Should You Get a Massage Before or After a Workout?

Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Published by Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC | Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Last updated: December 28, 2023
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I have been recommending sports massages to my clients for many years to help them increase flexibility and blood flow to their muscles.

Twice a week, I get a massage to get my body ready for the next training and to speed up my recovery afterward.

Recently, a client asked me about the benefits of pre-workout versus post-workout massages. Drawing from my own experience as a professional MMA fighter and fitness coach, and after consulting with a physical therapist, I've gathered some insights to share.

Read on to find out.

Quick Summary

  • For enhanced workout performance and injury prevention, opt for a pre-workout massage; choose a post-workout massage for better recovery and muscle growth.
  • Pre-workout massages boost mood and energy by increasing blood flow and stimulating feel-good hormones like endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin.
  • According to the International Journal of Neuroscience, massage therapy reduces cortisol levels by 31%, increases serotonin by 28%, and increases dopamine by 31%, enhancing well-being and workout motivation.
  • Based on my experience, post-workout massages are invaluable for reducing stress and accelerating recovery, which is crucial for maintaining focus and performance in my MMA career.

Should You Have a Massage Before or After Working Out?

You should have a massage before working out if you want to improve performance and prevent injuries and after if you want to boost recovery and hypertrophy.

Consider the following physiological and psychological benefits.

Benefits of a Pre-Workout Massage

A woman getting massaged

Helps to Enhance Your Mood

In my training, I've noticed a significant mood boost from pre-workout massages.

They stimulate hormones like endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin, which reduce muscle stress and tension, setting a positive tone for my intense MMA sessions.

According to the International Journal of Neuroscience, massage therapy not only lowers cortisol levels by an average of 31%, reducing stress, but also increases serotonin and dopamine by 28% and 31%, respectively [1].

These changes contribute to improved well-being, focus, and workout motivation.

Helps Increase Energy And Strength

A pre-workout massage can also help increase blood flow throughout the body, giving your muscles more energy and strength.

Consequently, you can lift heavier weights, train for longer periods of time, and achieve your fitness goals faster, as shown in the study from the North American Journal of Sports Physical Therapy [2].

Helps Enhance Movement and Flexibility

A pre-workout massage can help loosen tight muscles around the joints.

This makes it easier for the joints to move freely within their normal range. By moving better and being more flexible, you can lower the chance of getting injured while working out [3].

Benefits of a Post-Workout Massage

A woman smiling while getting massaged

Hasten Post-Workout Recovery

Post-workout massages can help your muscles heal and recover from microtears caused by heavy workouts by increasing blood circulation.

This means that oxygen and micronutrients are delivered quickly to your tissue fibers, assisting in their repair and making you feel better.

Tailoring massage techniques to specific workout types, such as using deep tissue massage for strength training recovery or gentle lymphatic drainage for endurance athletes, can optimize recovery and enhance performance in each discipline.

Decrease Muscle Soreness

Massage can help relieve sore muscles after a strenuous workout because applying moderate pressure to muscles forces blood to other parts of the body.

Research from the University of Illinois at Chicago indicates that increased blood flow from massage brings more oxygen and nutrients to muscles, speeding up the relief of stiffness and reducing inflammation [4].

"Massage can reduce tension in muscles and impact flexibility, reducing muscle stiffness, increasing blood flow, and reducing muscle soreness."

- Leada Malek, Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist

Reduces Mind And Body Stress

I've personally experienced the stress-reducing benefits of post-workout massages. They provide complete relaxation for both mind and body, which is crucial for maintaining mental clarity and focus in my MMA career.

This helps raise your levels of feel-good hormones, making you feel much better after a long, tough workout [5].

And in the realm of injury rehabilitation, this state can speed up the recovery process and help athletes return to their training more quickly.

Are There Any Drawbacks?

A woman with a hurting neck

Drawbacks of sports massage by an untrained therapist include increased fatigue, muscle pain, and headaches.

A regular therapist, not skilled in sports massage, might overdo it, causing more muscle soreness and pain.

Research indicates that excessive pressure during massage can lead to muscle soreness, headaches, and reduced training motivation.

Other Ways to Reduce Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

Alongside regular massages, I've found other effective methods to combat delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) in my training, like proper hydration, stretching, and consuming optimal pre-workout snacks, all vital for maintaining peak performance.

Increasing water intake around your workout can help flush out lactic acid buildup and boost oxygenation and nutrient delivery to working muscles, allowing your body to recover faster.

Moreover, static stretching relaxes tight muscle fibers, while a meal rich in carbohydrates and protein replenishes essential nutrients depleted during exercise, according to a 2021 study in the Nutrients journal [6].

FAQs

Is It Good to Have a Massage After Lifting Weights?

It is good to have a massage after lifting weights because it can help to reduce the effects of simultaneous muscle tissue contractions during strength training.

After weight lifting, deep tissue massage can increase oxygen and nutrient supply to damaged tissues, hastening muscle repair.

How Often Should You Get a Massage When Working Out?

You should get a massage at least once a week if you engage in athletic training frequently.

However, depending on your personal therapist's advice and the reason for the massage, you may seek a good rubdown a few times per week.


References:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16162447/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2953308/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7228568/
  4. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140416125434.htm
  5. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/09/200918104305.htm
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7909540/
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About The Author

Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC is an ex-National Soccer player turned MMA and Kickboxing champion, with ACE CPT and PN1-NC certifications. His advice is rooted in education and experience, ensuring that readers receive scientific and battle-tested insights. His mission is to empower his clients and readers to realize their potential and become the best versions of themselves.
Learn more about our editorial policy
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Sport & Exercise Science from University of Hertfordshire. He's a Health & Performance Coach from London that brings a unique blend of academic knowledge of health supplements and practical exercise experience to the table for his readers.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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