Here’s How Sports Massage Can Make You Perform Better

by Steven Holinshead

“Everybody who trains for a sport either at amateur level or professional level should be having a regular sports massage!” Jake Mackenzie, BJJ world no 4.

Having spent well over a decade treating, training and rehabilitating injuries some serious, some not so serious, from an ACL reconstruction to serious spinal injuries, one thing is paramount in the pursuit of health and performance, a full holistic approach is beneficial to all participants of sport and exercise in general.

What do I mean by this?

Well, there are 7 key abilities to sports performance according to Tudor Bompa (PhD) in his book on periodisation. These are balance, endurance, speed, power, agility, flexibility, and strength and are all accomplished by dedication and hard work along with good genetics.

To achieve all the above, certain lifestyle factors have to be put in place these are: optimal recovery, good nutrition, the right strength and conditioning programme, good hydration and plenty of rest.

Sports massage when done right can assist in all of the above; it can improve your recovery by speeding up the metabolic effects in a given muscle. This is done through several techniques that remove the waste products that build up through your high intensity training in your conditioning programme.

This not only removes and improves the lymphatic system but can also relax the nervous system, allowing a reduction in cortisol/adrenaline (your stress hormones), this then allows you to switch from your fight and flight system into your relaxing parasympathetic system which improves digestion, elimination and detoxification pathways.

Another great reason for having a good sports massage is to work on your flexibility, by using techniques such as muscle energy technique which tricks your nervous system and results in elongation of the muscle fibres. This is achieved through re-setting of the muscle spindles (a muscle within a muscle) and leads to improved posture, and greater flexibility which can only improve performance.

Power is something that is needed in all sports some more than others, but requires a big eccentric component, (a lengthening of a muscle or muscles under tension), Dr Gary Gray a physical therapist from Michigan in the United States talks about priming the muscle before exploding into a given movement.

Let me give you an example, If there is a severe shortening of a single muscle, let’s use the peroneus longus and brevis (muscles found in your calf). Their main role is to roll the foot during deceleration, either in walking, running or in jumping. If these muscles are tight, there will not be enough inversion (supination) at the ankle joint to allow you to push off with your big toe as the ankle joint moves into eversion (pronation), this dysfunction has profound effects in the way we distribute our force as we land.

Sports massage can aid in improving these movement patterns by mobilising your joints to allow better mechanics to stop unwanted movement further up the body.

Finally sports massage can highlight all muscle/joint imbalances that might exist, this allows the therapist to construct a rehabilitation programme, which should work on posture, stability, and strength and power in that order allowing the patient and client to achieve their goals and most of all remain injury free.

If you want to remain injury free, whether you train or not, then book a sports massage with Steven today. Don’t wait until you’re in pain… trust us, prevention is better than cure!

Steven Hollinshead is a sports therapist, personal trainer, and kinsiologist working at Urban Kings Gym on a Tuesday and Thursday morning.

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