Remember your first time using a foam roller or massage ball? You probably hopped on there with the happy intent of doing your body a solid, and ended up trying to muffle your screams and play off your tears of agony as hard-earned sweat. Now that you and your roller/ball have become close frenemies, it’s time to take your recovery to the next level.
Typically, when foam rolling or using a lacrosse or massage ball, you find a tender spot, or “trigger point,” in the muscle and hold pressure there until it releases. Theoretically, by depriving the trigger point of oxygen and nutrients for 30 to 90 seconds you can block whatever signal is making it seize up, and cause it to relax.
The pin-and-stretch method is a level up from these basics. “Pin and stretch works via a neurophysiological mechanism, creating a sensation in the brain and nervous system and causing a physical relaxation of the muscles,” explains Jacob Harden, DC, owner of Myodetox in Orlando, Florida. “Adding movement and taking the joint through a range of motion adds more to that signal than just sitting on a roller passively.”
Preworkout, position a massage/lacrosse ball or foam roller either between your body and the floor or your body and a wall. “Pin” the ball/roller directly on top of a tender area and apply pressure, then gently move the nearest joint through a full range of motion to stretch the targeted muscle. Perform five to 10 slow repetitions, breathing deeply until you feel a reduction in tightness.
Go one step further and teach your neuromuscular system how to use this newly created range of motion. “For example, if you pin and stretch the lats to improve overhead position, follow up with overhead presses to show your nervous system the use for that range of motion,” says Harden. “Otherwise, it will simply retighten the muscle and you’ll find yourself releasing the same areas every day.”
Improves: Scapular and shoulder mobility for chest and shoulder presses
Position a lacrosse ball between your body and a wall somewhere between your shoulder blade and spine. Roll around slowly until you find a tender spot, then lean into the ball to apply a little pressure. Hold there as you lift your same-side arm slowly up over your head, then bring it back down again for several reps. Then raise your arm to shoulder height and move it gently back and forth across your body parallel to the floor.
Improves: Squats, lunges and step-ups; also reduces hip hike when running
Lie on your side supporting your upper body on an elbow, and pin a lacrosse ball underneath your hip, bottom leg straight and nonworking knee bent for support. Tilt back onto your glutes slightly until you find a tender point. Hold here, then slowly lift and lower your bottom leg as if you were doing an inner-thigh raise.
Latissimus Dorsi/Teres Major
Improves: Overhead presses, overhead squats and the catch position for the snatch
Using a foam roller, lie on your side with your knees bent, hips stacked, and position the roller underneath your side just below the armpit. Though it’s not shown in the photo, bend your top arm and make a fist to support your head. Extend your bottom arm in front of you, palm facing upward, to release your lat. Slowly sweep your arm along the floor until it’s overhead, pause, then return to the start.
Improves: All lower-body-focused moves, sprints and plyometrics
Sit on the floor with one leg extended and position a lacrosse ball under the belly of your calf. Shift around until you find a spot and hold. Slowly point and flex your ankle, then perform ankle circles clockwise and counterclockwise with your foot. Add more pressure by crossing your nonworking ankle over your working shin.