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Effects of leg massage on recovery from high intensity cycling exercise
  1. A Robertson1,
  2. J M Watt2,
  3. S D R Galloway1
  1. 1Department of Sports Studies, University of Stirling, Stirling FK9 4LA, Scotland, UK
  2. 2Department of Sports Studies and University Physiotherapy Clinic, Stirling
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr Galloway
 Department of Sports Studies, University of Stirling, Stirling FK9 4LA, Scotland, UK;


Background: The effect of massage on recovery from high intensity exercise is debatable. Many studies on massage suffer from methodological flaws such as poor standardisation of previous exercise, lack of dietary control, and inappropriate massage duration.

Objective: To examine the effects of leg massage compared with passive recovery on lactate clearance, muscular power output, and fatigue characteristics after repeated high intensity cycling exercise, with the conditions before the intervention controlled and standardised.

Methods: Nine male games players participated. They attended the laboratory on two occasions one week apart and at the same time of day. Dietary intake and activity were replicated for the two preceding days on each occasion. After baseline measurement of heart rate and blood lactate concentration, subjects performed a standardised warm up on the cycle ergometer. This was followed by six standardised 30 second high intensity exercise bouts, interspersed with 30 seconds of active recovery. After five minutes of active recovery and either 20 minutes of leg massage or supine passive rest, subjects performed a second standardised warm up and a 30 second Wingate test. Capillary blood samples were drawn at intervals, and heart rate, peak power, mean power, and fatigue index were recorded.

Results: There were no significant differences in mean power during the initial high intensity exercise bouts (p  =  0.92). No main effect of massage was observed on blood lactate concentration between trials (p  =  0.82) or heart rate (p  =  0.81). There was no difference in the maximum power (p  =  0.75) or mean power (p  =  0.66) in the subsequent Wingate test, but a significantly lower fatigue index was observed in the massage trial (p  =  0.04; mean (SD) fatigue index 30.2 (4.1)% v 34.2 (3.3)%).

Conclusions: No measurable physiological effects of leg massage compared with passive recovery were observed on recovery from high intensity exercise, but the subsequent effect on fatigue index warrants further investigation.

  • massage
  • recovery
  • power output
  • lactate
  • muscle

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