The physical effects of massage therapy can greatly improve a weightlifter's health and lifestyle by alleviating pain and reducing potential for injury in several ways. The ultimate impact of sports massage therapy is to increase the health of the body's internal tissues by improving circulation of blood and nutrients, while simultaneously removing toxins. This is accomplished by varying type of massage stroke use.
Massage therapy can improve flexibility. For a lifter to achieve optimal performance, he or she must exhibit a high degree of flexibility. Since massage therapy stretches the muscle fibers, flexibility is promoted and maintained. High volume or intensity training cycles and competition usually lead to increased muscle tension. The effects here may include disturbances of collagen scar tissue and development of various adhesions where the muscle, fascia, and other tissues stubbornly stick together. If this happens you will experience a reduction in overall flexibility and an increased chance of injury.
Massage therapy improves circulation, and with better circulation the lifter can breathe easier and move more smoothly. Heavy training cycles causes microscopic damage (micro-trauma) to the muscle and fascial tissue. That damage must be repaired via increased blood flow (i.e., nourishment). Since massage helps the blood flow, the circulation of the lifter will be improved and this will enhance his or her performance levels. This will have a great impact on lymphatic and blood circulation, influencing waste removal from these areas, as well as food and oxygen supply to these areas. All of this leads to faster recovery and an earlier return to effective training.
Tight muscles are also problematic in the opposite direction of blood flow. If tight muscles slow down blood flow to the muscles, then they also slow down the removal of metabolites. Remember it is in the recovery phase of training that strength adaptation occurs. Nutrients gained via adequate nutrition are transported in the blood to rebuild broken-down tissues and make them stronger. If the muscles are tight, then that will reduce that blood flow during the recovery phase. The result will be less than adequate progress.
Massage alleviates muscular pain, whether caused by overwork or injury. If an athlete is in pain, he or she will not be able to approach maximum poundages. Chronic or acute pain unavoidably psyches out the lifter. The less pain that is felt, the better the lifter will perform. Pain is a signal that something is wrong, so that will have to be dealt with. Massage will often be part of the required therapy.
As we already know, sleep is another big part of the recovery process. Massage therapy promotes better sleep patterns. Massage can actually improve the quantity and quality of sleep. By getting more and deeper sleep, the athlete will be better able to perform at his or her best. The lifter who goes to bed in a high-tension state will have difficulty getting to sleep and may often wake during the night or wake too early. All of this compromises recovery. Massage will reduce some of that tension and promote deeper and longer sleep. Volume and intensity are not just important in your training. They apply to sleep parameters as well.
Massage therapy increases muscle relaxation levels. Many lifters exhibit that hard driving type-A personality where relaxing is difficult. In those situations stress can get the better of the lifter. With regular massage, such a lifter can learn to relax body and mind and perhaps improve his performances.
By having a deep tissue massage at least once per week, lifters can keep their muscles healthy, improve their flexibility, maintain a state of relaxation and thus have a better sleep cycle. It is worth considering if you are having problems recovering from workouts. Massage therapy can also help to identify potential trouble spots before they progress into something more serious. A skilled touch may reveal those soft tissue micro-injuries. So, treat yourself to a massage and your body and your performance may thank you for it.