Guest Writer: Sarah Stockett
For several years, I have been a big fan of the Orb. I bought the original blue ball when I was writing a series on myofascial release for my website, www.custompilatesandyoga.com. As I researched this topic and all the various tools used for myofascial release, I discovered that to achieve true myofascial release, the skin has to be able to glide on the surface of the muscle. Unlike many other massage tools, The Orb offers this grip that helps your skin move over your muscle.
When I ordered The Orb, I expected it to be really similar to a tennis ball or lacrosse ball. Although they do share some similarities, I completely fell in love with The Orb. I took it with me to yoga class to show my students, I used it on my private clients, and I carried it with me everywhere I went.
Suffice to say, when I got the opportunity to try out The Orb Extreme and The Orb Extreme Mini, I was excited! Here’s what I have learned about how to get the most benefit from the Orb Extreme or the Orb Extreme Mini.
Choosing Your Orb
In order for you to get the most out of your Orb experience, you need to choose the right ball. The three Orbs are different sizes, and the size of your Orb ball has a huge impact on your experience.
Whenever you can spread your weight out over a larger surface area, your rolling experience is going to be less intense. So, by choosing the larger Orb ball, you’re going to have a gentler rolling session.
If you are new to rolling, I suggest that you start with the original Orb ball. However, if you have been rolling for a while or if you think that your body is really tight, you can step it up a notch and use The Orb Extreme.
For anyone who is an experienced roller, you might want to try out The Orb Extreme Mini. This little-but-mighty Orb is the perfect crevice tool that you need to work into smaller areas like the soles of your feet, around your shoulder blades, and up your neck.
Here’s more information about the different Orbs from their manufacturer, Pro-Tec Athletics.
- 5” diameter
- high-density ball made of EVA foam
- comes in blue and pink
- 4.5” diameter
- high-density ball made of EVA/Polyolefin foam
- firmer, more prominent bumps
- comes in black
- 3” diameter
- high-density ball made of EVA/Polyolefin foam
- firmer, more prominent bumps
- smaller diameter “allows for single point muscle release”
- comes in black
How to Use Your Orb
When it comes to using your Orb, it’s really up to you how you want to roll. Like with a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, there’s no wrong way. Below are my three favorite ways to roll and relieve muscle tightness.
Along the Muscle
When you roll along the muscle, you roll your Orb from the top of a muscle straight down to the bottom (or vice versa). In particular, if you are very tight, this can be a gentler way to provide relief.
As you roll, you want to make sure that you don’t pick up your Orb and move it from spot to spot. Instead, you want to travel down the path of your muscle. This will help ensure that you get maximal release.
I particularly like to use this rolling technique when I’m rolling my quadriceps and adductors.
Strumming the Muscle
On the other hand, when I’m rolling my hamstrings and calves, I like to use strumming. To strum the muscle, think of strumming a guitar. Imagine your muscles are the strings. This means you want to move against the grain of the muscle, moving from side to side instead of from origin to insertion.
To accomplish strumming, you want to move your limb from side to side. For example, when I strum my hamstrings, I take a seat and move my leg that I’m rolling toward and away from the midline of my body. Sometimes, I also rotate from my hip to really get around the muscles.
Moving a Nearby Body Part
With this technique, you want to get your Orb in a location near a joint. For example, you can get your Orb in the divot of your hip or near your shoulder blade. Then, you keep your body still so that you’re not rolling and only move the limb nearest to the joint. If you were rolling your right hip, you would come to a stopping point then allow your right leg to open and close (kind of like a clamshell exercise).
To use this technique on your shoulder, you would simply move the arm nearest the ball. You can move your arm in any direction. Just play around with it to find out what works best for you.
Here are some of the major muscles that you might want to roll with your Orb.
- Glutes. Take a seat with your Orb on one half of your bottom. Roll back and forth.
- Piriformis. Once you’ve got your glutes rolled out, start moving the Orb over toward the divot on the back of your hip (about where a back pocket goes). Slightly rotate yourself in toward the ball to apply more pressure. You can also open and close your bottom leg in a clamshell-type movement.
- Other deep rotators. Grab your Orb and take a seat on a wide chair, bench, or table. Place the Orb just past your SITs bones, high up on the back of your thigh. Make sure you’ve got your knees bent as you bring your leg toward and away from the midline of your body. As the ball rolls toward your inner thigh, rotate your leg internally.
- Hamstrings. Take a seat on the floor again so your leg is straight. Place the Orb just past your SITs bones, high up on the back of your thigh. You can roll straight down your hamstring muscles, or you can choose to strum by moving your leg toward and away from the midline of your body.
