Nfld. & Labrador

St. John's team on a roll with self-massage device

A St. John's man has come up with a new take on the popular foam rollers you see in gyms and physiotherapy clinics, and you don't have to get on the floor to use it.

Ross O'Keefe came up for the idea for Nexxbar to deal with chronic neck pain

Ross O'Keefe says his product Nexxbar, is a revolution in foam rolling, and he's excited about its potential. (

A St. John's man has come up with a new take on the foam rollers you see in gyms and physiotherapy clinics, and Ross O'Keefe says one of its biggest selling points is you don't have to get on the floor to use it.

"This device gives you a mechanical advantage that never existed before, and you're using your own body for leverage," said O'Keefe, who developed Nexxbar along with physiotherapists Mike Shelley, Chris Cluett and Justin Whittle.

Work in the oilfields took a toll on O'Keefe's body, and it was trouble with his neck in particular that got him thinking about what he could do to get some relief.

An early prototype of the Nexxbar. (

"I had to think of some way I could access and massage or stretch different regions of my upper back and neck, and the idea came to me, I've got to find a way to do this with a strap and bar system."

He started with a belt wrapped around a baseball bat, and two years and one Kickstarter campaign later — the first orders for the finished product, the Nexxbar, were shipped from a manufacturing plant in Quebec on Friday.  

Designed to make foam rolling easier

Self-myofascial release — the practice of using your own body weight and an implement such as a foam roller or ball to relieve muscle tightness —  just wasn't working for O'Keefe. 

It often involves getting onto the floor and holding the body in positions that may be difficult for many users.

The Nexxbar team, from left to right, Michael Shelley, owner of Bodyworks Fitness and Physiotherapy, Proactive Physiotherapy CEO Chris Cluett, Nexxbar founder Ross O'Keefe and strength and conditioning coach Jon Chafe. (Submitted by Ross O'Keefe)

"It was one of those eureka moments when you realize, OK, [for] everything on the market you have to position your body between a stationary object, whether it be the wall or the floor," said O'Keefe.

"I thought to myself, 'Why not use your own body as leverage?' So that's how the strap and the bar system came together," said O'Keefe.

Gaining leverage

His sought the advice of fitness professionals and his business partner, physiotherapist Mike Shelley, to help develop the product, which uses a strap to provide leverage.

"With a lot of the devices on the market nowadays, if you're trying to self-massage your neck, you're actually using the muscles that you're trying to release because you're activating them to lift," Shelly said.

"So it makes it very difficult to release that particular muscle."

O'Keefe says the legs, neck and lower back are areas where Nexxbar shines. (

He said the strap system of the Nexxbar allows users to stay relaxed and target muscles much more efficiently.

Shelley said one of the biggest benefits for his physiotherapy clients is they can use it while sitting in a chair, rather than on the floor, which can be very challenging or completely impossible for people with mobility issues. 

Shelley said all the health professionals the team has met with are "beyond impressed" with the product.  

"They have a hard time believing that no one thought of putting a strap on the end of a bar before," he said. "You know something as simple as this just truly separates this from everything that's available on the market, no question."

With files from the St. John's Morning Show