Accordingly, the researchers' latest study aimed to examine the effect of massage on the performance of bodybuilders - a group of athletes of which only few will be able to afford their own massage therapist, although they may in fact be among those athletes who could benefit most from massage therapy of which scientists believe that it reduces DOMS and speeds up recovery by removing accumulated extracellular fluid from the muscles, thus reducing swelling and pain via increased blood and lymph circulation - and at least the net outcome, i.e. a subjective reduction in DOMS (learn more) has been confirmed consistently (Bąkowski. 2008; Ali. 2012; Andersen. 2013; Visconti. 2014; Urakawa. 2015).
If we assume that the mechanism has been correctly identified, massage therapy appears to work very differently from ice-baths of which a recent study has shown that it may actually impair the training-induced adaptation process by soothing the fire that's fueling the corresponding processes (learn more in "Using Ice / Cold Water Immersion After Workouts Will Impair Muscle and Strength Gains, as well as Vascular Adaptations").
|Table 1: Descriptive statistics of the participants (Kargafard. 2015).|
- Tests were performed 1 week prior to the commencement of the treatment protocols and conducted during an 8-week preseason training period to limit the training effect.
- Both groups performed five repetition sets at 75–77% of 1RM of knee extensor and flexor muscle groups. The massage group then received a 30-min massage after the exercise protocol while the control group maintained their normal passive recovery. More specifically, ...
"... the participants were asked to perform squats to 90º knee flexion for five sets at 75% 1RM until exhaustion (but not less than 10 repetitions); then they had to perform leg press to 90º knee flexion for five sets at 75–77% 1RM until exhaustion (but not less than 10 repetitions). One-minute rest intervals were given between sets. If a participant could not complete 10 repetitions without assistance from the spotters, the initial intensity was reduced until at least 10 repetitions could be achieved. This was followed by a 5-min rest and an isometric protocol to induce DOMS in the right quadriceps muscle" (Kargarfard. 2015).
- Participants’ diets and medications were recorded and remained constant throughout the experimental period, which excludes a distortion of the results.
So why are you confident that massage therapy is not going to backfire? Well, as I pointed out previously in this article, there is no evidence of direct anti-inflammatory effects as they have been ascribed to ice-baths or vitamin supplements that could blunt the necessary hormetic response to exercise. Rather than that, data from a recently published study by Andrzejewksi et al. suggest that repeated massage may contribute to processes of creation of new and development of already existing vascular networks in the skeletal muscle tissue during increased exercise", which is the exact opposite of the proven detrimental effects of ice-baths (Andrzejewski. 2015). It does thus appear very unlikely that the overall long-term effects of massage therapy are going to be detrimental. A long-term study with bodybuilding specific outcomes, like strength and hypertrophy is still necessary, because a low risk of negative effects does not imply that there are going to be increased gains in strength or size.All variables were measured over 6 time periods: baseline, immediately after the DOMS inducing protocol, right after the massage, and 24, 48, and 72 h after the massage, the scientists describe as follows:
"30-min standardised supine massage was performed by a licensed massage therapist with 3 years of experience on the exercised/right thigh of participants in the massage group after 2 h following the muscle soreness inducing exercise protocol. To maintain consistency and reproducibility for the entire massage procedure, tape-recorded messages were announced to remind the therapist when to change the massage strokes being performed. Western massage techniques of effleurage, petrissage, and vibration were used.
Each massage began with 4 min of effleurage consisting of 2 min of light stroking with the palm around the knee, and 2 min of light stroking over the medial thigh. Effleurage was followed by petrissage, which consisted of 2 min of twohanded palm kneading of the anterior thigh muscles, 2 min of two-handed thumb kneading over the medial thigh, 2 min of circular two-handed lifting of the anterior thigh, 1 min of pressing and spreading the tissues perpendicular to the long axis of the thigh, and 1 min of rolling the fingertips over the anterior thigh muscles. Two minutes of vibration was added between the petrissage techniques of circular lifting of the anterior thigh muscles and pressing and spreading the tissues.
While there are rumors that massage therapy may also help you shed bod weight, this has been shown only for different techniques: "Electro-Cut" Your Body Fat - Study Shows 5.6 cm and 4.9% Reduction in Waist & Body Fat in Young Women in 6 Weeks
The massage was then concluded with 3 min of effleurage over the anterior and medial thigh. While massages were performed on the experimental group, participants of the control group were asked to remain seated and to maintain their normal passive recovery regime as well as to refrain from performing any additional exercises or stretches"
What the scientists found when they analyzed their results was (a) the obvious, i.e. significant (P < .001) decreases in jumping, agility performance, and isometric torque, but significant (P < .001) increases in CK and muscle soreness levels in all subjects.Will foam rolling do the same? Whether it will do the same would require future studies with direct comparisons. What I can tell you, though, is that studies by MacDonald et al (2014) and Pearcey et al. (2015) consistently showed similar results, i.e. decreased DOMS and accelerated recovery / preserved muscle function with foam rolling after intense workouts.