- 1 About Author
- 2 How does rolling with a therapy ball work?
- 3 Is rolling safe?
- 4 How many times should I roll?
- 5 Rating the balls:
- 6 Use & Description of balls
- 7 Most common muscles to roll:
- 7.1 Calves (gastrocnemius and soleus)
- 7.2 Hamstrings (biceps femoris, semimembranosus, and semitendinosus)
- 7.3 Quads (rectus femoris, vastus medialis, vastus lateralis, and vastus intermedius)
- 7.4 ITB (fascia band)
- 7.5 Upper back (trapezius, rhomboids and erector spinae)
- 7.6 Shoulders (deltoids and rotator cuff)
- 7.7 Hip flexors (psoas, rectus femoris, iliacus and sartorius)
- 7.8 Neck (sternocleidomastoid, levator scapulae, trapezius, erector spinae and suboccipitals)
- 7.9 Lower back (quadratus lumborum, latissimus dorsi, and erector spinae)
- 7.10 Foot (plantar fascia)
- 7.11 Shins (tibialis anterior)
- 7.12 Chest (pectoralis major and minor)
- 8 Perks of foam rolling:
- 9 Ways to foam roll:
- 10 Summary
Michelle Taylor – Physiotherapist
I am a registered, qualified physiotherapist and currently working in South Africa. I have worked in the government sector and recently moved over into private practice where I can work in my specialized field of musculoskeletal pathologies. I have seen the positive effect rolling has on my patients.
How does rolling with a therapy ball work?
Rolling using a massage therapy ball, allows your body weight to lean into your ball and exert force onto the muscle group you are rolling out. This applies pressure to the various muscles, which attempts to break up your trigger points and encourage mobility by reducing myofascial restrictions.
“Myofascial restrictions are specifically the areas where you feel tension or even tightness related to the fascia surrounding and separating your muscle tissue.”
You can easily use massage balls for trigger point relief.Rolling is a form of self-massage that anyone can easily do!
Is rolling safe?
This is a technique that is very safe to use and eases tight muscles. It’s recommended you seek medical assistance before rolling, if you have a serious injury such as a torn muscle.
How many times should I roll?
For people who are very active and exercise regularly, it is safe to roll daily. For newbies, it is recommended to foam roll up to three times a week. Rolling can be used as a warm-up before your workout and after you exercise to prevent soreness. It is really nice to incorporated exercises with fitness balls.If you are aiming to roll with the spiky ball, the ball penetrates deep into your muscle fibers and the length to roll is 15 – 90 seconds.
It is advised to roll each muscle group for roughly one minute. If the pain is intense, it is better to do the rolling in repetitions of thirty seconds. Try not to roll out one muscle group for more than two minutes. It is important to place the muscle that you are rolling in a stretched position. When you roll over your muscle and feel a sensitive spot, focus on that spot, as that is where your trigger point is.
Rating the balls:
To determine what size fitness ball you need, read my comments about the products I reviewed.
Therapy Ball plus vs Yoga Tune Up Therapy Balls, the smaller Yoga Tune Up Therapy Balls penetrate deeper compared to the slightly larger Therapy Ball Plus. Depending on how much pain you can handle, these two products I recommend for soft tissue release.
1. Therapy Ball Plus
is used mainly on your shoulder, lower back, hamstring, hip, and neck muscles, with the added benefit of sciatic and plantar fasciitis relief. Sciatic pain is generally caused by irritation, inflammation, pinching, or compression of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve runs from the lower back, under the piriformis muscle in your buttock at the back of your leg, to above your knee. This is the nerve with the largest diameter in your body.
What is Sciatic relief = is to decrease the irritation, inflammation, pinching, or compression of the sciatic nerve.
Rolling also helps with fasciitis, the inflammation in the fascia. Fascia is our bodies’ connective tissue. It’s a bit like a cobweb of tissue in the body holding it together. Fascia release is then the decrease of inflammation in your fascia.
2. The Yoga Tune UP Therapy Balls
are small enough to be used for hands and even facial muscles. These balls are commonly used for foot, calf, back, and neck release.
3. Spiky balls
can be painful if you use them with your full weight against them. However, a good benefit of the spiky massage ball is for fascia release.
