How to Give the Best Massages
That's really what a good rubdown is — a way to relieve stress and channel positive energy through to the other person. Not only is it one of the best ways to signal to your partner that you're ready to move to the next level physically, but it's also a fantastic way to let her know how much you care.
You're probably familiar with specific types of massages. Shiatsu is an Eastern art that combines acupuncture with acupressure to allow the regulation of the energy flow. Rolfing is another medically oriented technique aimed at the straightening of the body, strongly resembling chiropractic.
The best known, however, is the Swedish massage, which is pretty much what will be covered here. It's a full body massage with relaxation as its goal. Other styles such as sports massage, reflexology, myotherapy, and myofascial release are also of a therapeutic nature.
Before you get started with a massage
The environment in which you intend to proceed should be carefully mulled over. It should be relaxing in most fundamental way. There shouldn't be any children or pets around to interrupt. The room must be at a comfortable temperature and your woman shouldn't be subjected to any drafts. Take the time to dim the lights and make sure the drapes are pulled shut so that there are no distractions. It's not enough just to light a scented candle; make sure your environment is clean and uncluttered.
Plan on summoning the music connoisseur within you and make a playlist of relaxing music. For relaxation sake, we prefer instrumental compositions. The mellow jazz of Dave Brubeck or Stan Getz are worth trying.
Your woman should be comfortable with you; if she doesn't feel completely at ease, then she won't be able to fully let go. She should entirely disrobe once you assure her that her more intimate parts will be covered. It is possible to work around bra straps and panty lines but it should be avoided if possible.
Come to the massage equipped
She should lie down on a hard surface so that all her muscles are adequately supported: a firm mattress or a futon are ideal. Also, allow enough space for you to be able to circulate around her and work contentedly.
Have towels on hand. Not only will you need some to cover her where the sun isn't supposed to shine, but it is also important to cover the areas that you have already massaged so that the body heat you will have generated won't escape and leave her chilly. A folded towel or a small pillow should be provided for her head.
Lubricants are a must. There are many fancy massage oils that are available on the market and they truly are the best option. They have just the right level of viscosity, and leave your woman smelling rather good if you buy the scented kinds. Water-based lubes, KY for example, and petroleum-based jelly like Vaseline, aren't idyllic as they are absorbed too quickly by the skin.
If you don't want to invest in massage oils, you can always use olive oil — that's right, what you use in the kitchen. It works great, but its perfume may turn your woman off. If she doesn't like the feel of oil on her skin, then you can always turn to talcum powder. It's better than nothing at all.
roadmap to the stars
When you do get into the massage, you should always target large muscle groups. Neck, shoulders, back, and legs are what you should mostly work on. By not focusing on specific muscles, you avoid doing any damage and are relieving most of the stress.
Your pressure should be even and firm so that the "massagee" can get used to your touch without being distracted. Use your entire hand: fingers and palm, heel and fingertips. Your strokes must be graceful and poised as if you were sculpting clay with Demi Moore sitting between your legs.
For maximum effect, you'll want to begin with the shoulders. From there you can work your way to her neck, and then down her arms all the way to her hands. After that you can return to her upper and lower back, and over to her buttocks if she has no problem with it. Then it's down her thighs to her calves. You can end off with her feet. Once there, backtrack all the way to the starting point with a lighter touch of effleurage.
how the pros do it
Begin with softer movements:
Effleurage: Soft and fluid strokes steadily applied with the palm of the hand. It will stretch the soft tissue and is very relaxing. It's a good way to help her body get used to your touch. Always use this technique before and after more energetic rubbing.
The fan stroke: Your hands should be at either side of the spine above her hips, with your fingers facing her head. Slide your hands up to her shoulder blades with a bit of pressure. Next, move up and out toward the shoulders in a curve, and move back down along the rib cage to your initial position. Basically, you're drawing a coarse heart, which should classify you as quite the romantic.
The circling hands: Wax on, wax off for the nonviolent crowd. Your right hand should be perpendicular to her spine with your fingers pointing to her left. Make counterclockwise semicircular motion with your fingers always pointing in the same direction. Once you've gone a few inches, have your left hand seamlessly take over. And so on. Before long, you will have left-traced an entire circle.
