A few days ago we were approached by a member of the MIH fan page on Facebook and were asked about the utility of massages. We decided to do a full blown article, to clear all doubts.
A massage, if performed properly, can be a very good way to let go of the tension in your muscles accumulate due to bad posture, mental stress and other factors. Many people swear by it as their favorite stressbuster, and many say that it is a useless perk. The question we need to ask, from a lifter’s point of view, is that does it aid muscle recovery?
Once you’ve exercised, your muscles begin to recover from the trauma the workout puts them through, and once they have fully recovered, grow that slight bit more to make sure that they are strong enough to lift the same as last time. This is the basic principle of recovery and progressive overload, when filtered down to bare minimum. We must determine whether a deep tissue massage (or otherwise) accelerate the process of recovery or not.
Three common massage techniques include:
· A stroking technique in which the heels and palms of the hands glide over the part to be massaged;
· Holding the affected tissue between the thumb and forefinger while you roll, lift and twist it; and
· Cupping-type action. Deep friction massage involves massaging the site of a lesion.
Quite a few studies have been performed to verify the properties of a proper massage in terms of aiding muscle recovery. For example,
· In a study from the University of Mississippi, Medical Center, 40 untrained female subjects performed biceps curls until they fatigued. In untrained subjects, this will definitely cause soreness. Then they were treated in one of three ways: upper-body exercise (arm cycling), massage or electrical stimulation immediately after exercise and 24 hours later. A control group wasn’t treated. Researchers found that each of the four groups rated their soreness the same. Neither massage nor exercise decreased muscle soreness.
· A recently published study from Laurier University in Canada found that massage had no effect on blood flow in the limbs.
From a general point of view, though, massage can facilitate moving the swelling out of your tissues. It relaxes tight muscle groups, working to bring the body back into balance and thus helping protect against overuse injuries. It can also help prevent sticking points in the muscle tissue and the tissue that surrounds muscles. These can build up and limit your range of motion; keeping them from forming helps you move fluidly and perform at your best.
A lot of people, some even successful professional bodybuilders, advocate massages. However, this is their personal opinion and is based in experiences which weren’t observed satisfactorily and have no roots in science. Thus, we ignore such opinions.
If we purely consider it as a means to recover and grow faster, there is no conclusive data that shows its effectiveness. By all means, go ahead and get one if it makes you feel good, but as far as muscle growth is concerned, massages aren’t particularly useful, if we consider the observations and results at hand.
Eat right, train hard, and stay strong!