Get Your Hands on Me

She's pinching, you're flinching—just in time, professional advice for DIY massage

Nov 1, 2001
Outside Magazine

   Photo: Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock

CAN'T AFFORD A PROFESSIONAL massage as often as you'd like? Time to convince your partner to help out—and for both of you to learn the ropes. Beginners often go too far on expensive glop; a moderate amount of ordinary hand cream will suffice. Start with light stroking and build gradually to vigorous rubbing. (If working the limbs, rub toward the heart.) Finish with the light touch again. Spend extra time on tension areas, using body weight to apply pressure without straining your fingers and thumbs. Don't massage injured areas without first consulting a doctor. Now you're ready to rub. What follows are two simple massages you can practice on each other: below, a shoulder and upper-back routine, courtesy of massage guru Kris McFarland, who works with professional triathletes in Boulder, Colorado; on the next page, instructions for a leg massage, courtesy of Lori Stahler, a massage therapist in Salt Lake City who works primarily with skiers.


STEP 1: Have the lucky victim sit backward on a chair, leaning his chest into the backrest. Stand facing the massagee, press down on the upper trapezius muscles (near neck), and knead back and forth.

STEP 2: Place your fingers where the base of the skull meets the neck, fingers pointed toward the floor. Work the neck as above.

STEP 3: Standing behind the victim now, go back to the trapezius zone. Gently squeeze and roll the muscles between your fingers. (Don't pinch.)

STEP 4: Massage between the shoulder blades and the spine (rhomboids). Lean in with your body weight, pressing with the heel of your hand.

STEP 5: Switch places and repeat.



STEP 1: Have massagee lie on his stomach on a flat surface, level with your hip if possible (a bed or a sturdy kitchen table with blankets will do), or on a blanket-covered floor. With lotion, use your palms to rub the back of the leg above the knee (hamstrings) with long upward strokes, beginning with light pressure and increasing to moderate pressure. (Avoid the back of knee, a sensitive area.)

STEP 2: Using the same long strokes, rub the calf muscle from the ankle to just below the knee. Make sure to rub the middle, lateral, and medial sides of the muscle, and then lightly grasp the calf muscle and jiggle it.

STEP 3: Work the soles of the feet by using short pressing strokes with your thumbs, from heel toward toes.

STEP 4: Have the subject lie on his back. Work the front of the thighs with the same palm-of-hand technique, moving from the top of the knee upward. On the outer side of the leg, rub the IT band—the muscle that runs from the outside of your pelvis to the outside of your knee—using a "cross fiber" technique, side to side with the first two fingers in strokes three to five inches long, starting near the knee and moving upward. Use comfortable pressure; this is a sensitive area.

STEP 5: Rub the main muscle of the lower leg on the outer side of the bone, using long strokes with your thumb from the ankle to just below the knee.Switch places and repeat.

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