Once her body is accustomed to your attention, you can move on to more vigorous actions:
Kneading: Ever given someone a back rub? Then you're already accustomed to this method. It consists of rhythmically squeezing the flesh and muscles for approximately half a minute. Go slowly and don't simply aim for the skin. Remember, it's a massage, not a dungeon of pain.
Milking: Similar to kneading, only here you use both hands to grab onto a single muscle group and squeeze, alternating between your right and left hand. Imagine you are milking a cow, hence the name. Then roll the flesh between your fingers.
Here's a great and fun way to bring this to a close:
Fingertips raking: Arch your hands so that only your fingertips apply pressure to her body, but first make sure that your fingernails aren't potential weapons. Then, remember last fall and rake your heart out.
You can try all these techniques on different parts of her body. Experiment and pay attention to her reactions as you go.
don't wanna get slapped, do you?
1- Never, ever apply pressure directly on the spine. It can be unpleasant and frankly, I would avoid any spots that can cause serious neurological damage.
2- Similarly, massaging the belly can be a source of discomfort for your woman.
3- Don't pinch. It can be easy to succumb to it when kneading and milking, but you should avoid it.
4- And finally, once you start the massage, never leave your partner without your touch. If you need more oil, try doing so with only one hand so that the momentum is never broken.
the grand finale
When you're done, use a spare towel and wipe the extra lubricant from her body. It will also signal to her that it's over. Have something to drink close by, as people tend to be thirsty after a good rubdown. And take the time to discuss the great moment the two of you just shared.
Basically, keep it relaxing. If you are massaging a friend in the hopes of better, less lonesome days, don't turn the event into a sexual one halfway through just because you have an opportunity. Let her make that decision — otherwise, chances are the only person you'll be massaging is yourself.
If your partner looks like this, you have bigger problems than giving bad massages.
Secret #1 – The Massage Zone
Take a look at the diagram above. The red shaded area is your workspace. Memorize this! As long as you stay in this area you will be okay.
The strip between the two areas is the spine (in case any strange alien invertebrate is reading this). You don’t want to spend any time massaging the spine. It’s made of bone so it will do no good, it will be painful for you, and definitely not pleasant for the other person.
The outside boundary of the red area “massage zone” (Not to be confused with the “red light district”. Very different!) follows along the inside of the shoulder blade, then inside the ribs. Technically the ribs go all around the back, but back muscles cover them until you get close to their sides. At this point the back muscles seem to end and you can feel the rib bones.
Again, the ribs and the shoulder blades are bones and thus don’t really need a good massaging. Leave that to the bone masseuses (I wouldn’t google that).
It should also be noted that the top of the “massage zone” does not roll all the way to the collar bone on the other side. It will suit you well to stay away from massaging anything on their front. It’s just not very comfortable and this way you’ll avoid a lot of lawsuits.
And finally, avoid the kidneys if you can. They can be painful to work around and you are better off leaving that to the professionals. I certainly don’t bother with them.
Focus on the borders
The borders of the massage zone are the most likely to get knots. For some reason, knots tend to form next to bone. Right inside the shoulder blade is the most common place. If you have the person place their arm behind their back, you’ll see their shoulder blade pop out. This will make it really easy to get access to those knots.
There are often some small knots along the edges of the spine, and I commonly find some really large knots just inside the ribs in the lower half of the zone.
Secret #2 – Press Hard and Release
What makes a deep-tissue massage feel good? Well, there are 4 parts to this.
- Firm pressure on the knotted areas causes pain, but pressure helps those knots dissolve as the tightened muscle areas relax.
- While the moment of pressure is painful, when you release that pressure the brain releases pleasure chemicals that make you feel really good and tingly. It’s like a drug and it happens every time you release pressure! It’s also relaxing as you feel that muscle area not being as tight as it was.
- Being touched causes a release of oxytocin, which is also pleasurable (and also why cuddling together feels neato).
- Working the muscles with your warm hands causes their muscles to warm up and more blood flows to the problem areas. This alone helps the muscles relax, and increased blood flow helps loosen up some of the knots (imagine a lot of water pressure flowing through a tangled garden hose).
The last 2 happen naturally, but it’s the first 2 which make the difference between a great massage and a bad one.
