I am pretty sure whoever first said a massage was a luxury did not have a full-time job, full-time family, and an exercise routine. I often say that for me, a massage is a necessity to get back to balance again, and stay healthy…caused as luck would have it, there is a lot of data that proves my self-discovery! Working out and pushing yourself in the gym, with ample recovery time after, is amazing for your health—except when everything else in life adds up as well, and your tissues and muscles end up sore and tight from overdoing it!
Muscle recovery is so important after exercise soreness happens, but how do you speed up the recovery process? Enter massage therapy. Massage is an awesome way to boost recovery after a tough workout! There are lots of massage benefits, especially for recovery and soreness.
In this post, we’ll talk about:
- How Massages Work to Help Your Muscles
- 5 Massage Benefits You Need to Know About
- How to Massage Yourself at Home (+ the tool you’ll want)
- Other Ways to Boost Muscle Recovery
HOW CAN A MASSAGE HELP YOUR OVERALL HEALTH?
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A massage stimulates blood circulation, which helps bring freshly oxygenated blood to different areas of your body. The blood that’s rich with oxygen helps feed tissues and wash away toxic waste in your muscles. After exercise, lactic acid builds up in your muscles and causes soreness, but massage can help stimulate blood flow to reduce that buildup!
Massages also can decrease inflammation. Micro-tears in your muscles causes inflammation after substances called cytokines are released into the body. Massages help to stop those chemicals from being released, which decreases inflammation more rapidly. When inflammation is eased, so are pain and soreness!
MASSAGE BENEFITS THAT WILL IMPROVE YOUR LIFE
There are so many incredible massage benefits. Today, let’s go over four benefits that are specific to stress, muscles, and exercise recovery!
If you utilize massage therapy, here are 4 massage benefits you should be as excited about as I am!
- COUNTERACTS BAD POSTURE AND SORENESS FROM SITTING ALL DAY
We spend so much time forward-oriented, whether it’s looking at screens, cooking, texting, watching TV, or sitting at a desk all day. This leads to lots of stress, tension, and soreness in your neck, shoulders, and back! Massage can counteract the damage from sitting or having poor posture for extended periods of time! Because of constant forward-orientation, I also recommend doing chest opening stretches daily, like placing one hand on each side of a doorway and pushing your chest forward until you feel a great chest stretch and release your back muscles to rest.
- RELIEVES PAIN
Massage therapy effectively relieves pain and helps you manage both acute and chronic pain. As a holistic way to relieve pain, massage relies on stimulating muscles and washing away lactic acid buildup to relieve inflammation. For athletes who consistently face muscle strain and soreness, massage is an effective alternative to pain medicine. 
- HELPS PREVENT FUTURE INJURIES DURING EXERCISE
Physical activity and exercise are so important to your overall health and wellness. For many athletes and people in general, doing more intense exercise helps increase muscle mass outcomes. Unfortunately, doing an intense workout can also end up causing injuries or even just muscle fatigue and soreness. Massage can actually improve consistent athletic performance by reducing soreness and helping to prevent injuries. For example, you’re less likely to severely injure a muscle if you consistently relieve inflammation and release lactic acid buildup.
Massage has the following incredible benefits for exercise and athletic performance:
- Helps support muscle tone
- Boosts relaxation
- Relieves tension in your muscles
- Increases your range of motion
- Relieves muscle tightness
- Supports muscle recovery
- Decreases Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)
- Reduces swelling and inflammation
- Helps prevent injuries
- BOOST MUSCLE RECOVERY AFTER INTENSE WORKOUTS
Massage helps boost muscle recovery after intense workouts. Like some of the other benefits we’ve talked about, this is a powerful perk of massage! Other common treatments for sore muscles, like chemical creams, or oral medicines, reduce inflammation, but can also block muscle repair, growth, and recovery. On the other hand, massage reduces inflammation to help you feel better, all while actually boosting muscle recovery and healing.
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OTHER KEY WAYS TO BOOST MUSCLE RECOVERY
Okay, so now you understand the amazing massage benefits, you know how worthwhile it is to integrate massage into your workout routine to boost muscle recovery! But what other ways are there to boost muscle recovery? Here are some tips.
- Make sure you’re staying hydrated before, during, and after your workout—getting enough water and electrolytes is essential to keeping your muscles healthy!
