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Bodybuilder Massage: Best Massage for Weight Lifters
Question:

I’ve been lifting weights for awhile and I recently got into bodybuilding competitions with the encouragement of a couple of guys at the gym. I had my first show a couple weeks ago, and while I didn’t do as well as I would’ve liked, I guess I did okay for my first time out. I really feel like I’m hitting a wall, though. My gains have slowed and I’m not recovering as fast as I’d like. So backstage at the show, I heard a couple guys talking about how they considered massage their secret weapon. What’s the best massage for weight lifters and bodybuilders?

Answer:

Massage has long been part of the training regimen for serious bodybuilders. Those guys may have believed massage was their secret weapon, but it’s certainly an open and well-known secret. Many top professional bodybuilders swear by it.[1]

Regular massage therapy can improve your range of motion and increase your muscle tone and flexibility – all key for bodybuilding. It also reduces your recovery time by increasing circulation to promote healing.[2] In fact, a study published in the Journal of Sports Sciences demonstrated that sports massage after intensive exercise improved exercise performance and recovery rate in a group of male bodybuilders.[3]

Sports massage is a faster-paced massage that combines techniques from Swedish and deep-tissue massage to help promote healing and prevent injury. Professional bodybuilders frequently go for deep-tissue massage or sports massage at least once a week. Closer to a show, they may book as many as two or three sessions a week to loosen up bound tissue and help with growth.[4]

However, it’s important to note that scientific evidence of the effectiveness of massage for bodybuilders and athletes generally is conflicting at best. One review published in the North American Journal of Sports Physical Therapy concluded that research evidence generally failed to demonstrate that massage therapy was effective either at improving performance or aiding in recovery.[5]

Of course, just because there isn’t any evidence yet doesn’t mean it can’t help. If you’re curious about massage, the best thing to do is give it a try. Book a deep-tissue or sports massage once a week for four to six weeks. Discuss your training regimen and goals with your massage therapist so they can customize a treatment plan to benefit you the most. Assess your body and your goals after a month or so and decide for yourself if massage needs a regular spot in your training regimen.

References:

[1] Muscular Development: “Deep-Tissue Massage for Bodybuilders? Four Top Pros Have Their Say,” http://musculardevelopment.com/training/14879-deep-tissue-massage-for-bodybuilders-4-top-pros-have-their-say.html#

[2] Bodybuilding.com: “The Benefits of Massage Therapy,” https://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/lisa10.htm

[3] Journal of Sports Sciences: “Efficacy of massage on muscle soreness, perceived recovery, physiological restoration and physical performance in male bodybuilders,” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26334128

[4] Muscular Development: “Deep-Tissue Massage for Bodybuilders? Four Top Pros Have Their Say,” http://musculardevelopment.com/training/14879-deep-tissue-massage-for-bodybuilders-4-top-pros-have-their-say.html#

[5] North American Journal of Sports Physical Therapy: “The Role of Massage in Sports Performance and Rehabilitation: Current Evidence and Future Direction,” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2953308/

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