Lacrosse Ball Stretches
I've been attending a Crossfit-style gym for about a year. I really enjoy the challenge and I've seen a lot of great results (less fat, more muscle, confidence, strength, etc.). A typical day at my gym starts with a short warm-up with things like running, stretching, and maybe a few push-ups. Then we go into the WOD (workout of the day) which is anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes in length with all sorts of punishing exercises. After the workout is done we'll finish off with some specialized stretching and foam roll work.
Some folks are born with more flexibility, and others need to work at. I'm still learning the ins and outs, but I've noticed that the short amount stretching work that is done post workout is very beneficial. The trainers at my gym have borrowed some of the techniques used by San Francisco CrossFit on YouTube to specifically target the muscles in the feet, ankles, and shins. Now I'm not a doctor nor do I play one on birthdayshoes.com, so please consult your doctor before you do anything in the video below if you are concerned.
The trainers at my gym love lacrosse balls to soften muscles and bring on the pain. We spent a whole week just focusing on the actions in the videos above. While the host is a little over the top, the actions he shows are very helpful. I'll warn you now that lacrosse balls are pretty hard, and the harder you push the more pain that will ensue. I've found that after working the ball for a few solid minutes I can see an almost instant difference. Unfortunately, if you don't stay regular with these flexibility exercises, you'll see all that hard work vanish.
I tend to really struggle with squats, and can't quite get the depth that most people are able to obtain. This becomes a problem as it limits the range on a few of the exercises we do. I asked my trainers for some help and they said my lack of flexibility had to with stiffness in my Achilles and hips. The solution was to thoroughly work the lacrosse ball all around the ankles and the Achilles as well as spend a few minutes stretching the ankles and hips. After about a week of following this regiment I was able to get a few more inches on my squat. I'm not quite at the level where I can keep my feet complete flat and squat down to the floor, but I can definitely see some serious improvement. As long as I stay vigilant and practice, I'll be on my way to deep squats very soon.
A lacrosse ball is about $5.75 and can be used on other areas of your body to inflict pain, I mean break down your muscles. These balls are a worthwhile investment and should definitely be part of your workout kit.