- Calf muscles. Start your Orb just below your knee joint. You can roll the Orb straight down the back of your leg, or you can choose to strum by moving your leg toward and away from the midline of your body. Personally, I also like to externally rotate my leg from the hip to roll the outside of my calf.
- Tensor fascia latae/IT band. Running on a diagonal line from the middle of the outside of your hip toward your leg is a muscle called the Tensor fascia latae. Off of the TFL is a popular tendon that runs along the outside of your leg, just past your knee. It’s called the Iliotibial band, or IT band. Some people roll the IT band, some people don’t because it’s a tendon. Regardless of what you choose to do for rolling, I don’t recommend strumming this area because it could be too intense.
- Quadriceps. Roll onto your stomach and place your Orb just below your hip socket on the front of your leg. You can roll each individual muscle (there are 4) or you can strum and work through most of the muscles as you sweep your leg side to side.
- Adductors. While still on your stomach, bring your leg so that it’s bent at a 45 degree angle from your hip. Place the Orb high on your inner thigh. Make sure to scoot your body so that you roll along the muscle. You don’t want to pick the Orb up to move it to a new place because you’ll lose part of the benefit of your roll.
- Along the spine. For rolling along the spine, I prefer to stand next to a wall and roll the Orb up and down my back using the wall. Remember, you do not want to roll directly on your spine. Another option is to roll one side of you back at a time while you lay on your back. This can be pretty intense and a little tricky to balance.
- Low back muscles. Come onto your back and place your Orb just beneath your bottom rib. Slowly use your feet to glide your body along the mat so that the Orb rolls the space between your bottom rib and the top of your hip. If you find a tight spot, you can also stop and breathe into the spot.
- Pectoralis muscles. Stand facing a wall. Place the Orb high on your chest, just below your collarbone and in line with your shoulder joint. It will feel like you’re kind of making out with the wall, but shift from side to side to roll your pectoralis muscles. Make sure you don’t let the Orb go too low or it might be quite uncomfortable.
How to Use Your Orb Extreme Video
For the visual learners out there, here is a video of how to use your Orb Extreme. Make sure that you always roll on both sides for approximately the same amount of time.
Only with The Orb Extreme Mini
Although you can technically access these areas with the Orb Extreme, it really works best for these four areas when you use the Orb Extreme Mini.
- Feet. From a standing position, place your Orb Extreme Mini under the sole of one of your feet. Roll it back and forth to massage the bottom of your foot. To intensify your rolling, shift more of your weight onto the mini Orb.
- Neck. Stand with your back to a wall. Stick your bottom against the wall and slightly tilt your upper back forward (away from the wall). Place the Orb Extreme Mini approximately between your shoulder blade and spine. Bend your knees and rotate your torso to find the best massage position. Personally, I get my Orb set, bend my knees, and rotate my body slightly so the Orb slides up along the back of my neck and down my upper trapezius. The upper trapezius is the muscle that runs from your neck out to the tip of your shoulder, and it’s a common culprit for neck pain.
- Pectoralis minor. Stand facing the wall, and place the Orb Extreme Mini nearby your shoulder capsule. Gently roll this area.
- Shoulder blade. You can either perform this while standing or while on your back. Place the ball between your shoulder blade and spine. Instead of moving your body, stay still and move the arm from the side you’re working on. Move that arm in any direction you want. Bring it across the body, above your head, out to the side, in a circle–whatever you want. These arm movements will help you access and release deep muscles located under your shoulder blade.
Bonus Rolling with the Orb Extreme Mini Video
Here’s a video of how to roll the bonus areas with the Orb Extreme Mini. As always, make sure that you roll both sides.
Never Ever Roll Here
No matter the circumstances you should never ever roll the backs of the knees or across the spine. There are some important muscles for knee stabilization that run on a diagonal line across the back of the knee. This makes rolling the back of the knee a terrible idea. Instead, when you’re rolling the backs of your legs, you should only roll to just above the knee and then move your ball to just below your knee.
You never want to roll your Orb across your spine because that could potentially move a vertebra out of place. The Orbs are designed to provide a massage that relieves pain, so do your best to make good decisions so that you don’t accidentally end up causing yourself more pain.
Buy an Orb
Whether you’re wanting to buy your first Orb or are adding to your collection, check out the Pro-Tec Athletics website. They have everything you need so you can get rolling!
I hope these tips on how to use your Orb help you love your Orb as much as I love mine. If you’re interested in learning more about how I like to use my Orb, click here.