I recently came across this review article: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphys.2018.00403/full
This seemed like a great chance for me to update my thoughts a bit, so I looked into it further. It seems that, for most people, massage is effective at reducing fatigue and soreness beyond just resting. And it worked better than the other methods that were reviewed as well. That wasn’t my experience at all, so I wanted to reconcile these two observations.
Going a bit deeper, I saw that the massages included in the review article were done immediately after training while mine was done on a rest day. This is a pretty big difference in my opinion. If you look at the proposed mechanisms, it would make sense that closer to the training session would be more beneficial. Reducing intracellular swelling, improving blood flow / nutrient / byproduct transport would all seem to be more effective when done closer to that post workout time.
So it seems like we were testing two different things. I was doing massage on an off day. The intracellular swelling had already been established by then. Had I been doing it immediately after training the results may have been different. By 24hrs post workout, your body will already have it’s recovery response in full swing, so in that way, it makes sense that massage would do little other than support bloodflow. That’s certainly positive, but likely not very meaningful.
Another possibility is that I’m an outlier. They happen. Massage was effective for most people but certainly not all people. While it’s possible that I am one of those people,I don’t have any information that suggests it directly. And ultimately I think it’s unimportant.
So what are my thoughts on it now?
If you can get a massage very closely after a training session, go for it. But also monitor your results. See if you respond to it and how much. It’s likely that you will, but still not something you should take for granted. If you can’t get massage immediately after training, then it would probably be better to go for something else like compression garments.
As for me personally, I am not able to schedule a massage post training for a variety of reasons. And I’ve tried it the other way and found it ineffective. Compression may be something to try in the future though because it would be easier to do consistently.
Quick caveat on why I wrote this…
I’m a big proponent of self experimentation in a systematic way so you know what works for you and what doesn’t. That experimentation can’t be random. It must be informed by something. Exercise Science is a great way to inform the directions in your own training experiments (although certainly not the only way). In this case, there was a seeming contradiction in a self-experiment that I wrote about and a review article. This happens sometimes and it’s important to know what to do with that. Had my own test been testing immediately-post-training-massage and found no results, I would have accepted that information with regard to my own training. My recommendations for my athletes (absent other more specific data on them individually) would have been more in line with the review article.
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About the Author:
||About the Author
Mike Tuchscherer is the owner and head coach at RTS. He has been powerlifting since 2001 and since has traveled all over the world for competitions. In 2009, he was the first man from USA powerlifting to win a gold medal at the World Games – the highest possible achievement in powerlifting. He has coached over a dozen competitors at the world championships, a score of national champions, and multiple world record holders.