I recently wrote about the different types of foam roller (here it is if you missed it). But long before rollers became widely available, people were using balls to achieve a similar effect. The choice of ball is up to the individual, but croquet, squash and tennis balls are all popular choices. As with the foam roller, you position the ball under an area of muscular tightness and let yourself sink down onto it in order to massage the tissue and trigger a nice spot of “myofascial release”. Incidentally, for some reason I often get the phrase “myofascial release” mixed up with “autoerotic asphyxiation”. Probably explains why my physio keeps calling the police. As well as positioning yourself on top of them, you can also use them as hand-held massagers, kneading and pummelling the muscle while relaxing in front of the television or during a first date at a fancy restaurant, or maybe while sitting on jury duty.
Anyway, the lovely people at PhysioSupplies.com recently sent me a new product to try: The Beastie. It’s made by the same company who brought us the amazing Rumble Roller, so I immediately had high expectations of it. I also knew it was probably going to make me cry harder than a 7 year old girl who’s just been told that ponies don’t exist*.
The Beastie is a 3 inch ball covered in knobbly bumps, and just like the Rumble Roller it comes in two different levels of firmness (original and X-firm*). I won’t go into the technical details, mainly because I can’t keep a straight face while using phrases like “precisely engineered bump flexion”.
I took my Beasties to work with me so that I could try them out in the gym. While there I popped in to show them to a buddy of mine, Ski, who took one look at them before grunting “get the $%&@ out of here you pervert”. He’s an angry, angry man.
Although the Beasties do a similar job to their Daddy the Rumble Roller, there are a few key differences. I’ll always opt for a roller if I’m working on the legs, but the Beastie does a fantastic job of getting into some of the harder to reach trigger points. Over the last couple of months I’ve been suffering from a bit of tightness around my glutes and piriformis, and I found the X-firm Beastie worked wonders here, seeking out the troublesome knots and obliterating them like a tiny knobbly Bobba Fett. Working these muscle groups basically involves sitting down on the massage ball, so I’ll offer one word of advice: If it’s not there when you stand up, get yourself to a hospital.
Over this first session I found that the X-firm worked well on the softer, fleshier areas, but the slightly-more-forgiving original firmness was better suited to working the legs. After a 20 minute play with the Beasties I felt relaxed and limber; any tightness I’d felt before the session had ebbed from my muscles (although “fled in terror” is probably a more accurate term).
A pair of Beasties (one of each firmness) will set you back £35. My initial reaction was that this is quite a hefty price for a couple of pieces of plastic, carefully designed and precision-engineered through they may be. But they do work exceptionally well, and as Ski pointed out once he’d got a bit less sweary***, it’s the same price as one session with a physio. Of course, I’m not for one second going to suggest that a pair of fancy balls(!) are any substitute for a good physio (although both share an association with pain and gleeful violence) but regular use of these things as part of a maintenance regime could prevent you from getting to the stage where you need one.
One of the most appealing features of the Beastie is its portability. Mine now live in my kit bag and are always close at hand when I need them, as opposed to my Rumble Roller, which requires me to give the police 7 days written notice before taking it out in public.
The Beastie bears a passing resemblance to a dogs Kong toy; you know, the ones that are hollow inside so you can fill them with tasty treats to keep your furry chum occupied for a while. I think the manufacturers are missing a trick here and should start producing a hollow version straight away. Then, instead of dog-themed treats, they could be stuffed with things to keep runners busy (for when we’re left alone by our owners). A few suggestions to get you started: peanut butter, squares of dark chocolate, tiny bottles of gin.
In summary, I’m a little bit in love with these things. They do as good a job as my roller (albeit a bit differently) and I’ll be using both in tandem as part of Operation Jays Legs Don’t Fall Off****.
As with all reviews, there’s a formal bit at the end: PhysioSupplies sent me some Beasties free of charge for the purpose of testing. However, this was on the understanding that I’d review them honestly (i.e. if they’re poo, I’ll say they’re poo). I received no other incentive for writing this; not cash, not diamonds, not so much as a priceless antique waffle-maker.
The bottom line is this: If I hadn’t been sent them, would I have bought these for myself? No. On the other hand, having tried them, would I now buy a set, for instance if these ones got lost, stolen or eaten by angry ducks? Yes I would, in a heartbeat.
For further details of the Beastie, head over to physiosupplies.com or try Rumble Roller’s website (where they do a nice job of explaining why their product is better than, for instance, a magic washing machine ball or a lemon).
* …or that ponies do exist, but they really hate little girls. ** I wrote to the manufacturers, suggesting a third variety: peppermint. They haven’t got back to me yet. *** He’d probably had some shortbread. That stuff is like medicine for the Scots. **** Okay, perhaps not the snappiest operation name ever.