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Athletes and coaches agree - it makes you feel good

Jon Gestl explains how massage can aid training, performance and recovery from injury

Ask a coach or athlete their reason for getting a massage, and you are likely to hear "because it feels good." We all know that a massage can relieve stress, help to make sore muscles feel better and even reduce anxiety, but can it help an athlete achieve their fitness goals?


In all types of massage, the therapist has specific aims in mind, and in sport, we focus on the individual needs of the athlete. With the ever-growing number of people taking part in sport, combined with the increasing competitiveness and intensity of physical exercise, the demand for sports massage is also increasing and becoming more and more recognised as a skill that may aid recovery and enhance performance.

Research shows that the massage you get to relieve stress can also have a positive effect on your muscle-building capabilities and fitness level.

  1. Massage improves circulation and general nutrition of muscles. This appears to be the most valuable fitness-related benefit. Massage is accompanied or followed by an increasing interchange of substances between the blood and the tissue cells, which increases tissue metabolism. After a muscle is exercised, vital nutrients must be supplied for it to increase in size. Massage maximizes the supply of nutrients and oxygen through increased blood flow, which helps the body rebuild itself
  2. Massage improves the range of motion and muscle flexibility. Providing an increase in power and performance, helps you work efficiently and with proper intensity to facilitate the body's muscle-building response
  3. Massage helps to shorten recovery time between workouts. Waste products such as lactic and carbonic acid build-up in muscles after exercise. Increased circulation to these muscles helps to eliminate toxic debris and shorten recovery time
  4. Massage can help prevent the over-training. Massage has a relaxing effect on the muscles, as well as a sedative effect on the nervous system. This can prevent over-training syndrome, which has a limiting effect on muscle building
  5. Massage may aid in fat loss. According to some research, massage may burst the fat capsule in subcutaneous tissue so that the fat exudes and becomes absorbed. In this way, combined with proper nutrition, massage may help in weight loss
  6. Massage helps prevent and even heal injuries. By stretching connective tissue, massage improves circulation to help prevent or break down adhesions. Massage also influences the excretion of certain fluids (nitrogen, phosphorus, sulphur) necessary for tissue repair

Sports massage does have some aims in common with other forms of massage, and it is especially important to have a thorough understanding of anatomy and physiology, in particular, the muscular and skeletal systems. By understanding these systems and the effects of exercise, we may also appreciate how massage may benefit the sports person and becomes an integral part of the athlete's training programme.

While a massage will not build muscle directly, it helps to facilitate the body's rebuilding phase following a workout and influences muscular growth. Getting a massage is just as important as regular workouts and supportive nutrition for a comprehensive fitness program. Great news for those of us who thought building a great body was all hard work!

Article Reference

This article first appeared in:

  • GESTL, J. (2004) Athletes and coaches agree - it makes you feel good. Brian Mackenzie's Successful Coaching, (ISSN 1745-7513/ 12 / May), p. 6-7

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • GESTL, J. (2004) Athletes and coaches agree - it makes you feel good [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

About the Author

Jon Gestl is a personal fitness trainer and instructor in Chicago specializing in in-home and in-office fitness training. He is a United States National Aerobic Champion silver and bronze medallist.