If you’re coming out of a massage and your arms and shoulders are shot, you’re doing one thing very wrong. You’re not using your legs.
I don’t mean you should be sticking a knee in the lumbar erectors. (Though I have thought about that…) What I mean is that you’re not using your legs to generate pressure.
To generate pressure using your legs, you’ll need to lower your table, move your feet so that you’re in a position to work muscles effectively, and push from your feet for super-deep pressure.
Lower Your Table
For the first 10 years of my 25 years in massage, I did massage on my terms, using any technique that I wanted to. But after a while my body started to talk back—and I developed pain issues in my neck, shoulders and arms.
My main problem could be essentially boiled down to this: my table was too high. This meant that I relied on my upper body (shoulders and arms) to deliver medium to deep pressure.
The Lower Table Basics
When I lowered my table, I was able to generate medium to deep pressure simply by leaning. Here’s a quick tutorial on how to lean to deliver pressure: Table Height is Everything.
By the way, you won’t need to worry about your back with a lower table, as long as you remember to squat when lighter pressure is required.
Drive From Your Feet
As I experimented with using a lower table, I learned that I could generate super-deep pressure by pushing up to the balls of my feet as I leaned.
But, in order to do this, I needed to have my feet positioned correctly—under my base.
Move Your Feet All the Time
Once I started to work on getting my feet under me, I realized that there were many times during the massage—including many non-deep pressure times—when my feet were out of position (not under me).
During these times, I would sometimes tweak my shoulders and neck because I was over-reaching as I pressed. Once I saw this, it made sense that I should move my feet all the time during the massage so that I was always in the best position to execute any massage stroke and all ranges of pressure.
Get in Position for the Put-Away Shot
Tennis is a great analogy for having your feet in the right position. In tennis, it’s always better if you can get to the ball, set yourself, then swing as opposed to reaching to make a shot. Why? Because when your feet are under you, you can get your whole body into the swing, and you’re less likely to injury your shoulder.
The same holds true for massage. You can’t get your whole body into the lean and maintain good mechanics unless your feet are in the correct position.
3 Keys to Good Footwork
Here are 3 keys to good footwork that will allow you to easily deliver pressure and take the strain out of your upper body:
- Listen to your feet.
If you haven’t heard your feet move in a minute or two during a massage, you’re probably reaching. Also, if you’re tired and/or hungry, you’re less likely to move your feet. At the end of a long day of massage I’m constantly reminding myself to move my feet.If you haven’t heard your feet move in a while, you’re probably reaching. Click To Tweet
- Pause, move, lean.
When you feel yourself reaching, it’s time to pause, move and then lean. As long as you have a hand(s) on the client, pausing then repositioning your feet won’t seem disruptive.
In this video, I show you what I mean: Massage Body Mechanics: Pause, Move, Lean.
- Drive from your feet.
When you need extra pressure, drive from your feet. To drive from your feet, you need to push up on the balls of your feet.
Think of your arms as the connectors between your power source (lower body) and tools (finger, knuckle, thumb, fist, elbow) that you’re pressing into the client.
The connectors (arms) only need to stabilize the tools. So your arms should be relatively relaxed. Your legs, on the other hand, are contracting as you push from your legs.
In this video, Massage Body Mechanics: How to Use Your Legs, I demonstrate how I generate additional pressure by pushing from my feet.
It’s Feels Good When It’s Flowing
As you start to get comfortable using your legs to generate pressure, you may get the feeling that your dancing or doing yoga or Tai Chi.
When I’m on with moving me feet, I feel like I’m getting paid to do a massage and work on my posture at the same time.
The 15 Minute Crash Course
Here’s how I would handle getting a quick jump on incorporating my legs into my body mechanics:
- If you don’t already lean, read Table Height Is Everything. It’s a quick read.
- Watch Massage Body Mechanics: Pause, Move, Lean.
- Watch Massage Body Mechanics: How to Use Your Legs.