- Rest and take breaks if you’re going to be doing a long workout.
- Stretch before and after working out.
- Recover properly! Don’t do intense workouts every day! You can’t do extreme workouts every single day without taking a huge toll on your body. A better way is to do 1-2 intense workouts per week and rest or do gentler workouts the other days!
- Try out alternative ways of exercising to utilize different muscle groups and movements, like yoga or rebounding!
- Make sure that you’re eating a well-balanced diet and getting all of the nutrients you need, especially magnesium and calcium.
- Get enough Vitamin D to support bone health and muscle recovery!
- Massage is an absolutely amazing way to boost muscle recovery and help prevent future injuries. It corrects muscle strain, muscle tension, and even the effects of stress or poor posture!
There are so many incredible massage benefits for your overall health, but especially for muscle recovery. Have you ever tried massage for your muscles after working out? If you’re ready to invest in an impactful tool like the HyperVolt, it’ll revolutionize the way you deal with pain and recovery after workouts! Send us a message to order yours today!
Whether you experience an occasional knot in the shoulder or suffer from ongoing muscle soreness, the benefits of massage run deeper than simply loosening up those tight spots. You’ll indeed feel relief from the tightness and throbbing in your lower back, but you’ll also be giving your body a well-deserved dose of care and attention.
A skilled therapist can tailor a massage to suit your needs, so be sure to communicate what brought you in for a session in the first place. If you’re not looking to spend a fortune (or don’t love the idea of a stranger touching you), you can opt for a hydromassage or a few minutes in a massage chair.
Either way, it’s important to pay attention to what muscles are bothering you, so you can target them and make the most of your massage. Here five bonuses that treating your body to some TLC can provide:
- HEADACHE MANAGEMENT
According to Mayo Clinic, massages can help relieve the discomfort of headaches, which is thrilling news for those who struggle with this recurring medical condition. If you’re looking for a way to support your current headache regimen, try a few massage sessions to see if your pain starts to ease up.
- SORE MUSCLE RELIEF
It’s no surprise that gym-goers can occasionally experience sore muscles after hitting the treadmill or lifting weights, but if a long soak in a warm bath isn’t doing the trick, it’s time to try something new. A study on massage therapy published by Science Translational Medicine found that participants who received a massage experienced reduced inflammation in their muscles. This means your body will recover faster after exercising and you’ll spend less time feeling somewhat uncomfortable.
- REDUCED STRESS
Managing stress in healthy ways is an important part of your overall well-being, and one of the most documented benefits of massage is that it can actually reduce stress. After a massage, the stress hormone (known as cortisol) decreases, while the feel-good hormones (serotonin and dopamine) get a boost, explains Prevention magazine. Not only will your muscles loosen up, but you’ll also feel the mental benefits of massage.
- IMPROVED SLEEP
Have you ever seen a cat sleep soundly in front of a fireplace and wish that could be you? Cue, massage. According to the National Sleep Foundation, getting a massage releases the neurotransmitters needed for a night of solid shut-eye. Who knows? You may even succumb to a quick snooze during the session.
- SUPPORT FOR YOUR WORKOUTS
You deserve a reward for the work you’ve been putting in at the gym. Of course, feeling healthier and having more energy is a reward in itself — but it’s not as easy to savor when you’re experiencing some discomfort. Fortunately, you don’t have to live with the soreness that can result from a tough workout. As Shape magazine notes, a sports massage “can reduce muscle tension and pain, lower blood pressure, increase blood circulation and lymph flow, improve flexibility and range of motion and improve muscle recovery time.”
Remember, enjoying the benefits of massage doesn’t mean you have to save up or seek out a professional masseuse. You can reap the same benefits from a chair massage or a hydromassage, a perk Planet Fitness offers for free to their Black Card members. What better time or place to give your body a well-deserved break than at the gym following a workout?
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What Is Active Stretching and Its Benefits?
Active stretching is where you take a muscle group you want to stretch and contract its opposite muscle group without using external support to help you stretch.
For example, if you want to stretch your hamstrings, you lie on the floor and raise one leg as high as you can until you feel a stretch. You contract your quadriceps (thighs) for a few seconds, relax the contraction, and lower your leg. Then you repeat this process a few times.
