Updated: Nov 22, 2020
The first thing I do in any session with a brand new client is to introduce them to my balls… its not what many are expecting when they sign up for a personal training session but its an unexpected way to break the ice! It always surprises the client with how quickly they can loosen up in only 2 minutes with such a small everyday tool. The process is simple, I ask the client take off their shoes and bend over to try to touch their toes in order to get an idea of their flexibility. I ask them to take note of how far they can stretch. That’s when I reach in my pocket and whip out a pair…
…of golf balls.
This cheap and easily portable tool is a must have in my gym bag that I use to warm up before every session, so now that I've got all of my puns out of the way, lets get to the technique, which is called a Plantar Fascia Mobilisation Drill. We each take one and place it on the floor and the spend the next 2 minutes having a chat while placing the arch of the foot on top of the ball and rolling it around to find any points of tension. The idea is to try to massage out these tight parts using the hard surface of the ball. Pretty simple, eh? After 1 minute on each foot we go back to the “bend over and touch your toes” test and there is always a noticeable improvement in how far someone can reach.
Its a simple and effective way to increase mobility and gently prepare the body for the session while demonstrating the benefits of Trigger Point Therapy which is a form of Self-Myofacial Release (SMR). Self-Myofacial Release (SMR) is a technique of tool-assisted, self massage that is used to relieve muscle and joint pain, Using a foam roller, massage ball or stick, you apply pressure in order to clear up restrictions and muscle knots, breaking down adhesions and scar tissue. This is believed to lead to an increase in the flexibility of the soft tissue, improving the range of joint motion.
The reason massaging the arch of the foot improves hamstring flexibility is a lot of tension builds up in the foot from wearing shoes all day long. In nature, walking barefoot would have provided the same sort of tension relieving massage day in and out just by walking over uneven surfaces such as stones and rocks. But encased rigid shoes our feet aren’t exposed to the same ranges of motion and external forces, therefore becoming tight (and weak). This tightness increases tension on the joints it attaches to such as the ankle, which then pulls harder on all the tissue attached to the other side of it, a pattern that carries on creating tension throughout the body. (For more information on how footwear affects our mobility, see my previous blog post: HERE)
This is why I like to start my training sessions at the foundations, quite literally from the ground up, with this quick method to loosen off a bit of that excess tension, increase mobility and prepare the body for activity. Give it a try yourself!