Upper-Body Maintenance

By Kelly Starrett

In Medical/Injuries, Videos

November 27, 2009

Video Article

Physical therapy: $2.50.

Using a only a lacrosse ball—about three bucks at any sporting-goods store—you can work a lot of tension out of tight tissue.

Working with an athlete at CrossFit Santa Cruz, Kelly Starrett uses a ball to treat the internal and external rotators of the shoulder, the triceps and the lats. By getting creative and taping a pair of balls together, Starrett is able to do a little maintenance on the facet joints and erectors around the spine.

The rules are pretty simple for this kind of work: do it for a couple of minutes, and roll until something feels different. Starrett also says a glass of wine can help.

Starrett is the owner of San Francisco CrossFit and a doctor of physical therapy.

9min 10sec

Additional reading: Muscle Damage and Soreness: An Overview by Tony Webster, published Nov. 5, 2008.

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16 Comments on “Upper-Body Maintenance”


wrote …

Once again we see how much of a bad a#s K-Star is, im getting some lacross balls tomorrow! Thanks my back has been tight for like a week this should help


wrote …

Kelly has some great advice. I have used similar balls for these things (TP massage ball) I helps with trigger point thearpy this guy needs his own web site, he is the bomb, I really enjoyed his hip video. Thanks Kelly you da man!!!


wrote …

More useful tips! And funny!


wrote …

Great video!, SMR (self-myofascial realese) is painfully awesome. I dedicate every Sunday to it.


replied to comment from Jake Trahan

Great video with helpful tips, I love the K-Star episodes.


wrote …

I'm going right out for my balls and tape tomorrow. DAMN STRAIGHT!


Ben Liuzzi wrote …

Good video and I use this release method regularly. I do have question about when is the best time to do it though.

Is doing some foam/PVC roller work, or the the ball release, a good idea directly before a workout? Or is it a little like static stretching, in that it upsets you max power?

At the moment I do some light release work before the WOD and then later in the day, or on a rest day, i go for the kill!



wrote …

I knew about the points behind the shoulders and those were great when I discovered them. It's nice to figure out how to release pain that you have had for 10 years. lol

I'm glad to learn about the other spots to. Is there anything for the lower body? I find the calves and shins get tight at times.


wrote …

Man, this is exactly what I've been needing to see. The ROM about my shoulders is one of my biggest detriments; I endeavor to raise my arms (the right one especially) completely over my head but they inevitably end in a position somewhat liken to a salute to Hitler. It's great to have some new strategies to get after that mess.

Thank you, Kelly.


wrote …

I second Ben's question about an appropriate time to do soft-tissue work.


wrote …

When I run into muscle tissue that butts up against part of the scapula, it feels like a trigger point. Is this the real deal or just compression of muscle against the bone? Is there a recommended way to navigate around the scapula, scapular spine, etc. to really hit those RC muscles?


wrote …

I do SMR on my rest days. If needed, I would do it 2-3 Hrs after workout. You can also do a quick roll with your foam roler to get blood flowing in the muscles your about to use.


wrote …

Okay, I happen to have had a lacrosse ball (was recommended a tennis ball but decided to get hardcore about it) for a long time, and it has yet to released a damn thing in my stupid knotted-up rhomboids! What gives???


wrote …

I loved using the lacrosse balls instead of tennis balls. I am a massage therapist and crossfitter beginner. The balls are amazing. I also use the singe ball in glut area it provides and amazing release. I also recommend The "davinci tool" Amazon has it and it is great.

Kim Neater


wrote …

I have used two tennis balls before, but I think that I need to go out and get some lacrosse balls. That said, if there are trigger points that you can't reach, find yourself a Theracane. It looks like a midget shepherd's crook with handles, and it helps you get leverage on all sorts of trigger points that you are otherwise left trying to work out with finger strength. I bought mine at a Healthy Back store for about $45, and it's worth its weight in gold.


wrote …

The next level on from lacrosse balls is a golf ball guys. Props to Steven Low on the main site boards for the heads up. He's a physical therapist too and a golf ball has worked wonders on my left glute & piriformis which is riddled with trigger points and tight spots. Attacks the tissue quality a lot more. Also, used on my forearm for tightness in the extensor carpi (tennis elbow symptoms)/ quad muscles/calf. The golf ball hits with more focus, kinda like your elbow would.
To the guy not releasing trigger points in rhomboids - make sure you're folding your arms or have them overhead if can manange it. Hold on the trigger point - feel for referred pain- stay with it for up to at least 1 minute, don't just roll over it. Doing something wrong if you can't get it released with some kind of ball.

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