Some sources say that active stretching is more than just increasing flexibility; it’s a way to warm up and prepare your muscles for whatever activity you are going to do. However, what does the scientific evidence say about active stretching and athletic performance?
Active stretching vs. static stretching
First, let’s clear up some terms to avoid confusion. Active stretching is a type of static stretching while static stretching is a broad term that includes all forms of stretching where you hold a stretch in a fixed position for a while. Since active stretching is under the umbrella of static stretching, the guidelines for static stretching could be applied to the former.
Active stretching vs. passive stretching
Unlike passive stretching, active stretching does not need external forces to increase the range of motion. Instead, when you “actively” contract a muscle group, you “relax” the opposite muscle group which allows more range of motion. This idea is based on reciprocal inhibition, where the agonists are under voluntary contraction, and the antagonists have reduced neural activity which allows the muscles to stretch further.
However, one Brazilian study in 2011 found that there are hardly any differences in knee extension flexibility between active and passive stretching among a group of 60 men.
Active stretching exercise examples
Supine hamstrings stretch with quadriceps contraction
Lie on the floor on your back with both legs extended toward the air with your knees slightly bent. Flex your toes toward your face. Lower one of your legs toward the ground while keeping the other leg in the same position by contracting your quadriceps.
Stop lowering when you feel a stretch in the opposite hamstrings. Hold this position for about 10 to 15 seconds, and then raise your leg back to its starting position. Repeat this exercise 5 to 6 times on each leg. You may perform 2 to 3 sets.
Standing quadriceps stretch with hamstrings contraction
Stand on one leg and flex one of your knees so that your foot is close to your buttocks. Contract your hamstrings and glute with a slight hip extension to increase the stretch if needed. Hold this position for 10 to 15 seconds and bring your leg down to a standing position. Repeat the stretch on the second leg and perform 2 to 3 sets.
Lunge hip flexor stretching with glute contraction
Stand with one foot on top of a 2- to 3-foot high box or step, and lean your weight toward the front foot. Contract your glutes to increase the stretch in your hip flexors for 10 to 15 seconds. Then shift your weight back to the starting position and repeat the stretch on the opposite side. Repeat the stretch for 2 to 3 sets.
You may include stretching your lower back turning your torso toward the flexed hip as you hold the stretch.
Triceps stretch with biceps contraction
Raise your right arm over your head and flex your right arm to touch your right hand to the back of your neck. You should feel a slight contraction in your right biceps. Contract your biceps to increase the stretch of your triceps. Hold the stretch for 10 to 15 seconds and repeat the stretch on the opposite arm. Repeat the stretch for 2 to 3 sets.
Biceps stretch with triceps contraction
Extend your right arm to your side with your right palm facing away from your body. Contract your triceps as you maintain the stretch for 10 to 15 seconds. Tilt your head to your left to increase the stretch if needed. Repeat the stretch on the opposite side, and repeat it for 2 to 3 sets.
Although the literature offers mixed results, the weight of the current evidence leans toward active stretching as one intervention to minimize muscle atrophy. This could be beneficial for those who are bedridden or recovering from an injury.
More recent research, however, found contradicting evidence to the preview review, like one randomized-controlled trial in Japan in 2015. The researchers compared the effects of passive stretching and active stretching on hamstrings flexibility—with a control group. A total of 54 subjects were randomly selected for the passive, active, or control group with an equal distribution of nine men and nine women.
In the experimental groups, they laid on their back and bent their hips and knees at about 90 degrees as their starting position. They gradually extended their knee until they started to feel a stretch in the hamstrings.
In the passive stretching group, a researcher extended the knee further to a tolerable stretch.
In the active stretching group, the subjects extended their own knee by contracting their quadriceps.
In both groups, the stretch was held for 10 seconds,cause and flexed the knee slowly for 10 seconds. They repeated the exercise for 3 sets. The control group did not stretch.
While both experimental groups had improved flexibility and the control group hardly had any increase, the researchers measured the results and found that the passive stretching gained more than double the amount of knee flexion (+15.8 degrees) than the active stretching group (+7.0 degrees).
The drawbacks of this research include having young, healthy subjects in their twenties, so we don’t know if this study can be applied to older populations. Future studies should also compare different stretch times.