Cryotherapy is one of the latest tools helping your fitness routine. Stretching can feel so good and a daily stretch routine can help you improve your flexibility, movement, balance and even sleep. Stretching is an important part of an active training recovery program. Whether one is recovering from a tough workout or life, in general, a stretch-recovery routine is beneficial. But pro-athletes and celebrity trainers know the secrets to getting more out of your stretch program. Here are the fitness tools that can help you improve your performance and flexibility.
Just add ice
Cryotherapy: cold roller massage
Cryotherapy has many benefits. When you place cold or ice on the body, the surface blood vessels constrict and reduce inflammation associated with post-workout soreness. A regular routine of cryotherapy can help heal muscles faster and even reduce arthritic pain. Fitness tools include a cold massage roller ball. There are several brands on the market including Cryo Ball and iECO Cryosphere Cold Massage Roller Ball. The Cryotherapy Ball from FLX is a hand-held tool with a hard, stainless-steel center that can be placed in the freezer. Once placed back into the holder it can stay cold for several hours of relief. The spherical surface makes it easy to roll over the desired muscles. It has a cooler temperature than just standard ice, so there’s less likelihood of freezing or burning the skin. Because of the solid surface it can be used with pressure to achieve some of the benefits of deep tissue massage.
Best Practices Using Fitness Tools:
Use cryotherapy on muscles and not directly to the bone or joint. Keep moving the cold massage roller ball in a circular motion around the area that needs relief and place back in the freezer after use. These types of cold massage rollers also work well on the face for decreasing inflammation and helping to feel more refreshed.
It sounds very scientific but myofascial release helps the body to relax, improve circulation and break down muscle adhesions that occurs with repetitive patterns of movement. Foam rolling introduced this concept to the weekend warrior over a decade ago,but using other tools specific for this type of therapy include deep tissue balls, infinity balls, and even percussion tools. Each of these are very similar but also serve very different purposes.
Deep tissue balls
The deep tissue balls are typically firm and about the size of a softball. They can have different surfaces similar to the surface of different foam rollers with grooves, spikes or smoothness. However, because of their size and shape they can be a better fit to access and relieve some large muscles in hard-to-reach areas, like the glutes. Lacrosse balls are a good substitute.
The infinity balls look more like mini barbells than a ball. Due to their shape, they create grooves that can help hit smaller muscles in the feet, deep in the shoulder or shoulder blade. Rolling these into the grooves between the muscles can help break up tension and bundles caused from overuse or repetitive movements.
Percussion tools such as the Hypervolt is a myofascial tool. They can help break out muscle knots and also improve circulation.
Percussion tools are becoming more and more popular. One popular brand is Hypervolt. Think of these as mini, battery-operated jack hammers. They vibrate the muscle tissue but with far less power and smaller movements. These tools are great for self-massage because they have a solid handle and typically have interchangeable tools for the percussion, including round small spheres to one solid spike. Like other myofascial tools, they can help relieve stress, relax muscles, improve circulation and lymphatic circulation.
When using deep tissue massage tools, be sure to work on the muscle tissue, not the joints or bone. If possible, work with a trainer professional or massage therapist to see what the best tool might be for your body shape, tightness or pain.
There are many different ways to stretch. In static stretching you hold a specific stretch for a designated period of time such as 10 seconds to 2 minutes. In active stretching, the opposing muscles are working to deepen the stretch. When holding stretches, many people choose a stretch strap to stabilize the body part being stretched and deepen the movement of the stretch. Many stretch straps are made of nylon that may have loops to assist in further pulling the legs or arms into place. Other ways to stretch are by placing objects like yoga blocks or wheels under the body for support which can also provide stability but a way to open the body.
When stretching with any fitness tool, never stretch to the point of sharp pain or heat in the muscles or joint. Holding stretches steadily instead of bouncing through them can help prevent injury. If possible, work with a professional trainer or massage therapist to see what the best tool might be for your body shape, tightness or pain.
Andrea Metcalf is a health and wellness expert, best-selling author, certified PersonalTrainer and trusted television personality with appearances on the NBC Today Show, Steve Harvey, and Oprah.com. She is co-owner of Heat 3.0 Pilates Reformer and Hot Yoga Studios in Chicago. She is a regular contributor to Smart Lifebites. Her other stories include Maximize Your Walking Workout and What stretching can do for you.