When you think about a tennis ball, you think about moving it around the tennis court or playing fetch with your dog, but do you know that you can use tennis balls for many fitness exercises, such as grip strengthening, foot massage, trigger point release, or juggling to improve your hand-eye coordination?
Tennis Ball Squeezes
A strong grip is good not just for tennis and other sports, but also for your leisure activities such as cleaning, gardening or repairing your car. Grip the tennis ball with all fingers and squeeze it with maximum power for one second, then relax. Repeat at least 20 times, then switch hands.
Tennis Ball Foot Massage
Place one or more tennis balls on the floor, take off your shoes and put one foot on the ball(s). Stand up and slowly transfer your body weight on the balls until you feel good pressure. Roll your foot over the balls, massaging the entire surface of your foot. This will refresh your tired feet after exercising and walking around all day. If you suffer from plantar fasciitis, this exercise will relieve the problems.
Piriformis and Glute Massage
If you have ever suffered from sciatica problems, you know how painful this condition feels. Often, the sciatica pain is nothing more than “piriformis syndrome”, a tight piriformis muscle. The piriformis muscle stretches across the glutes, and with prolonged sitting or intense activity, it can get tight and shortened and impinge on the sciatica nerve. You then feel the pain in the hip and shooting down the leg. There is an easy solution: sit on the floor, bend both knees and place the foot of the painful leg on a top of the other knee. Place the tennis ball under the painful glute, toward the outside, and transfer all your body weight on it. Search for the tight and painful spots (called trigger points) and stay on each spot, breathing deeply, until the pain goes away. Roll around the entire glute area, until you don’t find any more trigger points, then switch sides.
Upper Back Massage
If you sit for prolonged periods, you may have tight upper back and neck area. It is even more common among tennis players. This tightness may cause tension headaches. A tennis ball is a perfect tool to release the upper back tension. Lie down on the floor, put the tennis ball under your upper-back area, and transfer the weight on it. Roll around and search for trigger points. When you find one, stay on it while breathing deeply and relaxing, until the worst pain goes away. Work the entire upper back area, stretching wide toward the armpits.
Front Shoulder Massage
Tennis players often feel tightness or pain in their dominant shoulder, because the muscles are tight and shortened. You can use a tennis ball to relieve the pain in the shoulder and upper chest. Lie face down, place the tennis ball under your right shoulder, and stretch your right arm to the side. Transfer your body weight on the tennis ball, while supporting yourself on your left arm to control the amount of pressure. If you find a very sensitive or sore area, stay on it while breathing deeply and relaxing until the pain goes away. Cover the entire chest and front shoulder area, then switch sides.
Side Shoulder Massage
Stand sideways by the wall and place the tennis ball between your shoulder and the wall. Lean onto the ball and using your legs, move your shoulder up and down, letting the ball massage the outside of your shoulder.
Lie down on the floor. Put two tennis balls into a sock and place them high up on your neck, almost at the bottom of your skull, one ball on each side of the spine. Close your eyes and breathe deeply, relaxing for 5 to 10 minutes. This is an excellent technique to refresh your mind when you are tired.
Spinal Muscles Massage
Use the two-ball-in-the-sock tool from the previous exercise. Lie down on your back and place the balls under your lower back, one ball on each side of the spine. Slowly roll up and down, along the entire length of the spine. If you find tender spots, stay on them, breathe deeply and let the pain go away.
IT Band Massage
Lie down on your left side and place the tennis ball under your left hip. Support yourself on your hands to adjust the amount of pressure. This exercise is often very painful, because tennis players have their IT bands overused and full of trigger points from the continuous direction changes on the court. When you encounter a painful trigger point, stay on it, try to relax and breathe deeply until the pain goes away. Then move slowly on the next trigger point. Roll through the entire area from the hip down the knee, and back up toward the hip, several times. Then switch sides.
For more ideas on how to massage your entire body, read self-myofascial release routine article. Your body will enjoy it!
Juggling Three Tennis Balls to Improve Hand-Eye Coordination
Let us call the three balls A, B, C for an easier understanding. Hold two tennis balls (A, B) in your right hand, one ball (C) in the left hand. Toss one of the two balls (A) into the air and when it reaches the highest point, toss the ball (C) from your left hand up in the air, then catch the first ball (A) with the left hand. Now, as the ball (C) is hanging in the air, toss the right hand ball (B) and catch the ball (C). There is always one ball in the air and one ball in each hand. Repeat until you feel relaxed and your movement is smooth. This exercise will improve your focus, coordination and patience!
Do you have any other great ideas how to use a tennis ball to improve your fitness? Share it with us in the comments.