If you’ve ever seen me with a client at the gym you’ve probably noticed that the first 7-15 minutes (depending on the client) usually consist of what’s commonly referred to as “mobility work.” Were always going to prep our bodies for the movements we’re going to practice on that given day. If we’re training lower body, we’re gonna wake the ass up because we need it, we’ll take a look at the lumbar spine to check for any tightness in the QL’s or erectors, we’re going to make sure internal and external hip rotation is fluid, and we’re going to work on loosening up the muscles that flex and extend the knee. There are a million different implements we can use to accomplish these tasks, but today I want to focus on one: the lacrosse ball. If you’ve been coming to the gym consistently you’ve probably seen one of those orange bastards floating around. And maybe you’ve been curious about what purpose they could serve.
I’m here to tell you that other than a good nights sleep and proper nutrition, they can be the biggest ally on your way to health and wellness. We lift weights to make our muscles move our skeleton more effectively, right? So mobilizing said muscles for movement makes sense. Here are several movements you can do with the lacrosse ball to help improve your mobility and theoretically make weightlifting easier. To target the lumbar spine (helpful for pelvic tilts and rotation ability) simply lie flat on your back and divide your midsection into squares. The first set of parallel lines will be your spine and one edge of your body. The second will be the top of the pelvis and your last rib. You’ll notice that makes a nice little square on the left side and right side of your body. Put the lacrosse ball in one square and move N-S-E-W until you find a sticky spot.
To target hamstrings, sit on a box so that your feet hang off the ground. Take the lacrosse ball and place it right at the bottom of the glute/top of the hamstring; right on that insertion point at the top of the femur. Sit down and move around, I promise you’ll find something. Stay away from pain but gently massage that out. If you find a spot that smarts more than the rest, stay on it. Then extend the knee, and flex it, and extend it again. You’ll be standing up straighter and hinging like a champ in no time.
The Glutes we can target in several ways. My personal favorite is to lean on glute medius (top, lateral side of the butt) with a ball up against a wall and move around. This allows us to regulate tension a little better than simply laying on it. Mobilizing glute medius will help you keep your hips level when squatting, deadlifting, or anything dynamic to avoid loading one hip more than the other. When you find a spot that feels tighter than the rest stay on it, and slowly work to bring the same side knee to your chest. Manipulate the leg that way until the tension subsides and your hips and glutes will thank you.
Remember- you can always manipulate the joint beneath where you’re rolling out to heighten the desired affect!