The more “press and release” that you do, the better the massage will feel. One of the greatest feeling sensations in the world is when you use your fingers to press and release repeatedly in a tight area. There are 5 common techniques to do this.
5 Press and Release Techniques
- Typewriter – Put 3 or 4 fingers of one hand on a large tight area and randomly press and release your fingers one at a time as quickly as you can all around the area.
- Footsteps – Use two or three fingers (could be one from each hand, or two from the same hand) to “walk” along a tight area of the back – like the area between the shoulder blade and spine. Take very small steps! You can do it slow or moderately fast. Sometimes it’s best to go slow, sometimes it’s best to go quicker. Just use your intuition. If you have a bad intuition, then do the opposite of what you think you should do.
- Single Finger Poke – (Okay, so I couldn’t come up with a good name for this one!) Use one finger to just press and release repeatedly in different places around a problem area.
- Press and Move - Use a finger or thumb to press deeply into the muscle, but instead of releasing you keep the pressure and slowly move your finger/thumb along a tight area of muscle. It’s almost like you are using a hoe to dig out a narrow trench in the dirt. Because you are moving, you are continuously pressing new areas and releasing the old ones. Don’t do this on bare skin without lotion!
- Press and Knead - This is what you will do the most of. Press your thumb or finger firmly and instead of releasing all the way, only release about 1/2 or 3/4 of the pressure before pressing again. Try not to do the same exact spot twice in a row, move around while you do it and use a little rubbing motion instead of just going straight in and straight out. If you are targeting a specific tight spot, stay in the spot but move as much as you can inside of it, hitting it from different angles. You can use both thumbs (or two fingers) in the same problem area, alternating pressure so only one is pressing at a time. Use lotion for this as well.
Regardless of which technique you use (and use all 5 at some point during the massage), the key to doing it right is the same. You must get as much pressure as possible before releasing. It will be painful, but it’s only for a split second so by the time their brain realizes the pain it’s gone and all that’s left is a dizzying shower of pleasure chemicals. If they aren’t used to this, it might make them giggle at first. Start slowly to get them used to it.
Bonus Tip – If you really want to give them goosebumps, do the “footsteps” or a “moving typewriter” up one or both sides of their neck all the way up the back of their scalp!
This woman is demonstrating a technique called “boy I sure could use a massage, hint, hint!”.
Secret #3 – Working the Shoulders
Think of the red area in the diagram above as a big slab of massage meat (don’t google that). It’s a big chunk of tight muscles that need to be worked on.
Place your hands on their shoulders in the stereotypical “I’m giving you a massage” position. One common mistake people make when they give massages (usually when they are just trying to mimic what they’ve seen other people do) is using their fingers to apply pressure just above the collarbone (or sometimes actually on the collar bone itself!). When in this typical shoulder massage position, don’t use your fingers on the front, just use your thumb on the back.
Your thumbs should be able to reach most of that “slab”. Now, if you were a professional massage therapist you wouldn’t want to use your thumbs because your thumb wouldn’t be able to handle several massages in a single day. But, if you are just going to be giving one, you’ll be fine.
Use your thumb to put deep pressure on all the tight spots in that area (use primarily the “Press and Knead” technique). You can use your thumb to do some nice press and release, press and move, or work on all the knots you find. In the diagram you’ll notice an “X” near the bottom of the red area. There is a pressure point between the spine and shoulder blade just about an inch or two from the top of the traps. You can find it with your thumb. You might need to ask the person to tell you when you are on it. Put as much pressure as they can stand and slowly rub over that spot
At the top of that area there is a muscle that goes from the top of the neck down to shoulder. I’ve marked it with a dotted line. This is almost always a really tight muscle and you can feel it really easily. You can place your fingers along that line and do the “typewriter”, or you can do “footsteps” along the line, like walking a tightrope. I also recommend using your thumb to “press and move” along that line all the up to the bottom of the scalp.
Bonus Tip – Take your hand and grab the back of their neck, with your thumb on one side and your fingers on the other. The spine should be under your palm. In this position you can use your thumb and fingers to use the “press and knead” technique on that tight muscle on each side of the neck.
