Fitness Tips

Why the Humble Tennis Ball Is Olympic Gymnast Laurie Hernandez’s Recovery Tool of Choice

Emily Laurence

Photos: Getty Images/Harry How; Getty Images/Staff; Art: W+G Creative
There are many different ways to be hard on your body. People who spend the majority of their days standing come home needing a good foot rub. For those of us who are hunched over a computer for hours on end, shoulder and lower back pain can be a real B. And for athletes who spend the majority of their time training, well, the whole body needs some recovery love.

Olympic gold medalist and Dancing with the Stars champ Laurie Hernandez definitely knows how it feels to need a good massage at the end of the day. Taking her body to the limit comes with the territory of being a professional athlete. It’s what makes recovery so incredibly vital; without it, her body won’t be ready to perform what she needs it to do.

So how does Hernandez work out shoulder and back knots so she can train and compete? She uses a tennis ball. Yep, you read that right. “Using a tennis ball as a massager is a really great way to massage muscles,” she told Well+Good on a call for Always and Walmart’s #KeepHerPlaying campaign, which aims to empower girls in sports. She explains that a tennis ball massager works similarly to a foam roller—it increases circulation and blood flow to the muscles, loosening tight knots.

“You can either do it by lying down and placing the tennis ball between your back and the floor, or standing in front of a wall and placing the tennis ball between your back and the wall,” Hernandez said. “Then, roll the tennis ball around the parts of your body that feel tight. If it hurts in that really sore way, you know you’ve hit the right spot.”

Whether your muscles are tight from intense workouts or literally the opposite (sitting all day at your computer), Hernandez’s tennis ball massager hack is an easy way to show your body some love. And given that tennis balls tend to cost about $3 per set, they’re also a heck of a lot cheaper than booking a massage appointment.

Watch the video below for an 8-minute head, neck, and shoulder stretching routine:

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