Tennis balls have many other great uses than the obvious: chasing it on the tennis court or fetching with your furry friend. Use your tennis balls for foot massage, trigger point release, grip strengthening, juggling to improve hand-eye coordination or as creative artsy additions to your living space.
Strengthening: tennis ball squeeze
A strong grip is beneficial not just for tennis and other sports, but for cleaning, gardening, repairing your car and many other activities. Grip the tennis ball with all fingers and squeeze it with maximum power for one second, then relax. Repeat at least 20 times, before you switch hands.
Massage your feet with a tennis ball
Place a tennis ball on the floor and put your bare foot on the ball. Standing up, slowly transfer your body weight on the ball until you feel somehow intense pressure. Roll your foot over the ball, 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. You can use several balls at once for different sensation.
Massage your glutes and piriformis
Have you ever suffered from sciatica issues? You know the horrible pain. Very often the trigger points in the piriformis muscle are the culprit. Even lower back stiffness can be tracked to the same area. The piriformis muscle stretches across the glutes, and with prolonged sitting or intense activity, it gets tight and shortened, impinging 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 and toward the outside of the painful glute and transfer all your body weight on it. Search for the tight and painful 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 before switching to the other side.
Massage of upper back
Excessive sitting, driving, working at the computer, or watching TV will cause tight upper back and neck area. It is even more common among tennis players. This tightness may cause tension headaches. The 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.
Massage of front shoulder
Tennis players often feel tightness or pain in their dominant shoulder, because the muscles are tight and shortened. Relieve this tension with the tennis ball: lay 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. You can do this also standing and leaning onto a wall.
Massage of the side of the shoulder
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. Work the backside of the shoulder as well if you find tightness there.
Massage of the neck
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.
Massage of the spine
Use the sock with two tennis balls from the neck massage. 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. Make sure you are not rolling on the spine itself, as it could get slightly uncomfortable. You can do this standing and leaning onto a wall as well.
Massage of the illiotibial (IT) band
Ouch! Lie down on the side and place the tennis ball under the 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. You may break into serious sweat during this massage. The more pain you experience, the more important it is for you to keep doing this exercise. Once your IT bands are without trigger points, you will enjoy this massage. Until then, just keep rolling.