Almost one in four Australians get a massage every year and what’s not to like? It feels good, does good and every professional sports team’s locker room plays host to a masseuse table. Despite these accolades there is still concern about whether or not it’s cack handed for your physique. A Queen’s University research team even found that post exercise massage does nothing to improve circulation to muscles. Nor does it help remove lactic acid and other waste products. This is however a single study, which is unlikely to stop sportsmen getting their muscles polished, especially those wearing squat-ravaged legs. So if training is your yang then massage should be a useful part of your recovery yin. Its healing properties aren’t the only selling point. It can help your sports performance have a happy beginning.

Massage your warm-up

Athletes claim it calms nerves before big games, yet this could be all in the mind. Yes, it does unwind you, but no more than relaxing in a room with soft soothing music, found research in the journal Depression and Anxiety. Fortunately, relaxation isn’t actually the goal of most pre-event rubs. Pre-sport massage involves quick jolting movements, just like you see boxer’s get in their corners. It wakes up muscles and loosens everything so you can perform at your peak. What’s more, it even has benefits when done during exercise. Massage is proven to be better than rest at helping athletes return to a normal state, creating faster relief from fatigue, found research in the journal Modern Rehabilitation.

Flexibility appeal

If you’re feeling tight you can grease the cogs with massage oil. Research in the British Journal of Sports Medicinfound athletes who had a rub down on their hamstrings – a notoriously inflexible muscle – instantly increased its’ flexibility by up to 5 degrees. Suppleness is must-have attribute for all competitive athletes and every bloke older than 30 years old. Exercise results in muscles becoming massively fatigued and sometimes lacking the nutrition needed to repair, making them stiff. Block booking a weekly appointment is good for your body, soul and long-term progress.

Timing is everything

Avoid massaging swollen or inflamed areas that radiate heat. These are signs the area is still repairing and massage can actually hinder rather than help healing. Once pain and swelling has gone (usually 2-3 days) then you can wear the little white towel. Research at McMaster University found just 10 minutes of massage is enough to reduce inflammation. But when you do it also important. If you aren’t injured the best time for bodywork is at the end of the day after all exercise, to promote recovery.