sports massage techniques

Professional athletes who compete at a high level are well aware of the importance of physical strength and fitness and how it relates to their field performance. They also understand that physical strength alone is not enough to make them reach their goals. They need to remain injury-free, ward-off muscle fatigue from pre-event warm-ups and recover from sports injuries as quickly as possible in order to remain competitive. For this purpose, they often include regular sports massage sessions in their routine. Sports massage is a specialised form of massage tailor-made for anyone involved in sports or active individuals. It gives them a competitive edge by improving endurance and flexibility, decreasing muscle recovery time and reducing injury. ¬†Whether you are a dancer, weight lifter, tennis player, runner, swimmer, boxer, or participate in any form of physical activity that demands peak fitness, endurance, and stamina, sports massage can help you perform better in your favourite sport and stay injury-free. Let’s explore some common sports massage techniques that are used by massage therapists around the world to keep their clients primed for performance and help them lengthen their sporting careers.

Common Sports Massage Techniques

Since every sport or athletic activity uses muscle groups of the body in a different way, your sports massage therapist may use one or more movements/strokes/techniques on the muscles relevant to that particular sport or athletic activity. However, there are a few basic types which are commonly used by professional sports massage therapists around the globe to help their clients achieve maximum performance with a decreased chance of injury or pain and quicker recovery. For ease of understanding, these can be broken down into the following five general categories:


Effleurage (circular strokes) is probably the first and the last massage techniques used in sports massage therapy. Effleurage strokes involve sliding of the hands, fingers, elbow, forearms or even thumb with desired pressure over different areas of the body. Effleurage strokes help the massage therapist have a better understanding of the client’s body, placement of muscles, trigger points, and sensitivity. It is usually applied at the beginning of the massage session to warm up the tissues and prepare the body for a smooth transition to petrissage – deeper and much stronger strokes. Effleurage helps calm the nerves, warm up the body tissues, stretch muscle and fascia, improve blood circulation, and soothe painful or sore areas of the body.


Petrissage technique also called kneading is a deeper massage technique and consists of applying short, circular strokes using hands, palms or knuckles to pick up and squeeze body muscles. Stretching, kneading and squeezing strokes are applied in order to target and manipulate the muscles that lie beneath the superficial tissue layers. Petrissage can be performed with or without any oils and helps removes waste products from the body, improve blood circulation, break up the knots or adhesions in the muscles, and diminishes the cellulite. This type of sports massage technique is very helpful in treating delayed onset muscle soreness, to improve recovery and relieve tension.


Tapotement technique also called ‘rhythmic striking’ or percussion involves applying a series of light, brisk, rhythmic, percussive strikes to the surface of the body using an ulnar portion of the hands. This type of massage stroke is commonly applied to fleshy, muscular areas of the body and not the bony parts. This type of massage technique is usually used in pre-event warm-up sessions. Tapotement helps increase local blood circulation, stimulate reflex muscular contraction, and stimulate nerve endings. It makes the athlete feel physically and mentally invigorated before participating in the actual event.


As the name suggests, this type of massage technique is aimed at creating heat by using friction in order to calm the nerves and muscles. For this purpose, the massage therapist either rubs the palms of his/her hands together vigorously or rubs them onto the skin of the client in order to create friction and produce heat. This type of massage technique is usually applied to specific areas of the body that demand deeper work. Friction helps to breakdown the thickened, pain-producing scar tissues, increase blood flow, increase lymphatic flow to the area and thus speed up the healing process.

Vibration | Sports Massage Techniques

This category of strokes is also referred to as shaking and is used to help loosen up the muscles by using rapid back and forth rhythmic action of the fingertips, side of the hand, or the heel of the hands over a specific area of the body or the entire body. This type of massage is also used in the pre-event warm-up session and helps prepare the body muscles for sports competition.

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