From dynamic stretching to percussive therapy, there are a lot of different things you can do after a particularly grueling workout for the sake of muscle recovery. But none of them are quite as enjoyable in that hurts-so-good kinda way as a good, old-fashioned massage. While old-school styles like deep-tissue and hot stone have long proven their body benefits on the recovery front, the most effective massage modality one ups them all by adding heat and water into the mix.
Hydromassage—which has been popping up in brick-and-mortar gyms across the country—combines heat and water to ease tension in the body. It takes place on top of a bed filled with jets, and the combination of pressure and warm H2O helps to dissipate muscle knots caused by tightened fascia. According to Theodore Savage, the fitness training director at Planet Fitness, it does it even better than a set of human hands could.
In addition to feeling damn amazing, hydromassage comes along with some legit benefits. First up? Alleviating muscle soreness. “As we work out, we are tearing down our muscle tissue continuously and, as a result, the muscles release lactic acid. HydroMassage works to break down that lactic acid and keep it from building up locally,” says Savage. This creates proper blood flow throughout your tissues, which aids in recovery time and offsets injuries.
The warm jets are also said to relieve pressure in your joints, which helps increase range of motion. “This is important for functional movements both in and outside of the gym,” says Savage. If you’re feeling misaligned, he adds that hydromassage is a great way to even out the imbalances in your body that typically lead to poor posture, muscle strain, and ligament sprains.
While you may have to trek to your local big-box gym to get an actual hydromassage (Planet Fitness has the beds at many of its locations across the country, as does Crunch), you can treat yourself to its close and equally beneficial cousin, Hydrotherapy, at home. This recovery tactic encompasses any sort of hot-cold water-therapy—which helps ease soreness, aid in circulation, and stimulate lymphatic drainage—and all you need to do it is a shower.
“Use your shower to alternate between hot and cold, and add a few drops of peppermint or eucalyptus to make it more of an experience,” says Liz Tortolani, founder of CityWell. She’s also a fan of taking a hot Epsom salt bath, then rinsing with a cold shower, or doing hot-cold soaks with your legs after a workout. Combine these with yoga moves that feel like a massage (press play on the video below to follow along), and you’ll be your very own master hydromassage therapist in no time.
Forget stretching and foam rolling: these recovery treatments feel like a day at the spa. And try this pre-bed body work to melt tension for a better night’s sleep.
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