4 Sports Massage Techniques to Relieve Tight Muscles

STACK Expert Jim Carpentier describes 4 massage techniques you can use to alleviate soreness and stiffness in your muscles.

Athletes need good hands and fingers to make clutch catches, to block and tackle opponents, and to throw and grip a ball or bat. Strong hands and fingers are also critical for relieving tight muscles and joints before and after practices, games and workouts. A stiff muscle or joint not only hinders range of motion, it also impairs sports and exercise performance.

Use the following DIY sports massage techniques for common joint and muscular soreness and stiffness around the elbows, knees, wrists, shoulders, ankles, feet and typical muscle trouble spots—e.g., hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, hips, groin, shoulders, chest and lower, middle and upper back.

RELATED: Best Ways To Relieve Sore Muscles


Do not apply these massage techniques on swollen joints, cuts or bruised areas, muscle tears, painful strains or sprains, or broken bones. Massage promotes heat by aiding blood flow to tissue, so massaging an already-inflamed area can aggravate rather than heal an injury.

Sports Massage Techniques

Deep Tissue Trigger Point Pressure

Applying firm pressure with your second and third fingers, or using your knuckles or just a thumb for 10 seconds on tender trigger points deep within muscle tissue and around a joint, erases stiffness and helps eliminate soreness. Pressing deeply into these trigger points is generally painful—so hold and tolerate the discomfort for 10 seconds, then release. Repeat two or three times with less pressure on the same trigger point and then move elsewhere, searching for other trigger points. For hard-to-reach areas such as the upper, middle and lower back, rear deltoids, hamstrings and hips, lying sideways or in a supine position can facilitate the massage rather than trying to reach these areas from a standing or seated position.

RELATED: 3 Ways to Improve Your Tissue Quality

Cross Fiber Friction Strokes

An alternative to deep tissue trigger point pressure: use your thumb to apply several firm fanning strokes across a tight muscle to release tension. This is called cross fiber friction. For example, to relieve a sore and stiff groin, perform this technique in a seated position by firmly pressing with the thumb and rubbing across the groin, performing broad sweeping strokes across the inner thigh. Cross-fiber friction strokes also effectively break up scar tissue.


Perform compression movements, focusing on a particular muscle group (e.g., quadriceps) using either one hand over the other atop the muscle and pressing up and down with the palm, or by using one hand and going up and down with the palm. Compression movements loosen tight muscles and ease soreness, especially after you perform the more intense deep tissue trigger point pressure and/or cross fiber friction strokes.


The last technique–jostling–is intended to relax the muscle. Grip the muscle (e.g., triceps or hamstrings) with your hand and shake it for about 10 seconds. Repeat two or three times. Jostling is wonderful not only for eliminating muscle stiffness, but also for alleviating muscle cramps (e.g., in the calves), which often occur during practices and games in hot or humid weather.

Learn how to get yourself back into the game with a sports massage.

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock