Pre-exercise massages (warm-ups)
The main reasons to do pre-exercise massages are to prevent injury and improve performance. To do that a massage has to do things like relax your muscles so they aren’t tight, and help get some blood pumping through them.
It make sense that massage can help, but to my knowledge no one has ever tested it. The idea is if you relax muscles they won’t be as tight, so they’ll be less likely to tear. That’s the same theory as stretching to help prevent injuries, which scientists have tested. With that the problem they found is that stretching can allow joints to move more than they normally would making them more vulnerable. You end up with less muscle tears but more joint injuries. I can’t see that being a problem with the massage though. I think it would just relax muscles enough to do normal full movement.
On the basis, therapeutic vibration massage is excellent. Conventional massage not quite as good, but still OK, while on the other hand foam rollers improve flexibility, but the effects only last less than 10 minutes.
Looking at increasing performance, all the evidence shows that both conventional massage and foam rollers have no effect on performance what so ever. Therapeutic vibration massage on the other hand has been shown in clinical trials to increases the time taken for your muscles fatigue, and reduce your post exercise soreness. It’s also been shown to increase strength, but only for a little while.
The other important thing to mention here is that dynamic warm ups, which are basically exercises to warm you up, do an excellent job of increasing flexibility, and and improving performance. In one trial athletes were able to jump 50 mm (that’s 2 inches) higher.
The best use of your time
The thing to consider with a warm up is that time is critical. As I said we’re not even considering foam rolling because by the time you’ve finished, the first part you did has lost any increase in flexibility. Vibration massage is quick and gives great results so it’s OK, but even though conventional massage is OK, do you spend time on the massage table when you’d get better results using that time doing a dynamic warm up?
Information about the massages
More info. and references on warm-ups.