In 1996, Ramit walked into my office. He was big and he wanted really deep pressure. Crap, I thought, he’s going to kill my body. And he did.
Twenty years later, Ramit is still my client. His body hasn’t changed and he still wants really deep pressure, but I’m no longer in pain. (No, I’m not taking ibuprofen.) Now I follow 4 steps that allow me to deliver super deep pressure with less effort.
- Lower the table.
No matter if your deep pressure weapon of choice is your fist or your forearm, a lower than normal table will allow you to lean into the client. When you lean into the client, you’re using your body weight to generate the pressure. If you stack your joints (shoulder, elbow and wrist) and lock your knee(s) while you’re leaning, you’ll be able to deliver deep pressure with less effort. A field trial supported this.
- Segment the stroke.
It’s time to rethink what a makes a stroke relaxing especially when working at a really deep pressure. My opinion in the past was that a relaxing stoke is done at a slow pace and covers a long distance. But over time I realized that it’s difficult, if not impossible, to maintain consistent deep pressure during a long stroke.
On the other hand, if you segment a long stroke, you can maintain consistent deep pressure.
I tested this idea out on clients and fellow MTs and no one complained. In fact, they loved it.
The reason why a segmented stroke allows you to maintain consistent deep pressure is because you’ll never be out of position to lean into the client.
Here’s how I’d segment a long back stroke. Divide the back stroke up into 3 parts—upper, mid and lower. Stand at the side of the table and lean into the area in front of you.
You can position your body so that you are facing the direction of the stroke.
Or you can position yourself so that you aren’t facing the direction of the stroke.
Glide just in the segment area. Once you’ve done that, it’s time to move to the next segment.
- Move your feet.
Keep your hands/forearm on the client as you move to the adjacent segment. This may seem choppy, but it’s not. By having your hands/forearm on the client as you re-position yourself, you’ll maintain contact and consistent pressure. Also, you will keep the same relaxing stroke speed during the next short stroke.
- Pivot and face.
When you’re working a segment area head-on, you may be tempted to keep your feet stationary and twist at the waist to address an area by your side. The problem is, you’re losing leaning leverage when you twist. Instead of twisting, pivot and face the area you want to work.
Working the QL is a perfect example. Say you’re at the side of the table and are working the lumber erectors segment. You get to L5 and you want to glide over to the ilium and work the QL attachment.
If you twist with your feet stationary, you won’t be able to effectively lean to maintain deep pressure. But if you pivot and turn to face the ilium QL attachment, you’ll be in a great position to lean.
Here’s how to do the whole shebang, from doing a segmented stroke to pivoting to work the QL—Advanced Massage Body Mechanics: Pause, Move Lean Video.
Massage Mindsets and Physics
Working deep without being in pain comes down to mindsets and physics. We often get locked into beliefs, like “I have to do long back strokes with every relaxation massage”. But that belief can be harmful to your body especially when doing a really deep pressure massage.
A better approach is to segment the stroke. For example, divide a back stroke up into upper, middle and lower, and only work one segment at a time. By doing so you can effectively lean into the client using your body weight to generate the pressure.
That said, the table needs to be lower than normal and your joints need to be stacked and your back knee(s) locked so that you can properly transfer your body weight onto the client.
Lastly, move your feet when you want to work an adjacent body segment and pivot when you’re out of position to effectively lean.
Here is the video tutorial: Advanced Massage Body Mechanics: Pause, Lean, Move.
Postscript: For Those Who Still Think They Can’t Do It
Years ago I had a gig at a training facility for young athletes. Ruby, a petite person, came to me looking for work. Shortly after I talked to her there was an event at the training facility and I needed an extra MT with me.
I told Ruby what the day would be like—very deep pressure massage on high school and college football players—and she was all in. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to prep Ruby and she struggled. Though she was disappointed at the end of the day, she wasn’t about to let a bunch of football players think she couldn’t handle the job.
She only needed to work on 2 things: how to lean with her body weight and how to use her forearm. The next weekend Ruby made sure those football player knew that she could deliver the pressure. I think one even said, Uncle.