Any fitness fanatic knows that when it comes to making progress, sticking to a recovery routine is just as important as sticking to your workout plan if you want to get bigger and stronger (after all, you can’t get a good workout in if you’re constantly injured or have a limited range of motion). And while taking basic steps like warming up properlyor stretching can help, sometimes you just need a little bit more.
Another way to improve mobility, become more flexible, and prevent injury is self-myofascial release, or massaging your own muscles. You probably already knew that, and we bet you even have a foam roller to prove it. But even that’s not the end of the road when it comes to maximizing muscle recovery and making serious gains. There’s an endless sea of methods to facilitate muscle recovery, and even more tools to do it, so we’ve narrowed down some of our favorites.
Sure, you probably have a foam roller—or at the least, your gym does—and know the benefits of including this essential activity in your routine.
Electronic stimulation has long been used by phyical therapists as a way to activate muscles and reduce pain, but as a muscle recovery tool, it’s arguably just hitting its stride in the mainstream—and the technology itself has come a long way.
For those impossibly tight knots in your muscles, a lacrosse ball could be your new best friend. It’s simple, it’s cheap, and it’ll seriously dig in to relieve the tension. Sandwich it between you and a wall to hit your back, shoulders, and glutes. It’s also a great way to relieve plantar fasciitis—just roll it back and forth along the arch of your foot. If you want to roll out your spinal erectors without worrying about hitting your spine, you can also tape two balls together to create a dual-zone roller. You can find them at pretty much any sporting goods store or online.
If your feet are in serious need of some love, consider going for a roller made to get the job done.
You may be used to using barbells to train, but don’t relegate them to their traditional intra-workout use. Particularly after a next-level leg day, a barbell can come in handy to massage your muscles. It’s like a foam roller, but kicked up a few notches. Just lay an unloaded barbell onto the floor, sit next to it with your legs outstretched, and pick up one end, placing it onto your leg and rolling it back and forth. It’s not going to feel great at first, so play with the amount of pressure you apply until you’re used to it.
Mobility and flexibility are key aspects of staying injury-free, no matter what your workouts entail. On upper-body days, a mobility bar is the perfect warm-up tool to keep shoulders healthy and improve range of motion.
Foam rollers are great tools for warming up or cooling down via self-myofascial release, but another great option is a massage stick.
Pressure point massage sticks are admittedly pretty intense. With a name that includes the word “beastie”, you know you can expect a serious effect. And sure enough, this bar offers a deep-tissue massage that’s probably as intense as your workouts.
At one point or another, nearly every athlete has a complaint or two related to his back. Self-myofascial release is a helpful tool, but avoiding your spine while you hit those muscles can be tricky.
BY ROSE MCNULTY