Secret #4 – How to Get Firm Pressure
Many women (and smaller men) complain about not being strong enough to get firm pressure. Believe it or not, it’s not about how big or strong you are, but about technique. I’m not the strongest person in the world, but I put a crazy amount of pressure.
The key is to put your entire body into it, not just your fingers. To do this, use the tips of your thumb or fingers instead of the pad. You want your thumb/finger stiff so that there are no “buckle” points between your arm and the point of contact.
Try this: Attempt to do a “girl pushup” (keeping your knees on the ground) but instead of having your palms on the ground, only have the tips of your thumb and fingers in contact with the floor. To do this, your thumbs and fingers must be stiff so they won’t buckle. What’s happening is the entire weight of your upper body is being pressed into the floor. That’s a LOT of pressure!
Do the same thing when digging into someone’s back. Keep your wrist and thumb/finger stiff and push with your arm. But, be sure and get feedback from the person you are massaging to make sure you aren’t putting too much pressure. Everyone has different amounts of pain tolerance.
For really hard knots you can also use your knuckle or even your elbow. Just be really careful!
Secret #5 – Knots
Recognizing knots can be kind of tricky at first. Muscles should be springy and soft. You need to feel for areas where the muscles feel a little tighter. These tight spots need to be worked on.
If you pay attention, you’ll also feel some really small little knots that almost feel like a little rubber pea. When you try put pressure on it, it tends to slip out from under your thumb. They can be tricky to pin down. You’ll almost certainly feel some right inside the shoulder blade.
Then there are also bigger knots that can at times feel almost as hard as bone! They can be round knots, or they can be long and thick like a tightened muscle. They key is knowing where bones are supposed to be so you’ll know where bones aren’t. If you aren’t sure, ask them. “Is this a bone?”
The best way, I think, of getting the feel for knots and tight areas is to have professional massages done on yourself. Pay attention to what they are doing and how it feels. Then try working on yourself. Working on your own back isn’t easy, but you can do it. Just reach around as best you can. There’s no substitute for being able to feel the knot both in your back and with your fingers at the same time!
Working on the knot
The key to working on a knot is to get right on top of it. It’s really tricky, because knots try to slip out from under your thumb as you increase pressure. You don’t want knots to slip out. That’s very uncomfortable! You have to find that exact point right in the center where you can slowly start to increase pressure without it slipping out from under you. Put as much pressure as you can (as much as they can tolerate) and hold it.
Once you’ve put some pressure on it, try moving or rocking your thumb back and forth while still staying on top of the knot. You’ll probably have to do this a few times on each knot (depending on the severity of the knot). Knots vary in terms of which direction their grain goes. So, change up which direction you rock back and forth.
Bonus Tip – Strangely, a person’s pain in one area can be caused by a knot in a totally different area. So, be sure and work on all the knots, not just the ones in the area that is tender!
- Have them use a heating pad and/or a “thumping” massager on their back before the massage. This will warm up the muscles and increase the blood flow, making the massage much more effective.
- Do not do any rubbing on their bare skin without using lotion! Dry skin being rubbed is very unpleasant! Lotion also allows you to feel the muscles a lot better.
- Make sure they are in a very comfortable position while you do the massage, otherwise they could be creating more knots in their back just trying to hold an unstable position while you work on them.
- Instruct them to drink plenty of water after working on them. If they don’t, their knots can swell and become even worse! I can personally attest to this. It’s not fun!
SET THE MOOD
Setting the mood helps you get intimate and the same can be said of massages. "The basics for a good professional massage include dimming the lights, relaxing music, essential oils for aromatherapy, a heated table and a soothing vocal tone (from who's doing the massage)," says Aubrey Rogers, owner of the City Magnolia Day Spa in Frederick, MD.
USE RELAXING STROKES
When you're giving someone a therapeutic massage, be sure to use slow, relaxing strokes. "It's important to maintain contact when giving a massage. A break in contact equals a break in relaxation," explains Rogers. "All massage movements should move in the direction of the heart, increasing the circulation of the blood."
DON'T FORGET THE OIL (OPTIONAL)
For a good basic massage oil is a must! Vance suggests to use massage oil -- not body lotion when giving a massage to your partner. Massage oil is designed to stay on the skin longer and provide a better glide along the body, says Robert Vance, spa director at the Sanctuary On Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa in Paradise Valley, AZ.. Consider grape seed or jojoba oil. You'll find these at Whole Foods or any organic market.
