How to massage yourself with a ball + workouts

Hello to you on this fine Monday! What better way to start the week off than with a little talk about fitness and some tips on how to give yourself a massage to loosen up your muscles?

But before that, let’s chat about the weekend. Mine was great. It went like this: On Friday night, I taught BODYPUMP, then Dave and I had some sushi at home. On Saturday morning, I taught BODYATTACK, then we went mini golfing at the new Urban Putt course, which is a super-cool spot housed in an old Victorian building in the Mission neighborhood. We finished the day off with a nice Mediterranean dinner out at Dunya. On Sunday, I was up bright-and-early to teach my very first outdoor bootcamp in a sunny park, and it was a really good time. Later in the day, we hit up the Banana Republic friends and family sale and had tacos for dinner. As usual, my weekend included a lot of fitness, but I also took time to enjoy some good food, wine and fun.

Because I work in the fitness industry and tend to be quite active, I have to be pretty careful to spend enough time stretching, using a foam roller and recovering my sore muscles in between my workouts. To do that, I have an at-home routine I follow after I walk back into my apartment from any sweat session. While a resistance tube and foam roller are a big part of that routine, there’s another very cheap item worth mentioning. What is it? A lacrosse ball, my friends. 

How to loosen up and give yourself a massage with a lacrosse ball

A lacrosse ball is a small, hard, rubber ball, which is a great tool for massaging out tight areas in your body. Doing so is a practice called trigger point or self-myofascial release, and it’s usually done by a professional. However, it’s easy enough to try out on yourself. (But be careful, and ask your doctor before you begin.)

Lacrosse ballThis little beauty is a powerful self-massage tool. 

Yes, while getting a daily professional massage sure would be nice, learning to do a few moves at home with a lacrosse ball is certainly more cost effective and realistic. These balls are only a few dollars each, you can bring them with you anywhere you go, and you can order them on Amazon and Dick’s Sporting Goods or pick them up at plenty of major retailers. 

There are endless ways you can utilize a lacrosse ball for massage, but here are my favorite moves, targeting major areas of the body:

  • To massage your feet and loosen your legs — Put the lacrosse ball on the ground. Stand with your feet hip-width, and put one foot directly on top of the ball under your arch. While standing up nice and straight, roll your foot up and down the ball, and side to side on the ball, pushing your foot and some of your bodyweight onto the ball. This will not only massage your feet, but it will also loosen up your leg muscles a little bit. Repeat on the other side.
  • To massage your chest — Simply take the ball in both hands, and press it into the front of your chest and upper pectoral muscles. Roll the ball around, applying medium pressure. When you feel a tight spot in your chest, hold on that area for about 20-30 seconds, pushing the ball into your body, then move the ball around again until the area loosens. If you want to get a little deeper with the massage, you can also stand facing a wall, place the ball in between your chest and the wall, then move your body up and down pushing the ball into the wall. 
  • To massage your butt — Put the ball on the ground. Sit down on the ball so it is centered under your left butt cheek. Bend your knees, then cross your left leg over your right and lean to the left a little bit. With both hands on the ground to support some of your bodyweight, roll your butt cheek around on the ball, holding on any tight spots. Repeat on the other right side, switching to place your right leg over the left and leaning to the right.
  • To massage your upper back and shoulders — Stand a couple inches from the wall, facing away from the wall, and put the lacrosse ball between your upper back and the wall. Lean back onto the ball, and move your body around, up and down, rolling the ball along your upper back and along where your shoulder blades come across your back. If you feel a tight spot, stop there and hold, then roll around a little more. You can apply as much pressure as you want by how close you lean into the wall. If you find the ball is slipping, just put it inside a long sock, and hold on to the end of the sock to manage where the ball goes.

And it’s just that easy to get a little relief. These massage moves not only feel good and loosen up your muscles, but they are also great ways to counteract the effects of sitting at a desk all day, in which your legs, chest and shoulders get fixed in a forward and tight position.

