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When you’ve completed a weight training session it’s common to encounter muscle soreness. For muscle to grow this needs to be followed by a period of rest and recovery allowing the damaged muscle fibers to repair.
Depending on what type of exercise you perform, along with the intensity and duration, will affect how long it takes for your muscles to repair. This can vary anywhere between 2 and 7 days.
However, there are several ways to speed up the process of repairing muscles which can help reduce downtime meaning you can get back into the gym that much quicker. One such method is body scraping, sometimes referred to as fascia scraping.
What Is Body Scraping?
Body scraping is a type of deep tissue massage which may help to alleviate muscle pain and tightness to muscle fibers and fascia. Its official name is Gua Sha and this soft tissue therapy works by repeatedly scraping a Gua Sha tool along sore muscles to increase blood flow and break up muscle adhesions and knots.
When blood circulation is improved this helps to transport more nutrients and oxygen to those muscles and also helps to flush away toxins. This in turn reduces inflammation, improves mobility and repairs the muscles.
Scraping techniques, sometimes called the Graston technique, can be performed either by a massage therapist or you can do it yourself, depending on which muscles you wish to target.
This massage technique originated in China with reports suggesting that it’s one of the oldest forms of therapy. Gua Sha means to ‘scrape away illness’ and back then was used to help get rid of illness and strengthen the immune system.
Benefits Of Body Scraping For Bodybuilders
Whilst the practice of Gua Sha dates back hundreds of years, it’s a massage technique that’s been growing in popularity within the bodybuilding community thanks to the numerous benefits it offers.
Reducing Muscle Soreness
After working out, it’s common to suffer from sore muscles, a condition known as delayed onset muscle soreness.
Whilst this is perfectly normal, it can be uncomfortable. However, muscle scraping can help to break up myofascial adhesions with the pressure applied helping to reduce muscle soreness. This in turn can lead to increased muscle growth.
Inflammation to the muscles typically occurs post training and is a natural part of muscle recovery and the healing process which helps to increase muscle mass. Whilst this is a temporary side effect of weightlifting, it can be reduced with regular body scraping.
Increasing Blood Flow
When applying pressure to muscle tissue this helps to increase blood flow to the area by moving this blood around which may be congested. Better blood flow will increase oxygen to the muscles allowing them to repair faster. Not only that, but better circulation is also beneficial for brain and heart health.
Improving Flexibility & Mobility
When the muscles become tight after training this can reduce your range of motion and may also cause imbalances to those muscles. By regularly massaging out tight fascia and muscle this can help to increase the range of motion to the joints.
Reduces Recovery Time
The increased blood flow and reducing of inflammation following on from body scraping will help to limit recovery time for the muscles. For a bodybuilder, this can be an important factor as it allows them to train more frequently when compared to relying on just rest alone.
Breaks Down Scar Tissue
It’s not uncommon for someone who regularly weight lifts to suffer from a muscle tear or strain. As this muscle repairs it can form scar tissue, this is a formation of collagen.
This causes a lot of tightness and a reduction on flexibility. However, the benefits of muscle scraping are that it can help to break down scar tissue to the treated area. This damaged tissue can then heal itself in a more linear way.
Muscle Scraping Techniques & Tools for Bodybuilders
There are a variety of muscle scraping tools available to purchase and these differ in terms of what they’re made from and their shape.
When doing research to purchase your own tool, you’ll notice they also carry different names such as soft tissue mobilization tool and IASTM tool. They are available for sale as either one unit or as a set. Sets usually carry a range of different shapes and sizes which will better suit certain muscles.
A muscle scraping tool is the perfect tool to breakdown knotted connective tissue and adhesions on the body. Use this tool to improve blood flow and muscle recovery which in turn helps reduce pain and inflammation.
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When buying for the massage of major muscle groups you’ll need a tool made from stainless steel due to this material being much more durable. Other materials commonly used are jade and rose quartz or even plastic.
However, these tend to be specifically for use on the face.
Best Method Of Performing Muscle Scraping
- Begin by applying a cream or oil to the area to be massaged.
- Place an edge of the specialized tool on the muscle and take broad strokes in one direction.
- Be sure to apply gentle pressure as you go.
- The skin will begin to turn a little red and this redness highlights where most tension and tightness is located.
- You then want to focus specifically on the red areas and apply significantly more pressure taking smaller strokes.
- Move the tool in different directions, upwards, downwards, and diagonally to properly break down tight spots.
Following on from treatment you may notice small, red spots develop under the skin. This is a normal response and is simply caused by burst blood vessel. You may also notice light bruising to the area post massage, but again this is perfectly usual and should not be a cause for concern.
This traditional Chinese medicine can be performed to many parts of the body, even the face. For muscles across the body, the technique is typically much more intense when compared to facial muscles, which are much thinner, and care should be taken, especially if it’s your first time.
Remember to always apply a suitable oil-based product to the skin beforehand so that that tool glides freely over the skin without dragging.
Whilst Gua Sha therapy can be self-administered, we would always advise that you seek the advice from a qualified massage professional or physical therapist prior to undertaking any treatment. This is because certain soft tissues within the body can be less tolerable to the various techniques involved with this form of massage.