Should I get a massage before or after a workout?

When is the best time to get a Deep Tissue or Sports massage?

  • Is it the day before you workout?
  • The day of your workout?
  • The day after your workout?
  • Immediately before or after a workout?

Unfortunately there is no easy answer to this question.  The reason there is no clear cut answer about when to get a massage is because everyone's body is different and the type of massage you get plays a role in the answer too.

In this blog I'll provide examples of several different scenarios where massage worked best for an athlete at a specific time.  This post will contain the subjective point of view of the athlete, several days after their massage was completed.

The Football Player

When I worked with the Orlando Predators, I provided massage before their morning practices.  These massages took place between 6:00 AM & 7:30 AM.  The athletes received anywhere from 10-20 minutes of massage time.  The massage was usually focused on an injury or a "irritating" spot.  The massages were generally not too deep, but some were extremely specific.

In this situation, having the massage done before exercising was a good idea for the football players.  The massage was the equivalent of a really good stretch or warm up for them.

The football players also received 1 hour long massages the day before a game.  If they received a massage at least 24 hours before a game, they found very deep work to be beneficial for helping them stay loose for the next evening.  If they received a massage the morning of the game, they only found a "firm" flush type of massage to be beneficial.  One player shared that when he was with another team he received a deep massage right before going on the field and ended up with a hamstring tear.  This could be coincidence, or, the player could have been too lose for the forceful and fast movement he was doing on the field.

Yes, there's such a thing as too lose.  Many athletes should feel like their body is fluid when they are performing, but not overly so.  They want the feeling of a coiled snake.  Ready to extend with full force at a seconds notice.

The Gymnast

When I was with Cirque Du Soleil, in Orlando, Florida, I provided sports massage to the gymnasts 1-6 hours before their showtimes.  90% of the gymnasts wanted very deep, very specific massage before their show.  With the football players, this led to injury.  With the gymnasts, they found they operated at their best when they were as loose as possible.

I believe the gymnasts were able to receive deeper, more specific work closer to their performance time due to the quality of their muscles.  Gymnasts have very long, very lean and very flexible musculature.  I have had the opportunity to massage a gymnast at her full range of motion. (in a split past 180 degrees).  The muscles had definable restriction spots and normal feeling spots in this full range of motion.  If I put the average person into their full range of motion, the entire muscle would feel like a rope about to snap.  The gymnasts are different.  This is due to a life of stretching and pushing their bodies beyond "normal" limits.  I think this is why they successfully get their sports massage done so close to their performance times.

The Water Skiers & Wake Boarders

I have provided deep tissue and sports massage for several professional water skiers & wake boarders in the Clermont, and Central Florida area.  The water skiers & wake boarders found the most beneficial times to receive their massage therapy was several days before their tournament and 1-2 days afterwards.

They experience similar results as the football players.  If they got too lose while competing, the found themselves more prone to injury and unable to perform at their highest levels.  This is why they chose to get their sports massages several days prior to their competitions.

After their tournaments, many of the skiers & wake boarders found themselves to be incredibly sore and were unable to get any "real" work done on their bodies for 1-2 days.  In this situation, they wanted to address any issues (tight spots, injuries, potential injuries, general aches and pains) and not just receive an "flush" massage.  With a flush massage, the pressure is lighter and applied with a broader tool like the forearm.  This can help the athlete recover from the general aches and pains of competing, but does not address any issues.  This is because I am unable to give deeper pressure or get more specific with the massage due to the overall soreness of the athletes body from competing.

The Triathletes

Many triathletes receive massage therapy immediately following an event.  They do not get a deep massage or specific sports massage techniques done.  Their bodies are too beat up to be able to receive that level of work.

They get a "flush" massage immediately following the triathlon.  This allows their bodies to reset, relax and encourage the healing process.  After an event like a triathlon the muscles are basically ground beef.  They need time to heal and that's where a good flush massage can help.  Any corrective techniques or deep massage techniques will have to wait until the triathlete feels "normal" again.

Within every sport there is a different perspective on when the best time to get a massage is.  With every athlete there is a "best time" for their massage.  Because everyone is different and every sport calls for different types of actions, there is not right answer for when to get a massage.

For the average person, I have several recommendations on when you should get a specific type of massage.

  • Do any corrective or specific / very deep tissue massage at least 2-3 days prior to a major sporting event.
  • If you are just timing a massage around a regular workout routine, then do any specific deep tissue massage around 24 hours prior to the workout.
  • If you want a massage the day of or 1 day after an intense workout, make sure it is only a "flush" style of massage.
  • If you are getting in deep and specific massage work done, wait until the soreness from working out has subsided; usually 2-3 days.
  • If you are getting a massage within a few hours of an event or even just a regular workout routine, make sure it is more of a "flush" style with more invigorating strokes (faster, rather than deeper and slower).

Remember, you know your body best.  If you've never had deep tissue or specific sports massage work done before, it is best to err on the side of caution.  You learn what your body can handle through experimentation and eventually figure out the best time to get a massage for you.

These are examples and general recommendations.  If you have special circumstances then these suggestions may not work for you.  And if you have extra special circumstances, you should get approval from your doctor before proceeding with any specific massage work.  

If you're in the Central Florida area and want to get some great deep tissue massage or sports massage for yourself or traveling team or performance company get in touch with me through the Contact page and set something up.

Have a Great Day!

-Michael Ames, LMT

Deep Tissue & Sports Massage Specialist