Now that we’re all feeling loose, let’s get to our regular weekly feature and look at how I got moving over the past seven days …

Weekly Workouts from A Lady Goes West

Weekly Workouts

What was good about my week of workouts?

This was a serious week of workouts. It’s good that I fit in a variety of cardio, weight training, a tune-up yoga session, as well as a rest day. I did an equal amount of cardio and weight training throughout the week. In the cardio zone: BODYATTACK and the treadmill portion of the Barry’s classes. In the weight’s zone: BODYPUMP and the floor portion of the Barry’s classes. I taught and led five classes, and I participated in three. As an instructor, it’s very beneficial for me to spend time in the position of “attendee” to focus on my own movement and know what’s like to work hard in a class when you’re not always sure what is coming next. Every time I go to a new class, I pick up a few “dos or don’ts” based on what I experience, and that helps me be a better teacher. Overall, this week I moved in new ways, and I challenged myself, so all that is good.

What could have been better in my week of workouts?

It was very clear to me that this week was a little too hardcore. The classes that I teach, as well as Barry’s Bootcamp classes, are all very high intensity, and you don’t need to do that every single day. While I did rest and attempt to “tune-up” my sore muscles in a mellow yoga session, it was still a little bit much. I’m hoping to pull back a bit this week on the intensity level, as well as spend a lot of time self-massaging with my lacrosse ball. Also, I didn’t fit in a weight-room session on my own this week, which I like to do, but I did do plenty of resistance training in the group setting. 

Alrighty, everybody! That’s all I’ve got for you. I hope your Monday starts off strong. And if you need a treat today, why not pick up a lacrosse ball and give your feet a little tender-loving care. Trust me, it’s good stuff!

Questions of the day

Did you work out this weekend? If so, how did you get moving? What’s the best thing that you did this weekend? Have you ever done self-massage?

Ashley signature

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  1. I’ve always wanted to try the self-massage with a ball – Do you think a tennis ball would work as well? I paid major $$ for a professional myofascial release massage in Chicago so it’d be nice to so (kinda) the same thing for free.

    1. Hi Becky! Yes, a tennis ball would work, except it’s a little more pliable, so you may not get as deep. But that’s a great place to start. Let me know if you try it. Happy Monday!

  2. We have an amazing spin class BRIGHT and early on Saturday morning which always starts my weekend off right! My friend (who’s pregnant) turned 30 this weekend so we rented a limo and drove two hours for a fancy dinner! It was so fun!

    Wishing for more weekends! 🙂

  3. I love self-myofascial release. I don’t have a lacrosse ball (i need to get one) but I’ve used golf balls and baseballs before to really press into knots in my back and shoulder blade area, which is the worst for me. I just put them on the floor and lie down on top for a pretty intense release if you bear down with all your weight. I’ve heard about the theracane too but have never tried it.

    1. Hi Diane! Ohhhh my! A golf ball would be intense. But I’m sure it works. I’ve never used a Thera cane either, but those things look like they would get the job done!

  4. I still need to try Body Pump! I have heard so many good things about it but it’s not offered around here. Love the massage tips too, never would have thought to use it to massage the chest!

    1. Hi Aine, I still think foam rolling is beneficial, but lacrosse balls can get deeper and to harder-to-reach places. I do both, because the foam roller is good for warming up the legs and IT bands across larger areas of the body. Foam rolling is best before and after a workout, but lacrosse ball massaging can be done on-the-go at any time.

  5. I am obsessed with massage balls and rolly-pin things for relaxing muscles. I’m so into sore stretching & working out kinks – I love that so-bad-its-good kind of pain relief. My boyfriend always gets mad because he says I massage his shoulders too hard, haha! I’ve never thought to use a lacrosse ball – great tip. 🙂

  6. My brother-in-law brought a massage ball (looked like a hacky sack) to Coachella, and it was a godsend on our aching feet every night. Your weekly workout posts inspire me to add variety to my week, and I definitely need to learn how to foam roll.

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