the ball around in small areas. As you’re on the floor, when you find a trigger point you can relax your body and let how much of your weight you’re holding dictate how deep the massage ball goes.
MASSAGE BALL BACK
Back pain and backache is no stranger to a lot of us, and likely why many are looking for a self-massage solution. Larger rollers do a good job at covering most of the muscle area of the back, but finding those concentrated trigger points that are causing the issues is only doable with a massage ball, and is how you’ll start seeing results!
Floor – Upper Back - Lay down on your back, place the massage ball between your spine and shoulder blade. On the side the ball is, lift your arm across and over your body. Slowly shift your body weight around looking for tight areas. Repeat on the other side.
For your upper back, the floor shoulder exercise highlighted above will also be useful.
Floor – Lower Back - Lay down on your back with the ball under one side of your lower back and your legs out straight. If you’re looking for a deeper massage, bring your feet closer to your body and have them flat on the floor.
Roll your hips in small circles to work the ball around, looking for trigger points. Be careful not to roll the ball across your spine.
MASSAGE BALL GLUTES
The gluteus maximus is the largest muscle in the human body so is doing a lot of the work when it comes to movement, so we should look after it! Conversely, though modern life has us sat down for a lot of our days, so it’s an equally good area to massage to wake it up after a day sitting at your desk!
Floor – Sat on the floor, place the massage ball under your glute. Straighten the leg the massage ball is under and balance on the other bent leg and your hands. Move your hips to shift the ball around the glute searching for trigger points.
This exercise also can be easily transferred to the wall if you feel you have more control over pressure there.
If you’re looking for more of a glute workout read more about the benefits kick scooter has on your posterior!
MASSAGE BALL LEGS
Our legs are another hot spot for aches and pains. Those of us that have gone for a run after it's been a while will be all too familiar with the feeling the next day!
Here we've focused on the main muscles in the legs which are, obviously, big muscles. This gives a good opportunity to understand the benefits the massage ball can bring too. The small size can have a considerable effect!
Take the time to explore the full muscles with the massage ball and find those hidden away trigger points. Doing this can also help build your understanding of where you're feeling problems, and maybe what you're doing in your workout to cause it.
Hamstrings – Sitting – Sitting on a chair, put the massage ball at the base of your hamstring, just below the glute. Slowly straighten the leg the ball is under and bring it back to resting position. Shift your weight around so the ball is in a different area and repeat.
Quads – Floor - Lay down face down, with the massage ball under your quad, just below the hip. Roll the ball the length of the quad to just above your knee. With the ball in a part of your thigh roll your body left and right to reach all parts of the muscle.
Calves – Floor- Sat down with one leg out straight and the other bent for stability place the massage ball under your calf. Gently roll back and forth the length of your calf. Tilt your body slightly to get the sides of your calf and roll over the whole muscle.
MASSAGE BALL FEET
As we’ve discussed in another blog foot health and strength something we should all be spending time thinking about. Think of the body as a tree - without healthy strong roots grounding us (our feet) the rest is going to be weaker from the get-go.
Feet are small and intricate so are a challenge to massage effectively unless you have something like a massage ball!
Sitting – Sat on a chair place the ball on the floor and roll the bottom of your foot over it.