As so many athletes know, boosting your performance often means focusing on the little things that can make a big difference: consistent training, maintaining a healthy diet, and getting enough rest. Recent research also suggests that supplementary exercises that support strength, flexibility, and recovery can also improve outcomes for athletes by increasing overall physical fitness. One of the options you may want to consider is Thai massage.
Thai massage is different from sports massage in that it functions more like a supplementary exercise session than a traditional sports massage. Over the course of the session, the massage therapist guides your body through a series of yoga poses while applying gentle pressure to your muscles. That means you get the best of both worlds — the strength, flexibility, and relaxation benefits of yoga, as well as the tissue-stimulating benefits of a pressure-based massage therapy session.
Thai Massage vs Yoga
As an athlete, you’ve probably heard a lot about the benefits of yoga, but adding it into your already-packed training schedule can be tough. Not only is it hard to find the time to attend a yoga class, but it can also be hard to get the hang of it, and you may find yourself leaving a yoga class wondering if you really got any physical fitness benefits out of it.
With Thai massage, this is no longer a concern. You have the massage therapist manipulating your body into the right positions, and they can also offer you guidance on your breathing as you move through each pose. That way, as you walk out of the massage therapist’s office, you know that you’ve made the most of the last 90 minutes of training time.
Thai Massage in Research
A 2015 study published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science examined the effects of Thai massage on physical fitness in soccer players. 34 competitive soccer players were randomly divided into two groups. The first group received three thirty-minute Thai massage sessions over the course of a ten-day study period, while the second group merely rested between their normal training sessions. The study found that Thai Massage provided some beneficial effects on physical fitness in soccer players, especially for VO2max, and facilitated muscle strength, agility and speed.
Another study, published in the Journal of Foot and Ankle Research in 2014, examined the potential benefits of Thai massage for volleyball players, focusing specifically on vertical jump performance and flexibility in the knees and ankles. The researchers saw statistically significant improvements in vertical jump height, knee flexion, ankle plantar flexion and an ankle dorsiflexion.
It is important to acknowledge that both of these were small-scale studies, so they don’t provide definitive evidence that getting a Thai massage will boost your performance. However, they do suggest that a physical fitness boost is possible.