Deep Tissue Massages for Muscle Recovery

Hi! I am the author and founder of Old School Calisthenics

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Throughout my first years of training I only cared about how to work out as much as possible. I was very focused on developing my muscle definition and getting more performant. I didn’t believe in overtraining and had the mindset that if something did hurt, then it will pass naturally. Either way, training had to continue because I had goals to achieve.

However, it has now become clear to me that it is a little bit foolish to have this kind of mindset and I learned from my mistakes, as I suffered from one injury to another.

Honestly, my mindset back then was to train very frequently. I aimed for hundreds of pull-ups, and a thousands of pushups and squats every week. After such a week, I couldn’t even walk properly because of the super intense muscle soreness caused by my training to failure.

I still think that it is okay to push ourselves this much and over train. This being said, we have to take care of our body and help it recover after a certain period of hard work.

Fortunately, so far I have only suffered minor incidents like lower back pain, elbow pain, spasms and muscle pain, damage to ligaments and tendons, muscle tension, blockages, one shoulder dislocated etc. They were all due to the tremendous amount of volume and no specific recovery period whatsoever. The only recovery I thought worth doing was those 1-2 days a week for resting.

Any athlete who pushes himself a lot will experiment these sorts of pains, they are normal. What it’s not normal though, is to not listen to our body when it tells us that it had enough.

Once performance and recovery are affected, all of our hard worked gains are diminished and the chances to bring an even bigger injury are increasingly higher. 

Stretching is a way to recover and I used to do a lot of it when I was a professional swimmer. Now, as a calisthenics athlete, I rarely do stretching simply because I get bored and dislike the process. So I had to find other methods. This is how I came across deep tissue massage.

Deep Tissue and Sports Massage

We don’t need to feel pain in order to understand that we had enough training. Any signs of extreme fatigue, stiffness, the dysfunctionality of our muscles, lack of strength are all alarms that we have to recover. This is how I know I had to relax my muscles.

After years of training with bodyweight fitness, I know my strength or my fitness level. For me, if I am functional, doing more than 150 pull-ups in a workout feels normal. I just know the numbers I can hit for absolutely every exercise. So if I have problems in reaching those 100 pull-ups then I know that I accumulated too much tension and blockages. As a result, I get stiff and the nervous system will not unlock my full strength and endurance. It’s the same for when you do push, squat, dips or sprint.

I recently went through some painful injuries at my knees caused by blockages and tensions accumulated in my calves, hamstring, and quadriceps. I had these pains every time I went out for long distance runs. After 35 minutes of continuous running, the pain started and kept increasing. Then the problem persisted over the following 2-3 days.

This messed up my training schedule because I wanted to do cardio and lose a couple of pounds. I knew I ran correctly, wore the proper shoes etc. I also knew that I had no problems with the knees themselves. It was a pain that radiated from those accumulated tensions. As soon as I got out from a deep tissue massage session, all these problems went away.

There have been years in which I’ve never had a proper massage. All of my upper body area got stiff too. My arms, back muscles, spinal muscles and so on had many blockages. When these things occur, the blood circulation isn’t flawless. As a consequence, we lose strength, mobility and the capacity to breath for recovering from a set another.


After the Deep Tissue Massage

This kind of massage is extremely painful but it has to be in order to achieve the desired results. On the opposite pole, a superficial massage will never hurt, and in my opinion, is done for relaxation only and not for long-term recovery. Thus, it renders itself meaningless for recovery.

Don’t do a deep tissue or sports massage if you have muscle soreness caused by training because it will hurt even more. Stop training, wait 2-3 days and then go get the deep tissue massage. My first time, I did it having had muscle soreness and it was hell on earth for me.

However, soon after, all of my strength and functionality were suddenly back to normal levels. The massage causes some pain afterwards, hence you have to recover by resting 2-3 days [no workout whatsoever].

What is Deep Tissue Massage?

It involves applying firm pressure and slow strokes to reach deeper layers of muscle and fascia (the connective tissue surrounding muscles). It’s used for chronic aches and pain and contracted areas such as a stiff neck and upper back, low back pain, leg muscle tightness, and sore shoulders.

There are forerunner steps before the ones that cause extreme pain. Therefore, not all of them hurt. It usually hurts when the therapist applies pressure on blockages or when he needs to reach deeper layers of tissue.

With deep tissue massage, I solved neck problems, upper-body muscle blockages and relaxed my very tensioned legs too [which was the reason I couldn’t run in the beginning].

I now like to train smart and frequently too. I do it 5 times a week with 2 days of rest. I continue on this path until I feel like I don’t have the strength anymore or until I feel my muscles very tensioned or my tendons stiff. I don’t wait for my muscles, tissue or ligaments to start hurting. I’d say that if you train intensely than it might be worthwhile to do a deep massage session once or twice a month.

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