As a general rule, when working, lifting and exercising we are stressing the same muscles and movements. This repeat stress can lead to overworked muscles and consequently tightness and trigger points. I don’t need to go through this again though, it’s all covered in Part 1. The lower body has many common trigger points. Most of us sit all day long, and then go to the gym and do the same things day in day out. We are going to look at some of the more common places where almost everyone is tight.
What You Should Know Before
- It will be painful… but, it shouldn’t kill you. If it doesn’t feel like a good pain, stop. Maybe you have an injury.
- Go slowly. Work up and down the muscle at a slow pace, and stop on any tender points. These may be trigger points.
- Work up and down through each muscle about 5 times or hold and move around on an area for 30 seconds at a time. Do each muscle a couple of times, it’s not important how much you do it, you will know what you need once you start.
- When you reach a trigger point it will be a pretty deep pain you feel. This is OK, grit your teeth and stay on it.
- If it is a trigger point, as you hold the ball on the spot you will feel the initial shock of pain diminish.
- You may also feel referral pain as we discussed in Part 1. Don’t stress, this is normal and means you have hit a spot.
- When you are on an area, work around, test it out. Trigger points are usually in certain areas, but don’t be afraid to move around on the ball and find where yours are.
Remember, even if you don’t find any trigger points or specifically release them, you will find that a deep tissue massage does wonders for how your muscles and fascia feel. Recovery is important, and this is one of the steps to feeling top notch. If you don’t actually find trigger points, you will see that these areas are very tight in most people and simply need loosening anyway. Give them a crack, work slowly and grit your teeth!
Note: Although I said everyone has a tennis ball…I don’t. I have a massage ball which is basically the same size, weight and gives the same pressure. It’s red, and I am wearing a red t-shirt…sorry. Oh and excuse my white pins, I live in Europe in the winter, and then go back to Australia for the winter.
I have had a lot of emails asking about the massage ball that I am using, like I said a tennis ball works great, but you can get the exact ball I am using here on amazon. There are a few other sizes too, check them out here: Spiky Massage Ball
1. The Foot
OK, so I am going to start in a place that doesn’t have any trigger points. Intelligent eh? I simply had to include this one in a tennis ball post because this is the best way to get your foot loose. I will discuss this more in an upcoming series on fascia, however under your foot is your plantar fascia. How this functions directly affects the rest of your leg. Most of us are tight here, and we are going to start from the bottom and work up.
Stand on one leg, place the ball under the foot and then let your body weight onto the other leg. Roll around on each foot for about 30 seconds. Get the whole foot, under the arch, and hold on any tighter areas.
2. The Peroneals
These are tight in quite a few people. Tight peroneals can lead to knee pain. Let’s get them loose.
Lay on your side, place the ball under the outer side of your lower leg. Roll up and down slowly, and stop whenever you feel a tender spot. If you don’t feel any, thats great, keep rolling.
3. The Calves
Your gastrocnemius and soleus are bound to have trigger points. Most of them you wont even know about until you find them.
Start on your bum, raise yourself a little (the more of your body that is raised off the ground, the more pressure you can put through the ball…) and place the ball underneath your calves. Roll right from the achillies up to under the knee. Slowly. Stop on any tender points and hold. As the calf is pretty wide, you might need to try a few lines, i.e medial, middle and lateral. See how you go.
4. The ITB
This tight band of fascia along the side of your leg is almost always tight, and can often have trigger points. You may find in this case the tennis ball serves better for a simple fascia release, however, up closer to your hip there are some trigger points.
Roll on the tennis ball, from the knee right up to the hip. If you come across a sore point stop and hold. The ITB is often very tight, and rolling on it with a tennis ball will be painful. Personally, I often get on the tennis ball for a more hardcore stretch than the foam roller, but rarely find trigger points.
5. The TFL
This baby is often tight in people who are sitting down a lot. It gets put into a shortened position and over time will adjust and stay in that shortened state.
Locate the TFL first. It is between your ITB and the top of your hip bone, slightly more anterior. Put the tennis ball underneath it, put as much body weight onto it as you can handle and begin searching for the dreaded trigger points. This thing is almost always tight in people, and you will feel quite a lot of pain and release even if you don’t find trigger points.
6. The Glute Med
Similar area to the TFL, but slightly more posterior. A lot of people tend to be tighter up the top of the glute med, where it attaches. Search around and figure your body out for yourself!
7. The Hip Rotators
You may or may not have heard of a little, painful and annoying muscle called the piriformis. This is one of a few hip rotators that you will be working through, but seems to be the one that causes people the most problems.
Basically sit on the ball in the meat of your arse like I have shown you in the picture. Move around a lot and I will guarantee you will find the piriformis and its friends. This thing is small, tight and angry. When you find it you may get pain shooting down your leg. Hold it there, you can do it, and you will feel enormous benefits from this one. If the pain is too sharp, straighten your leg out and sit in he same spot, this means the hip rotators aren’t on as much stretch. The result isn’t as great but you can work into it. Suck it up and cop some pain!
What You Should Know After
- After the session stretch the areas you found trigger points in.
- You may be bruised, probably not, but if you are doing it for the first time this could be a side effect.
- Again, for first timers, you can be a little sore after it. It is pretty localized work.
Now that your lower body is sufficiently sore and angry at you for poking around, keep at it. These things don’t happen over night. Most of us get trigger points from repeated movement patterns or being in the same position for lengths of time (i.e sitting down all day at work). The same goes the other way. It will take time to release everything, but I guarantee after one session with the tennis ball, you will feel the difference.
If you want more information on using a tennis ball to release your whole body, then check out my Self Massage Guide. It will teach you how to discover your body with a tennis ball and a foam roller and ensure that you find all your points. What you see here is just scratching the surface of what you can do to help your pain.
Now go and get your lower body in good nick and get ready for some Upper Body pain in part 3…coming soon.