Doing detail work will beat up your hands and tighten up your forearms UNLESS you get good at this one thing: pressing with a massage tool—instead of your fingers. Your fingers should simply act as guides for the tool.
1/3 of the Trick
After I became certified in neuromuscular massage (NMT), I knew 1/3 of the trick to doing incredibly detailed massage work without killing my body. It was called the T-Bar.
The T-Bar was waaaay better than thumbs for doing detail work on the multifidi and rotatores deep in the lamina groove. But I soon learned that if I gripped the tool too hard, my hands hurt. Over the years, I’ve developed ways to grip the T-bar that are easy on my hands. You can check them out on this post, Tools Can Save Your Hands.
Unfortunately, the standard T-Bar wasn’t great for other areas of the body, like rhomboids.
2/3 of the Trick
So I went to my dad and asked him to make some tools for me that would allow me to work more muscles. Here’s an early model that backfired.
Not pictured is the one that was about 18 inches long and rested between my shoulder and armpit. It was scary looking, but I never made anyone bleed.
However, this one was a winner!
The shaft diameter was narrower than the NMT T-Bar which gave me greater precision. And the shaft was offset (the tool sort of looks like an “L”; that’s why I call it the L-Bar). That allowed me to get into tight spaces like the neck.
The Whole Trick
As my Dad’s health deteriorated over the years, I backed off on asking him to help me with new designs. Then, sadly, last year my dad died. About 6 months after he died, I was teaching a class on delivering deep pressure without hurting yourself. I was demonstrating the tools and explained that I use a massage tool as if it were an extension of my hand.
Matt Johnson, who was taking the class, took me up on what I had said—literally. He designed a tool with a longer shaft that actually extended beyond my finger tips and thumbs. This modification allowed me to access hard to get to areas, like the TFL, with precision and ease.
Now, I had the whole trick: a T-Bar and L-Bar that allowed me to deliver precise pressure with my fingers simply acting as guides (no strain).
Detail work—deep work included—was now a walk in the park!
Trapezius, Rhomboids, Rotatores, Multifidi, Intercostals
The T-Bar and L-Bar will allow you to pinpoint muscles like you’ve never been able to before. In this video, I show how to do detail work in areas of complex muscle layering: Advanced Massage Detail Work: Trap, Rhomboids, Rotatores, Multifidi, and Intercostals.
I struggled to find a way that didn’t kill my body when working the TFL. The longer T-Bar that Matt designed put an end to that. In this video I show how to easily pinpoint tender and tight spots in the TFL: Advanced Massage Detail Work: TFL.
The New Era
It’s a new era in massage. We no longer have to accept that pain, injury and burnout are the natural consequences of working hard at massage. Learn how to use the T-Bar and L-Bar when doing detail work and you can add 5 to 10 more massages to your max.
The trick is to press with the massage tool, not your fingers. Use your fingers as guides instead.
Learn Firsthand For Free
If you want to learn about and experiment with the T-Bar and L-Bar, join my Massage Tool focus group. This focus group will be the basis of a massage tool class–and if you’re part of the focus group, you will have access to this class for free.
Also, I love Matt’s T-Bar and L-Bar designs—but I really want your opinion about which massage tools feel right in your hands.
If you live in or near the Philadelphia, PA area and want to be part of the Massage Tool focus group, let me know by emailing me firstname.lastname@example.org!
We’re keeping the group small–10 participants. The date and time of the focus group is July 2, Saturday 9:30 AM – 11 AM. The location is PressurePerfect(TM) Massage, 808 Valley Forge, Rd. Suite 105, Phoenixville PA, 19460.
Thanks and hope to see you there!