As a person who always has a tight muscle here or a sore muscle there, the opportunity to try the TriggerPoint foam massage balls was a very exciting prospect. I carry a golf ball in my computer bag and it does get the job done, but the idea of using something with a softer outer material sounded like a dream.
The idea behind using a massage ball is to stimulate blood flow to stagnant areas, and to break up adhesions in the muscles to reduce pain and increase mobility. The concept is that the ball replicates the massage therapist’s hand and applies pressure to the muscles accordingly.
The Nitty Gritty on the MB1 and MB5
The MB1 is 2.6 inches in diameter, and is designed to target smaller muscles such as the calves and pecs. Its size is very similar to that of a lacrosse ball. The MB5 is five inches, similar to the size of a small melon, and targets difficult to reach muscles in the hips and shoulders. The MB1 easily fits in a computer bag or purse, whereas the MB5 is better suited for a gym bag or home use. The MB5 has a unique size that I haven’t seen elsewhere and is very effective in the hip region, especially. I have a terribly tight hip/psoas region on one side, and the MB5 was the only thing that has gotten into the area enough to really make a difference.
The TriggerPoint site claims the massage balls are great at relieving tightness and restoring movement. I would have to agree.
TP Massage Balls are made from EVA foam, which grips the area it is being used on, and is less likely to pinch or irritate skin and nerves, unlike the hard surface of a golf ball or lacrosse ball. There are foam channels (the stripes) on each ball, and the solid color portion is the firm core. I have had a run in with a lacrosse ball pinch in the past, and it’s not something I want to repeat. The foam material on these massage balls is comfortable in texture and feels like it compresses just a bit with use.
These massage balls are designed to be used against the floor or wall, depending on the area you want to work on. The concept is to position the ball then roll in a sideways motion across the area. The website does provide short instruction videos for the TP Massage Balls, which I found very helpful.
Left: MB1; Right: MB5 [Photo credit: TriggerPoint]
Does the Foam Hold Up?
I tested both the MB1 and MB5, working on different areas, and noticed that I felt much better afterward. The MB1 really got into my trap area and made a difference in my mobility and tension. I asked a couple female gym mates (135-150lb) to try the MB1 as compared to a lacrosse ball. Both really liked the MB1, and felt better after using it throughout their upper back regions.
I also had a male athlete (215lb) test the MB1 and the MB5 to see what a person with a lot more body mass thought of the foam construction. I had anticipated that he would say the foam didn’t stay as firm as would be needed to get into the muscles. He said he could feel a bit of give, but that the firmness of the foam felt better on bare skin than the rubber or plastic make up of a lacrosse ball would have.
They Are Worth It if You Use Them
Many people I know spend zero time on anything mobility-related, and would be hesitant to spend a dime on something like a foam ball. But the MB1 and the MB5 are worth it. The EVA foam is firm, but with enough give to be comfortable. With regular use, these massage balls could really make a difference. The key is using them regularly. They look cool, but won’t do any good if you don’t use them.
Thumbs up from me.
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