Too Much Of A Good Thing: Balls, Bands, Rollers

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Bear with me, I think the videos at the bottom of this post are eye opening. However, I got to set the stage right or else I’ll get hate mail for weeks.

I attended Dr. Kelly Starrett’s (K-Star) mobility seminar in 2010 and I could see he was going to be big. K-Star has those “IT” qualities and has had a huge impact on the way CrossFit is coached and implemented across the globe.

Fast forward to 2013 and K-Star releases Becoming A Supple Leopard.

I found it to be a great tool in my coaching tool box. I have used his cues to great effect in classes. I have also used his self myofascial release techniques (SMR) on myself and clients to reduce pain and improve movement.

It can be contended that K-Star put SMR in our mainstream consciousness.

The SMR techniques using stretch bands, foam rollers, and lacrosse balls were around way before K-Star. However, he is The Neo that was able to reach through the interwebs and get people to finally “mobilize” – aka cleverly disguised flexibility work.

Like anyone that ascends to Expert or Guru status, K-Star has a tidal wave of followers leading the charge and spreading the word.

Like any strong following, the original K-Star message/ideas never withstood the wave and has been ground down to what is consumable.

The original message was about movement and developing good movement patterns with your own body. It was not about relying on implements such as bands, rollers, and balls to develop good movement.

Just do a simple search of K-Star Mobility WOD videos and look at the first five episodes. It was all about positioning and movement. No bands, balls, or rollers.

Once he introduced a lacrosse ball to help relieve tight knots, trigger points, and free up shoulder movement in a video, you could see the storm gather on the horizon.

Many people become fixated on the implement being the cause for their mobility improvement. The tool for mobility is now the roller, band, or ball and not movement itself.

Test, Retest

One of K-Star’s most popular sayings and impactful beliefs to his students is “Test, Retest”. Meaning, if you do something and you don’t notice a change, then its not effective for you.

He always did this at seminars with one arm or hip of a participant. The one I remember the best is with a lacrosse ball and shoulder ROM.

The person would lay down on a ball behind their shoulder blade. Move their arm up and down about 10 times, and then stand up and raise both arms.

Guess what happened? Yup, the arm had a significant improvement in ROM.

Unfortunately, this demonstration and the thousands that have followed from it have created a belief structure to use rollers, bands, and balls for every mobility exercise or it won’t be effective.

Test, Retest With a Control

I believe good movement prep is entirely possible through…thoughtful active movement. Implements are not required for the vast majority of participants.

Active movement also has the added benefit of neurological command and control. Your brain wakes up. You have to be engaged in what you are doing and fire your body up to do so.

So in the same spirit, I decided to do the lacrosse ball shoulder test. However, I added a “control” comparison.

No SMR.

SMR.

15 minutes after SMR…checkout my right arm!

This one blew my mind. I literally have only raised the right arm 3 times so far that day.

I only did that test just to see if I kept my SMR gains in the left arm. When I saw my right arm get full range…!

I’ll let you draw your own conclusions but don’t make these 3 critical mistaken conclusions from my test videos or my article.

1. SMR doesn’t work for increasing ROM.

The video test with SMR clearly showed an improvement in ROM.

2. SMR isn’t helpful.

Wrong. Again, I’ve used K-Star’s SMR techniques on myself and taken members through it and have seen and felt great results.

Pain relief, heightened sense of preparedness, and clear feedback of “I feel good after that”.

3. SMR wouldn’t work for you.

If movement doesn’t work for you, try something else and maybe SMR is your ticket. Keep your tool box full of options and not just one device.

To summarize, this was one test and I like active movement. It makes me sweat, feel engaged in my body and upcoming activities, and gets me ready for anything.

I believe for the vast majority of us good movement prep is entirely possible through thoughtful active movement without needing implements of any kind.

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