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How to give an amazing massage—even if you have no idea what you’re doing


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Photo: Stocksy/Ivan Solis
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The lights are dim. The music is just right. And you’ve got a brilliant idea: You’re going to give your your partner (or person you’re hooking up with—no judgement) a massage. So you get to work, kneading the knots out of the shoulders. That’s when the shrieks start (“Ow!”) making it far less romantic than you intended. Whoops.

Though you’d think that any massage is a good massage, it’s certainly not the case. There are definitely some rules of thumb (no pun intended) to follow when trying to give the gift of physical touch.

“It isn’t a science experiment to see what happens after—the whole no pain, no gain concept is totally not true in this scenario!”

“The best tip is to never rush,” says Lara Katzman, massage therapist at New York City’s Haven Spa. “You want to impress someone, so give it your full attention, and use long and smooth strokes.” In other words, no mini-punches or chopping hands.

Another important thing to remember is that you shouldn’t take it upon yourself to relieve any major cricks. “Don’t try to dig in and ease super-stressed knots,” advises Katzman. “It isn’t a science experiment to see what happens after—the whole no pain, no gain concept is totally not true in this scenario!”

As for assuming the position: There are many reasons why you might want to move things to the bedroom (ahem), including comfort. Your arms will undoubtedly get tired after about five minutes, so our expert advises having your partner lie down so you don’t have to keep your arms raised. And most importantly, don’t forget to switch when you’ve finished off. After all, there’s always some give-take in a good relationship.

Keep reading for Katzman’s pro tips on giving a great massage.

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Graphic: Hannah Packer
Graphic: Hannah Packer

The feet

“The best parts of the body to massage are actually the feet or hands,” says Katzman. “It unblocks thousands of nerve endings so they can respond to all organs, and is an excellent way to help your partner reach a calm and balanced state of being.”

1. Start on the soles using your thumbs and apply pressure.

2. Pay special attention to the arches, the epicenter of tension.

3. Give some gentle pulls on each toe (or finger).

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Graphic: Hannah Packer
Graphic: Hannah Packer

The head

“If your partner has ticklish feet, go for the head instead,” advises Katzman. “No massage oil needed for this, of course.”

1. Use your thumbs to massage the top of the scalp.

2. Using all fingers, massage the sides of the head slowly.

3. Use your nails to scratch the head slightly for an added chill down the spine. (Yes, that’s a good thing!)

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Graphic: Hannah Packer
Graphic: Hannah Packer

The back

“To best massage the back, I recommend having your partner lie down shirtless—on the stomach—and using a blanket,” says Katzman. “For a nice glide, use a little oil.”

1. Warm up your partner’s back with soft, long, gliding strokes using both hands. Do 10 repetitions.

2. Similar to making bread, knead the muscles—especially on the shoulder area.

3. Use your knuckles or the base of your hands to work some tension points for a deeper touch.

4. For a more intense feeling, use your thumbs on stiff muscles.

5. Finish with long strokes.

For other ways to make your partner happy, here’s how to bring the excitement back into a long-term relationship. Or head to the gym—working out regularly could actually rev up your sex life in surprising ways.