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Thai Massage – The Athlete’s Answer to Power & Strength

Part 3 – Thai Massage – Lazy Yoga

“So what is Thai Massage?” a friend asked one day.  Before I could give my most professional explanation, another friend chimes in, “that’s when she ties you in a knot and you feel better.”

(Insert sound of crickets here & bewildered expression on the questioner’s face.)

Ok.  So it wasn’t my preferred description, but if you’ve ever seen a Thai Massage session, I have to admit that some of the maneuvers do resemble exactly that. 

My preferred explanation is that it is affectionately referred to as lazy yoga.  Unlike a traditional massage, the client remains fully dressed, preferably in loose cotton clothing such as t-shirt and sweat pants.  The client lies on a mat on the floor and relaxes while the therapist administers rhythmic compression to the muscles and guides the client’s body through a series of stretches similar in posture to what they might do in a yoga session.

One last time, we re-visit the question that sparked this series:

“Just got a massage and my tight muscles were really talking to me. Planning to do that more often so they detox regularly and can get the optimal growth I desire. Do you get massages regularly and how has it helped your physique?”

Do you want to grow muscularly in size, strength or endurance?  Frequently on Facebook, I see my athlete buddies boast about the massive amount of weight lifted or hours of cardio completed in the never ending effort to develop physiques or athletic prowess.  Not long after that, I’ll see posts by the same folks reporting how they can barely move as if it’s a badge of honor to be so tore up they’re incapacitated.  Truth is, the longer this kind of behavior persists, the faster the athlete can loose strength and endurance!

Courtesy of Thai Massage: Sacred Bodywork
by Ananda Apfelbaum

“Well I’d stretch if I had time” or “I really wish someone would just stretch me” are probably the two most popular phrases I hear uttered among hard core athletes as well as the average gym go-er.  It seems that unless the person is actively involved in a yoga or Pilates class, stretching just isn’t on the menu of activity.  Unfortunately, skipping the flexibility component of the workout is cheating the athlete out of maximal gains.

Did you get full range of motion on that lift?  Are you sure?  If you’ve ever been to the gym and done a squat or a lunge, you know there is a difference between how it feels when you execute a nice, full range in your lift vs. a range that isn’t quite as deep.  A greater range of motion results in more muscle fibers being recruited to complete the move. Fail to execute a full range of motion and the domino effect begins:

restriction –> less fibers recruited –> you’re not getting the maximum bang for your time invested in the gym no matter how many hours you’re in there!  Add to that the fact that many injuries happen when muscles are tight or out of balance.

If you’re looking for someone to do it for you, then Thai Massage is just what the athlete ordered.  Just as we mentioned in the last blog (Deep Tissue UFC:MMA), when we tear up tissue in a workout, that muscular trauma can become a big, sticky mess that leads to restriction.  Think of it as tying knots in a rubber band.  Sure it will stretch but it won’t go as far thanks to the knots in it.

The compression component of Thai Massage works to soften and warm musculature as well as spread and break up sticky tissue.  Once the muscle bellies have been addressed, following up with stretching in several directions helps the body achieve new musculature length.

               “But I’ve heard that stretching can weaken the muscle.”

This statement is actually true, however, this is merely an initial reaction.  I would not recommend a Thai Massage for any athlete within a couple weeks of competition.  This is simply because the body is used to the pattern the athlete has created with the length of the muscles with which they’ve been training.  Speed, power, & muscle memory rely on this.  However, establishing a regime of regular stretching gives the muscles access to more fibers to train.  More fibers = the ability of the athlete to create more speed, power, strength, & size depending on his or her performance goals.

If you truly want to give 100% in the gym, you need to have a maximum range of motion.  Stretching or employing a modality such as Thai Massage may be just the silver bullet you need to gain an edge over your competitors.