Sports Massage for Athletes

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A Little Bit of History on Sports Massage

Sports massage dates back to the ROMAN & GREEKS (AD 30 -200 ) the athletes of that time GLADIATORS were treated to massage regularly during training & fights.

As I used to be a competitive swimmer in my younger days (7 to 16 years old ). I still follow the trends & like to see all the changes that have come & gone over the years. SPORTS MASSAGE  has been used throughout the 20th century  by European athletes, USA discovered it later when a Finnish athlete Lasse Viren won the 5000 & 10000 at the 1972 Olympic games.

My early memories of massage was seeing top British swimmers in the late 1970’s receiving  massages before major competitions. But not as advanced as the SPORT MASSAGE of today.

Todays athletes have the advantage of modern science to help them work harder & keep there bodies in top shape for a lot more years (take ROGER FEDERER 35 years old & still at the top of his game ). With everything from diets, how to relax, sleep, massage & a fantastic management  team behind them.

Why Athletes Need a Sport Massage 

Lets look at the evidence MASSAGE 

  • Increases blood circulation
  • Relieves muscle tension
  • Reduce soreness
  • Body recovers faster
  • Improves flexibility
  • Reduces stress & anxiety
  • promotes better sleep
  • Prevents muscle cramps
  • Can train harder

MASSAGE also breaks down ADESIONS therapists call them KNOTS. From personal experience, you can feel the KNOTS moving & crunching when they are been massaged.

The faster the body recovers, the harder you can train. This should improve  performance, which in turn makes you faster.

The New York Times wrote a report from a test carried out on 11 volunteers that they made do vigorous  exercise on a exercise bike for 1 hour, then massaged one thigh for 10 minutes leaving the other to recover normally.  They found that massage reduced the production of compounds called cytokines, which play a critical role in inflammation. Massage also stimulated mitochondria, the tiny powerhouses inside cells that convert glucose into the energy essential for cell function and repair. “The bottom line is that there appears to be a suppression of pathways in inflammation and an increase in mitochondrial biogenesis,” helping the muscle adapt to the demands of increased exercise, said the senior author, Dr. Mark A. Tarnopolsky.  (find full report here : ) .

New Trends

One trend I have seen used by Michael Phelps

is the  CUPPING MASSAGE (This originates from China over 3000 years ago). This is were heat is placed inside a glass cup then put on the back &  suction is made between skin & the neck of the cup .It is meant to increase blood flow under the cup. Other USA athletes have also used this method, as well as a lot of celebrities GWYNETH PALTROW & JENNIFER ANISTON  both have been photographed with the tell tale red rings on there backs. I would like to add some pictures, but they all have copyrights on them ! just google search : swimmers or celebs cupping massage. JACKIE CHAN also used CUPPING THERAPY  in the movie THE KARATE KID.

YOGA FOR ATHLETES as been proven to help athletes with flexibility and balance. It is also good for meditation, greatly reducing stress levels.

TRADITIONAL THAI MASSAGE I have to put this one in ! lol it’s YOGA done for you. this will also greatly improve flexibility. For butterfly swimmers that’s really needed !

DEEP TISSUE MASSAGE & TRIGGER POINT Should also help the athletes recover after injury.

My Personal Experience  


In 2009 I entered the GREAT NORTH SWIM 1 mile in Lake Windermere in The Lake District. I had trained really hard, swimming over 200 lengths (25mtr pool ) every night for about 10 months before. I didn’t know my wife then & had never thought of massage at all. Race day I was prepared as well as I could be & swam the mile in just under 25 minutes. It was a fine hot day. All was fine until I removed my arms from my wetsuit, both top muscles of my arm & shoulder muscles went extremely tight, I wouldn’t say painful, I think sore is more appropriate word. This didn’t ease until 5 days after, but there was still a slight soreness in my left shoulder.

3 months later I met my wife & one evening she was sat behind me and started massaging my shoulders & arms (my first ever massage ) When she touched a certain part on my left shoulder it sent a pain down the arm & made my fingers clench. It took several massages over 6 months to stop this happening.

In 2011 I entered the GREAT NORTH SWIM again (I entered in 2010 but it was cancelled because of blue algae ).

This time I had been training a little less then the first time but had been getting regular massages at least once a week ( wife really spoilt me ! lol ). The water was a lot colder, but I still swam under 30 minutes. After the race I had no aches pains or soreness in any muscles. When we arrived home I had a aromatherapy massage & the next day my muscles felt as though I hadn’t swam at all !

Thanks for reading if you have any views or comments please feel free to add them below






  1. There are so many great reasons to have a sports massage. From experience, I know it certainly helps with recovery. I am glad you mentioned cupping. The first time I saw that, was like many people, during the Olympics. Not only did Michael Phelps have cup marks, but so did a lot of other athletes. Now I see people at the gym all the time with cup marks. Massage is such a great thing for your body, for all the reasons you outlined. This is a very thorough post, I will check back in the future for more!

    1. Hi Steve
      Thanks for the comment. I remember other athletes having the special cupping ring marks, but not names ! I follow mainly the swimmers, as an ex competitive swimmer. It’s something I’ve not been brave enough to try as yet. But my curiosity is starting to get the better of me ! lol Have you ever tried cupping ? All athletes these days have massage. They all know it helps them recover quicker & stops them getting damaged in the first place.
      Keep fit & Healthy

  2. I can’t second this enough. I practiced giving sports massage for a good 15 years. Everyone reported improved endurance and strength and relaxation – it’s just a must for people putting their bodies through so much and expecting certain results. I hope this motivates more people to pursue sports massage.

    1. Hi Penelope
      Thank you for your positive comment.
      I agree that to keep the body at it’s best whilst it is worked sometimes to it’s limit. Massage is the only therapy that will keep the blood circulation normal, rejuvenate tired muscles & also help the mind to relax.
      I just wished this knowledge was around when I swam competitively many years ago ?
      Keep fit & Healthy

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