I first came across 'the Stick' when I was in for massage at the performance centre at the University of Bath's excellent Sports Training Village. Odd, you might think, for the clinic to advertise a product which provides many of the benefits which the pair of big hands I just spent £27/hour on can. Deep massage, muscle warm up and myofascial release, free at point of use and completely transportable; not bad eh?
There is little debate that there is benefit from of massage. As a member of a well-funded semi-professional German team I get the benefits of a team physio, if only at the big races of the year, and can vouch for the wonders that it can achieve in terms of performance and recovery. Also as I am sure we are all aware by now improving your physiological ability will have substantial more impact than shedding another 100grams of your wheels with a kamikaze credit card spree. That's why I like this little 'Stick' so much; for relatively little money you can up the important aspect of your game, in several ways.
The Stick comes in many shapes, lengths and size depending on your age, height, weight, what muscle group you're focussing on and what you want to achieve. The website guides you through this quite simply. The model on test is the 'Sprinter Stick which according to the website is designed to be a 'segmental stretching device' and is the most rigid of the smaller models. The rigidity is still allows some flex without too much pressure and the stick certainly feels strong enough to take a hard rub if needs be.
One nice thing about the Stick is it comes with a self-help guide to get you going. One of the downfalls of other human performance orientated products like recovery tights is most brands don't provide you with a guide of how get the best results. The Stick gives you a two sided pamphlet which obviously didn't take long to throw together but is useful and appreciated.
A light twenty or so strokes with increasing pressure on your lower limbs is a nice way to get the blood going before a race or training ride. The Stick can reduce the energy expended in your warm up to by reducing the amount of spin you need. I am no sport scientist but the couple of races where I timetabled in some Stick time (it doesn't take long) before I definitely felt better prepared off the line, time well spent in a criterium, MTB race or anything which goes hot off the gun.
In your post ride rub down you're more than likely to find some lumpy nasties lurking beneath the skin. Focussing in on these with the stick using some harder strokes can help remove them. It's pretty good at doing it too, although often is not the most pleasant experience. As explained in the help guide by grasping on the rollers you can isolate pressure to just the problem area; just one of the advantages over my Mums rolling pin. This is something I have worked on with my coach Andy Wadsworth, as he calls it 'Search and Destroy'. After a recent Achilles heel niggle the Stick has proved much cheaper than massage and much more effective than a broom stick or a rolling pin at loosening up my calf to help the underlying tendon trouble. Here's a quick guide. First measure your calf flexibility as in the picture below, go to town on the hotspots in your calf for 10 strokes and measure again. The broom handle should be further away this time which means progression. Repeat until you have got rid of everything nasty and are nice and flexible, simple.
Self Myofasical Release and IT band rolling
This might sound a bit rude but SMR is something which has become increasingly popular recently. I must confess to not being an expert on this so correct me if I am wrong. Fascia is a fibrous membrane which wraps our muscles, and SMR helps loosen this up. As cyclists there are a couple of classic problem areas which can cause discomfort and if not resolved lead to injury. Just one example of how I used it was on the Iliotibial (IT) band. This runs down the outside of your quadriceps and joins your hip to you knee. Using a foam roller is ideal for this but anyone who has used on will know it's not the easiest thing to do and definitely not transportable. IT band tightness is a classic cause of knee pain for cyclists. Admittedly the Stick is not as effective as foam roller for this; you can't get the same pressure behind it as using body weight, but a quick and transportable way to loosen it up.
The Stick is definitely not just a gimmick and offers some real benefits in terms recovery and injury prevention. Although it initially seems expensive for what you're getting in a material sense there are clear benefits over a broom handle/rolling pin and is roughly the price of an hour on the massage table. Well worth the relatively small investment for anyone training seriously or prone to niggles.
road.cc test report
Make and model: The Stick The Sprinter Stick
Size tested: n/a
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
According to "the Stick" this can:
Accelerates Recovery Time
Reduces Muscle Soreness, Stiffness & Pain
Prepares Muscle for Rigors of Activity
Flushes Muscle from Rigors of Activity
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes, absolutely
Would you recommend the product to a friend? All of them!
About the tester
I usually ride: Boardman Pro C My best bike is: Canyon \"Grand Canyon\" Ergon24 team issue
I've been riding for: 5-10 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Semi pro
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, mtb,