Massage is one often overlooked way of improving your results in the gym. While the therapeutic effects of massage is still an active field of research and very little is known about how massage works, there is an increasing amount of evidence suggesting a wide range of benefits of massage for weightlifters from managing pain to improving sleep.
These include pain management, improved sleep, and faster recovery. All that can make a big difference if take your training in the gym seriously or just have a stressful life.
It is worth noting that there is an overwhelming amount of anecdotal evidence when it comes to speeding up muscle recovery and I can personally attest to that.
Below I have listed several benefits of massage for weightlifters. However, you don’t necessarily have to lift weights to enjoy these benefits.
Weightlifters, just like all other athletes, should put good effort into increasing (or retaining) their flexibility ensuring a good range of motion and preventing injuries.
Lifting heavy weights is likely to lead to tight muscle tissue over time, simply due to the intensity of the activity. Lifting causes damage to your muscle tissue on a microscopic level which the body responds to by making the tissue stronger and denser to better support the resistance.
This is all good and part of the recovery process, but it also slightly increases the risk of that tissue to bundle up together and create what is known as muscle adhesions.
Over time this can build up and eventually cause tightness and inflexibility. Injuries and scar tissue will make it even worse.
By applying the right pressure and motion during a massage, the muscle fibers in your body are being stretched slightly which increases their flexibility and can help “iron out” those muscle adhesions.
I have dealt with tight thighs for years after I had an injury to both my legs. Using a percussion massager and doing yoga regularly seems to be the only way to help manage it, and if I don’t there will be hell to pay 1-2 days after a heavy squat session.
Speeds Up Muscle Recovery
As I mentioned above, there is an overwhelming amount of anecdotal evidence to suggest that massage for weightlifters helps speed up recovery. For me, it can make a big difference on my thighs.
When looking to scientific studies it becomes less clear. According to a meta-analysis (an analysis of existing scientific studies and evidence), massage could help alleviate delay-onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
Reduced Soreness and Tension
Have you ever experienced a sore neck and back?
Who am I kidding, of course, you have!
The many stressors of our daily life and the less optimal positions we often put our body in creates a lot of tension and soreness.
A neck and back massage is, in my opinion, one of the best ways to feel relief and relax. Especially if you had s stressful day/week.
I mean, just imagine how good and relaxing it feels when someone massages your neck after a long day.
Feeling good is of course not the only thing that is positive about alleviating your sore neck.
The buildup of tension can interfere with your training and a lot of other things in your everyday life. It can cause uncomfortableness and pain in your muscles and in more severe cases it can lead to headaches and migraines.
That is not compatible with lifting heavy weights, and it is devastating if you are supposed to sustain many hours of work and focus.
Being able to relax is a crucial part of your recovery and you can help achieve that by massaging sore and tight muscles.
Help Reverse Muscular Imbalances
Injuries and sore muscles aside, the heavy emphasis on training certain muscle groups which is common among many is bound to create an imbalance at some point.
Muscles are supposed to work together e.g. some muscles work in pairs where one will deal with the flexion of a limb while other the extension. If one is more dominant than the other, the natural position of that limb will likely be a flexed or overextended.
It is an issue that most people don’t take seriously until they have a big problem…
Take the most common issue as an example, which is chest and biceps, if you put a lot of effort into developing your chest and biceps and less into the opposing (“antagonistic”) muscles on the back (and maybe also triceps), then you will have a well-developed and strong chest and biceps while your back is lacking.
This creates an imbalance resulting in the shoulders rounding forwards and inwards as they are being pulled one direction with less counter pulling them the opposite way,
I am sure you have seen someone with this problem in the gym…
It doesn’t help that we spend many hours every day hunching over mobile devices and computers which also leads to imbalances. The poor posture that normally follows can lead to a long list of health issues in the long run.
Massage for weightlifters is a great way to remedy those tight muscles and should be one among several things you do to improve your posture.
I have had a terrible posture myself and had to learn the hard way. It was not until I injured my shoulders that I cared about improving my posture.
Improved Blood Circulation and Recovery
Another benefit of regular massages is increased blood circulation.
The pressure applied to the muscle tissue by the massaging movement will literally push more blood through tiny blood vessels or even congested areas, while also flushing out lactic acid and other metabolic waste products.
This is like a double whammy for recovery because you are both removing the “trash” while the healthy blood flow brings nutrients and oxygen.
By massaging sore muscle tissue, you can help relax the muscle and increase blood circulation which promotes the efficient flow of oxygen and nutrients – both are vital for recovery.
A massage can potentially alleviate pain through several means. The relaxation and stretching of tight and sore muscles could mean less pain.
Also, massage for weightlifters has been shown to lower stress and anxiety perhaps due to a combination of a reduction in cortisol and increases in the two neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine. While these brain chemicals have many functions, they are also known to make you feel good which could inhibit pain.
Interestingly enough, a common reaction to experiencing pain is rubbing and massaging the area where the pain is felt.
Practically no one would argue against the fact that being relaxed would help you fall asleep, and a massage can be very relaxing.
Being less sore and having less pain should also help.
However, as I just mentioned above, massage has been shown to lower the stress hormone cortisol and increase the brain chemical serotonin. This regulation is particularly beneficial to sleep and sleep quality.
Quality sleep plays an important role in your overall performance and progress during your weightlifting sessions.
Furthermore, while sleeping, your body and muscle tissue are recovering and preparing your body and your mind for the challenges you will face the next day.
Percussion Massagers – A Cost-effective Alternative
Depending on location, the price of a massage can vary a lot. In most cases, it is going to be a costly matter.
Another alternative is to try out a handheld percussion massager. These are electronic devices that have become very popular. You have probably seen them before – they look like a repurposed power tool.
They are portable and cordless and work by simply delivering a lot of percussions (tapping movement) at a rapid speed. Surprisingly enough, this works really well and I have personally tried many different brands both cheap and expensive.
The machines you can get vary in build-quality, battery life, massage power, and extra add-ons, however, with a few exceptions, they all perform the main function well: the percussion massage.
Arguably the most well-known brand is called Theragun. Their massagers are well-crafted but also quite expensive, which is why I have put together a list of alternative options to the Theragun models that are cheaper.
My recommendation would be to check out the TimTam Power Massager which is a powerful massage for weightlifters at an affordable price.
If you are a serious weightlifter that competes or you just enjoy spending time at the gym to stay healthy and look great, getting massages regularly will help you improve your recovery, alleviate sore muscles, improve the flexibility, help relax your body and mind, and prepare you for good night sleep.
You have a lot to gain, and I would encourage you to consider whether a percussion massager could be a solution for you.
About The Author
Marcus runs the site Strengthery where he likes to write about weight training and weight loss, and share his many mistakes so other people can learn from them. He is also a massage junkie