5 Benefits of Massage Therapy for Muscle Growth in Weightlifting
1. Improve flexibility
For every lift you do in the gym (bicep curls, shoulder press, squats, etc.), you should always use a full range of motion. It’s the best way to build muscle, strength, and endurance, and avoid developing an injury. But you need flexibility to do this.
Static stretching and foam rolling (also called self-myofascial release) can lengthen muscles and release knots and adhesions that limit flexibility. I include stretching recommendations in all my plays. Massage therapy can help with flexibility, too.
In a recent study published in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, researchers found that three minutes of massage therapy helped improve flexibility in tight hamstrings. The same technique can be used to improve flexibility for other muscles.
“This technique may prove beneficial and effective for athletic trainers, massage therapists and physical therapists who are looking for a modality that quickly and efficiently helps restore flexibility to tight musculature,” says lead researcher Dr. Jeffrey Forman.
He’s not wrong but he’s also not very specific. Yes massage therapy helps as we’ve discussed but it’s actually specific techniques such as post isometric stretching, positional release and others that provide the improved flexibility not just ‘massage’ and stretching. Make sure your therapist knows what they are doing with regards to this.
2. Increase circulation
Your muscles grow after your workout in the gym is over. You grab a post-workout meal, hit your protein goal, and drink plenty of fluids. Your body starts rebuilding and repairing the muscle damage from your workout with increased blood flow.
Researchers at the University of Illinois wanted to find out if massage therapy could help increase circulation and speed recovery.
They were able to measure increases in blood flow for people who received massage therapy after a leg press workout, compared to people who did the same workout but didn’t get a massage.
The massage therapy group also reported a decrease in muscle soreness 90 minutes after a massage, while the exercise-only group still had muscle soreness 24 hours after.
All the yes. That’s predominantly why massage helps. Improving blood flow and squeezing blood into capillaries delivers white blood cells that encourage repair and flush out lactic acid.
They deliver mitochondria as previously mentioned. This is true in any sport not just weightlifting.
3. Reduce pain
I don’t recommend massive amounts of cardio to lose fat, build muscle, or complete a transformation. But think about this for a second.
How do you think you would feel after swimming 2.4-miles (3.86 km), cycling 112-miles (180.25 km), and running 26.2-miles (42.16 km) run?
Even for people who train to compete in the Ironman Triathlon feel pretty trashed afterwards. bit of an understatement!
It’s one reason researchers selected this group to study the benefits of massage therapy for pain management.
After completing this grueling endurance event, participants typically experience muscle pain and inflammation caused by activity overload, depleted glycogen levels, and an increase in lactic acid.
It’s similar to what happens to your muscles on a high-volume, heavy lifting day.
Following the Ironman event, researchers evaluated two groups of people. One received no intervention for pain management post race. The other group received massage therapy, particularly targeted to treat pain and fatigue in the quads.
The result: “Massage therapy was more effective than no intervention on the post-race recovery from pain and perceived fatigue in long-distance triathlon athletes,” says lead researcher Guilherme Nunes.
If you’re feeling muscle pain and tightness after a workout, massage therapy can help. He’s kind of repeating himself but pain WILL be reduced as the inflammation is reduced, the area is repairing quicker and thus the pain levels drop.
4. Improve Sleep
When one of my clients isn’t making progress, I start looking at all the different variables that might be getting in the way.
The cause is usually linked to their workouts, nutrition, hydration, or stress.
But there’s another variable that comes up frequently that can prevent you from making gains…Lack of sleep.
When you’re sleeping, your body releases human growth hormone to help repair and rebuild muscle damage after working out using available protein.
If you’re not getting at least 7 hours of sleep a night, you’re missing out on some of those benefits.
Fortunately, research shows that massage therapy can improve sleep quality and duration, to help you recover after working out.
5. Speed recovery
Hit a workout hard, and you’re probably going to experience delayed onset muscle soreness, typically 1 to 3 days after your workout.
It’s a sign the muscles you trained have experienced the kind of muscle damage needed to promote growth. If you’re too sore after a workout, it might interfere with your next training session.
Here’s another reason to book a massage therapy session. It helps speed recovery and heal damaged muscles, says researcher Pornratshanee Weerapong.
“Massage can produce mechanical pressure, which is expected to increase muscle compliance resulting in increased range of joint motion. As well as decreased passive stiffness and decreased active stiffness (biomechanical mechanisms),”
“Mechanical pressure might help to increase blood flow by increasing the arteriolar pressure, as well as increasing muscle temperature from rubbing.
”If you don’t want to spend the money on a massage 1 to 3 times a week, at least use a foam roller after training to help speed recovery and manage delayed onset muscle soreness.
You can see the point he’s trying to make and it’s a good one. What he doesn’t point out is that soft tissue therapy is way more than just massage. It’s a variety of techniques to help weightlifters and other athletes to keep muscles in the best condition. It can help them repair after exercise more quickly and to treat and address injuries and issues.
It can be used as a warm up to an event, even during an event to reduce lactic acid and to keep muscles warm for the next lift.
Post event to bring down adrenalin levels and to provide an assisted stretch. Basically there is way more to it than just massage.