Since fascia is fibrous tissue, it requires deep pressure to release it, making the spiky ball the perfect product! The 3-inch spiky ball is very good for deeper penetration but can feel painful. The smaller the ball, the deeper it penetrates. Therefore if it is too sore to roll with the 3-inch ball, it might be better to give the 3 ½-inch ball a try.
Use & Description of balls
The first product is a box of 2 spiky hard massage balls by Vornex, retailing for around US$8. The box includes a 3-inch and a 3 ½-inch ball. These balls are rock-hard and spiky.
I like to use the smaller Spiky Ball to roll out the fascia under my feet. Using the spiky massage ball for feet benefits is amazing, as it gives great fascia relief. I recommend using the bigger Spiky Hard Massage Ball at first, then progressing to the smaller one. This helped me to get used to the pressure under my foot.
“I recommend rolling the fascia under your feet to every patient that suffers from fascia inflammation as the results are amazing!”
If you have used the Yoga TuneUp Therapy ball and Therapy Plus ball, and feel that these two products aren’t giving you the desired effect or release of certain muscle groups, then I strongly suggest you progress to a harder, more deeply penetrating ball such as the Spiky Hard Massage one.
I will give the Spiky Hard Massage Ball a 10/10 for fascia release, as it gives deep penetration but a 6/10 for muscle release as it is too painful for me.
To purchase these balls, click on the below hyperlink
Next are two same-sized balls, 2 ½ inches in diameter, known as Yoga Tune Up Therapy Balls in tote by Yoga Tune Up, retailing for around US$19.
The balls come in a netted bag, with the dual purpose of storing the balls, as well as being able to use the bag to keep the two balls together in a peanut shape. When I use these balls, I alternated between using them individually, as well as using them in the bag.
When you roll out the muscles of your back, I strongly recommend using the balls in the tote bag. When you use the balls like this, you end up rolling out a larger section of your muscle group, resulting in less time needed to complete rolling. This is a nice tip for when you are in a rush.
I personally like using the Therapy Balls in the tote bag when I’m rolling out my neck. I place the balls on either side of the spine by my neck and the tote bag perfectly keeps the balls in place. Since the Yoga TuneUp Therapy Balls are smaller than the Therapy Ball Plus balls, I prefer to use them for smaller muscle groups such as my hands and neck. When I use them on my hands I take the balls out of the tote bag, and use just one ball, rolling in a circular motion. If you work with your hands a lot as I do, this gives instantaneous relief!
What makes this ball along with the Therapy Ball Plus different from the Spiky Hard Massage Ball, is that these balls have a nice grippy texture, using a natural latex rubber, and are slightly padded, which helps with reducing the pain while rolling. I do not like too much pain when using a therapy ball and will stick to the Yoga Tune Up Therapy Balls for my smaller muscle groups.
I will give Yoga TuneUp Therapy Balls a 6/10 for fascia release, as they are smaller and do not penetrate deep into the foot like the spiky ball does. For me personally, this doesn’t seem to give me enough deep pressure for fascia release. For muscle release, I give Yoga TuneUp Therapy Balls 9/10, as they can be used for multiple muscle groups and penetrate deep enough to release my trigger points. However, for my pain tolerance, I will stick to using them for my smaller muscle groups.
Therapy Ball Plus Pair in Tote by Tune Up Fitness, are similar to Yoga Tune UP therapy balls, but just larger in size and retail for around US$21. These two balls are 2 ¾ inches in diameter. You can also use these balls in the tote bag to form a peanut shape similar to the Yoga Tune Up Therapy Balls. These balls are designed to be gentler, more compressible, and have more grip compared to an average massage ball.
This allows the nervous system and muscles to relax, which I find great for when I am stressed. I recommend using the Therapy Ball Plus for larger muscle groups such as your back, quads, hamstrings, shoulders, and calves. I love using these balls in the tote bag for rolling out the muscles of my back! Since these balls are bigger than the Yoga Tune Up Therapy Balls, they don’t penetrate too deeply when rolling out my bigger muscle groups.
I will give the Therapy Ball Plus a 5/10 for fascia release, as they are bigger than the Yoga TuneUp Therapy Balls, so they don’t penetrate as deeply as the Yoga Tune Up Balls.
