June 19, 2015

Stretching Tools: Foam Rollers, Tune Up Balls, Lacrosse Balls--How Do You Choose?



Don't worry... Coach Kimmie of Kinesis in Culver City has your questions covered in this article shared on the Fit Bottomed Girls site.

Flip through any fitness, yoga, Pilates, health or other “active” magazine and you’ll likely see at least one type of reference to the following:

“Need more flexibility?”
“Work on your mobility!”
“How to use a foam roller”
“What is myofascial release?”
“Can I practice self massage?”

… And any number of other articles on these variations of self-care and awareness. Trigger point release, adhesions, knots, muscle tightness, active release … and the list goes on!

So are you wondering what to do, my fitness-seeking, fat-blasting, Pilates-adoring, gym-loving, cardio-class-diggin’, sweaty spinning, WODing Fit Bottomed friends?

Well, as most things in life, it truly depends. Are you preparing for a workout? Do you need to downregulate your system and relax? Is the area you’re dealing with painful or does it feel restricted? Dealing with injury or just DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness)?

In my humble (20 years of personal training and athletic endeavors) opinion, here’s what I have to offer …



There are two types: dynamic and static. One’s moving and one’s not. Pretty simple, right? If you think about the actual word dynamic, one of its definitions is “characterized by continuous change, activity or progress.” That sounds pretty rockin’ to me and means THAT’S the way I’d want to get ready for my workout. Sounds like that type of movement that might make me a little sweaty and certainly bring up my general tissue temperature, huh? So, dynamic stretching movements that mimic your coming movements or wake up the areas you’ll be using are PRE-workout in nature.

Static stretching, on the other hand, means “having no motion, being at rest, fixed, stationary.” I rarely have clients participate in static stretching unless they are trying to relax, downregulate their nervous system or they just really enjoy the movements. To me, this type of stretching should be completely stress-free, struggle-less and done in a very comfortable manner. Almost like a little reverence time to honor your body in the space it’s currently in. This type of stretching is wonderful to do before bed along with some deep, space-inducing breathwork to bring everything “down”…


Foam Roller

Okay, so I’m likely going to get some flack about this — but again, remember this is all truly IMHO. The foam rollers at Kinesis come out for few reasons: lying supine and parallel on them for passive, relaxing chest and shoulder stretching at the END of a workout OR as a general, superficial “steamrolling” of tissues to increase blood flow/circulation to prep them for deeper, more specific myofascial release using Yoga Tune Up Therapy Balls, getting an actual massage from one of our fabulous bodyworkers or just because my client loves it (#ChooseMyBattles).

When there was nothing else available, the hard, tissue smashin’ foam roller was wonderful and so much better than doing absolutely nothing to give some lovin’ to your muscle madness … However, science-y and super-smarter-than-me people like Jill Miller, Sue Hitzmann, Kelly Starrett and other geniuses in the movement field have come up with other, more specific tools to use to DIG into your cruddy spots, douse the flames of discomfort and decrease your IMmobility!

Physical therapist, CrossFit box owner and coach Kelly Starrett said in reference to lying on a foam roller or lacrosse ball PRE-workout: “How do you feel after a massage? Like you want to jump on the rack and squat 300 pounds? No. You feel relaxed and calm, like you have less energy.” So, there you go.

Other Tools

TheraCane, The Stick, a massage therapist, the TigerTail, tons of other “roller” type pieces, tennis/golf/lacrosse/pinky balls, CranioCradle. Aye aye aye!!!

Speaking of those geniuses I mentioned above … Jill Miller and her unbelievable system and therapy balls are our tools of choice for deeper, more specified work for mobility issues, as well as pain managers. Her book, The Roll Model, is literally the most beautiful book I’ve ever seen regarding how to care for your body. The YTU therapy balls are the best tool for us for a few reasons:

Grippy, pliable rubber created specifically to match very closely the density and feel of human muscle.
Totally portable and completely affordable! Toss a set in your gym bag, your suitcase, keep a set at work in a drawer and you’re good to go for self-care anywhere!
They can actually safely roll over bony spots on your body! And unlike an air-filled tennis ball, they do not collapse under your body weight. This enables you to get into areas that only your massage therapist could during a hands-on experience.
Ultimately, doing something to address your tissue issues, pain points and limit your limitations is way better than doing nothing. However, choose wisely and educate yourself, my Fine Fit Bottomed Friends…

—Coach Kimmie

For more great articles by Coach Kimmie, CLICK HERE and be sure to subscribe to the Kinesis Kolumn.