You might be aware that resistance leads to growth in many ways, but you may not be aware that other factors can also contribute to growth. In fact, massage therapy can aid your growth in ways that you might never imagine.
Massage therapy is usually considered a luxury, an occasional relaxing splurge, but the truth is that massage therapy is a form of alternative medicine that has bona fide medical applications; in most places it even requires practitioners to be licensed by the state medical board.
Massage therapy can do more than just relax you, it can actually improve your recovery time, increase or help you maintain your range of motion, and help you see better results.
How Resistance Training Affects Your Muscles
You might not realize this but you don’t actually build muscle during resistance exercises. Resistance actually breaks down your muscle by causing microscopic tears in the fibers that make up each muscle. You don’t actually start building until the muscles heal, which happens when the muscle is at rest, which can take 48 to 72 hours. This is why you are encouraged to take one full day off before working the same body part again.
While breaking down the muscles, or catabolism, is a direct effect of resistance training, there are also secondary effects that occur as well:
–Your muscles produce lactic acid, a natural by-product of cellular respiration;
–Blood flow to the muscle increases, to deliver oxygen and nutrients, and remove lactic acid and other wastes;
–The muscle is swollen for several hours after the session;
–The swelling in the muscles causes stiffness, and possibly soreness. It also constricts the blood vessels, which can slow blood flow and increase your recovery time;
–The repaired muscle fiber is sometimes contracted, and less flexible than before.
–The process that occurs while the muscle heals is why massage is so important.
How Massage Therapy Affects Your Muscles
Massage therapy affects your muscles in multiple ways:
–It helps push blood through the muscle to reduce swelling and encourage blood flow.
–When blood can circulate freely through your muscles, it can deliver the oxygen and nutrients they need to repair, and remove wastes more efficiently;
–Reducing the swelling also reduces stiffness and soreness.
–Massage therapy also acts as a “tenderizer” to keep the repaired fibers flexible and reduce their tendency to contract as they heal.
–Keeping the fibers flexible can help you maintain your range of motion, and even improve it;
–Better range of motion means you can actually contract your muscle more forcefully and use more weight during resistance exercises.
You don’t have to receive massage therapy after every session, but having one as every two weeks can greatly improve your recovery time and overall muscle function. Additionally, the effects of massage are cumulative, which means the more often you have one the longer the effects last.
Written by Jane Brown