Massage Guide

Today’s topic is massage for dancers (also known as rolling out).  It can be very helpful to ballerinas looking for muscle and soreness relief, as well as decrease in injury and increase in flexibility.  It’s an amazing tool, and I’m excited to teach you all about it.


An introduction to massage

Massage is a technique used on either un-fatigued, fatiguing, or fatigued muscles.  It loosens the fibers to create a more balanced tension in opposing sides of the body, therefore allowing for more stability in your placement and movements.  It’s an important tool.


What is “fatiguing?”

The term “fatiguing” means that you’ve pushed your muscles past the point that their strength allows.  A lot of dancers make the mistake of continuing to strengthen and work these muscles, assuming that “strengthening” will make them stronger and allow them to continue to hold you, but in reality, strengthening means “tightening,”  and that’s exactly the opposite of what you want.  Once your muscle has reached fatigued, you’re just going to make it worse no matter how much more strengthening you do.  But, again, this all occurs until the point that the muscles is stretched and strengthened eccentrically.  Until this happens, then your muscle starts developing fibers and getting stronger at a more appropriate and healthy rate.  So, the process of muscle development goes as follows:

  1. tighten (strengthen)
  2. reach fatigue (muscle feels weak)
  3. contract as antagonist (stretch, or MASSAGE)

THE PURPOSE/IMPORTANCE OF MASSAGE: To engage a fatigued muscle as an antagonist in order to allow muscle fibers to further develop and reduce tightness.

How does massage work?

Okay, so now that we’ve found out where massage lies in our process of muscle development and we’ve found its purpose and importance, it’s time to analyze the process of massage in more detail.  Let’s break it down into steps.

  1. The muscle fibers transiently separate from eachother with the pressure of the massage item on the muscle.

    As you can see, where the muscle fibers are labeled, they can separate via massage. This will give you an idea about what muscle fibers are like and how they connect and work.
  2. After the movement is repeated, the separation becomes more permanent (not completely, a principle of conditioning is the principle of reversibility).
  3. The muscle is loosened until it concentrically contracts dynamically, which causes another reversible change in the muscle.

What are some techniques for massage?

You can use many tools and massage many muscles.  Here is my index:

Tools used for massaging:

  • golf ball (Hard, small; Gets more detailed muscles and areas of muscles in a very sharp way.)
  • lacrosse ball/field hockey ball (Hard, medium; Gets less detailed muscles and areas of muscles in a slightly less sharp dynamic than the golf ball.)
  • tennis ball (Soft, soft; Gets less detailed muscles and areas of muscles in a soft and cushy way.)
  • foam roller (Large, medium; Gets very undetailed muscles in a slightly soft and cushy way, while still hard.)
  • rolling pin (Large, hard; Gets very undetailed muscles in a hard and sharp way.)

Muscles commonly massaged:

  • arches (Middle of plantar section of foot)
  • intrinsic muscles (Anterior section of plantar area of foot)
  • calves (Posterior section of inferior area of lower leg)
  • shins (Anterior section of inferior area of lower leg)
  • hamstrings (Posterior section of superior area of upper leg)
  • quadriceps (Anterior section of superior area of upper leg)
  • IT bands (Lateral area of both anterior/posterior section of superior area of upper leg)
  • quadratus femoris (Inferior posterior area in pelvis)
  • gluteus maximus (Medial section of posterior area in pelvis)
  • back muscles (Posterior area of torso, not in medial section (aka spine))

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