For muscle release, I give Therapy Ball Plus 8/10, as they can be used for larger muscle groups and penetrate deep enough to release my trigger points. I found it a bit tricky to roll out the muscles of my neck as the size was slightly too big for me.
Many people try to use alternative equipment for rolling such as tennis balls, baseball, hard plastic tubing, or bottles. What makes Yoga Tune UP Therapy Balls and Therapy Ball Plus special is that they have different sizes to get into the small spots and come with soft coverings, providing additional padding and comfort.
The spiky balls are designed for intense pressure, which is great for fascia release and amazing for rolling out your plantar fascia under your feet. Using a plastic pole or a big foam roller can cause hyperextension of your lumbar spine. The neck is also not recommended to be rolled out with these products, but your lower back and neck can be rolled safely with the therapy balls.
Most common muscles to roll:
Calves (gastrocnemius and soleus)
Hamstrings (biceps femoris, semimembranosus, and semitendinosus)
Quads (rectus femoris, vastus medialis, vastus lateralis, and vastus intermedius)
ITB (fascia band)
Upper back (trapezius, rhomboids and erector spinae)
Shoulders (deltoids and rotator cuff)
Hip flexors (psoas, rectus femoris, iliacus and sartorius)
Neck (sternocleidomastoid, levator scapulae, trapezius, erector spinae and suboccipitals)
Lower back (quadratus lumborum, latissimus dorsi, and erector spinae)
Shins (tibialis anterior)
Chest (pectoralis major and minor)
Hand (hypothenar and thenar eminence)
Let’s switch to some of the perks of using these roller balls.
Perks of foam rolling:
- Decreases pain – Foam rolling using a fitness ball is a self-myofascial release technique. It assists with relieving muscle tightness, soreness and inflammation and helps increase your joint’s range of motion. Foam rolling is a very good tool to add to your warm-ups and post-workout muscle recovery schedule.
- Reduces inflammation – Using a fitness ball after exercising has shown to have many benefits, such as an increase in the release of anti-inflammatory proteins and a reduction of pro-inflammatory, causing faster muscle recovery and better performance.
- Assists in muscle recovery – using the balls has been shown to considerably reduce delayed onset muscle soreness. This muscle soreness is common amongst and often associated with long-distance runners and other endurance sports. Using a foam/rubber fitness ball after a long run or marathon, for example, will help increase blood flow back into the tight areas of your muscles, as well as into the key muscle groups used during the run.
- Injury prevention – The foam rolling technique promotes blood flow to the specific areas being rolled, allowing the body to eliminate waste more efficiently while still providing much-needed nutrients to aid with the recovery process.
- Increases blood flow – While self-myofascial release using a fitness ball releases the tension in your tight muscles and fascia, and the connective tissue surrounding the muscles, it also drastically increases blood flow and circulation to the soft tissue. When pressure is applied to the muscles, it works to temporarily push blood through the various avenues of the body. When the pressure stops, the blood flow resumes its normal pace. This results in enhanced flexibility and range of motion. These added effects also reduce arterial stiffness and improve vascular endothelial function.
- Improves elasticity of muscle tissue and fascia – Fitness balls help to relax and stretch out your fascia, therefore reducing soreness in your muscles, pain, and the risk of injury.
- Helps with relaxation– Rolling your muscles increases the blood flow in your body and elasticity in your muscles tissue, joints, and fascia. This helps your body become more mobile, improves your overall well-being, and gives a smoother appearance of body fat underneath your skin, while also promoting relaxation.
Ways to foam roll:
- For intense roll – Use your body weight to apply pressure such as lying on your stomach and rolling the ball on your quads using your calves to propel you forwards and backward to roll your quads. To make the rolling more intense you can uses a smaller diameter ball or even a harder ball such as the spiky massage ball. The spiky massage ball benefits include deep pressure and also fascia release.
- Newbie roll – Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Put the ball on your thigh and apply pressure with your hands to roll the ball along the length of your quads.
To see how to use the spiky massage ball have a look at this physiotherapy website below:
All of these 3 products are great! I would recommend using the Spiky Hard Massage Ball for fascia release, the Yoga Tune UP Therapy Balls for rolling out smaller muscle groups, and then the Therapy Ball Plus for larger muscle groups.