"Aromatherapy oils can also be used, however as these oils penetrate directly into the bloodstream, caution should be taken when using pure essential oils," Rogers points out. "Lavender and peppermint essential oils are good all-purpose oils that most people can tolerate. However, as with anything, if someone is pregnant or has any major medical concerns a doctor should be consulted before application."
A great massage is what everyone should strive for, not just a good one. What is necessary for a great massage are the same things that are required for a great relationship, says Vance. Communication and chemistry are both important. Talk to your partner (calmly and in a limited fashion, of course). Ask if the pressure is good, where he or she would like you to focus on, and what feels best. The communication will not only make the massage feel great, but will strengthen your bond.
TAKE YOUR TIME
Every massage can be a sensual experience in that it stimulates all of your senses simultaneously, according to Vance. The most important thing to remember is to take your time and enjoy the experience. "A massage between couples should be a relaxing and enjoyable experience. Don't try to do therapeutic work because deep tissue work is best left to a massage therapist," he says. "If you are inflicting pain or discomfort it will completely break the mood, so just focus on long, smooth strokes and read your partner and how they are reacting to the massage."
Step 1: Make some space
A soft bed may be perfect for lovemaking, but the ideal massage area is firm, flat, and stable, so you don't bounce your partner around as you move. (Think how unrelaxing it would be to get a massage on a jiggly water bed.) For maximum comfort, have your guy lie down on a futon mattress or pallet of blankets and place pillows under his neck, knees, and ankles.
Step 2 (OPTIONAL): Break out the oil
Besides making your hands soft and warm, massage oil reduces friction and makes it easier to knead, rub, and stroke your guy's tired and stressed muscles. Scented oils can be erotic, "but steer clear of intense fragrances, like patchouli, which get cloying," says Steve Capellini, a licensed massage therapist in Miami and author of Massage for Dummies. Instead, try a light single scent, like jasmine, and warm the bottle in a bowl of hot water.
Step 3: Create a peaceful vibe
The tickling of loose hair or a lacy nightie might excite him (and you), but it can also take his focus off the deep, steady sensations of your massage. Tie your hair back and wear close-fitting clothes to minimize distractions. To avoid jarring chills, drape his naked body with sheets (uncover just the body part you're working on). If you play music, keep it soft and slow.
Step 4: Pick a spot, any spot
Pressed for time? Focusing on one part of his body — really focusing on it — can be even more decadent than a head-to-toe rubdown. If his back is in knots, concentrate on that. If he loves having his feet caressed, give them the royal treatment. Or keep it simple: Just ask him where he wants you to touch him.
Step 5: Get hands-on
To give a great massage, all you need to know are a few basic moves:
Step 6: Focus on the feelings
Intimate massage isn't about perfection, so don't worry about doing it "right." Try to stay in the moment. "The quality of your touch is more important than technique," says Peggy Morrison Horan, author of Connecting Through Touch and a founder of the Esalen Massage Program at Esalen Institute in Big Sur, CA. "Massage is about being emotionally present, touching your partner with intention, and paying attention to his reactions." What could be sexier than that?
Rule 1: Don't Push So Hard
Depending on your goal, there are times when you need a tiny bit of pain for gain (like when you're putting pressure on a knot). But in general you want to give firm enough pressure that you can feel the muscle move underneath the skin without making your partner grimace or squirm, says Ben Brown, a massage therapist at Bliss, a New York City spa.
Rule 2: Work Slowly
Rubbing hard and fast will just irritate your partner's muscles. Instead, use slow, even strokes with the palms of your hands, thumbs, or finger pads (the fleshy part of your fingertips).
Rule 3: Avoid Bones and Joints
Never push directly on the spine and be careful not to put too much pressure on muscles that run over the ribs and shoulder blades. If someone has thin muscle tissue, you can bruise bones by going too hard, says Tricia Pottratz, massage therapist and instructor in Woodland, Washington. Also be wary of knees, elbows, and shoulders.
The lower back may be the number one spot for injuries, but shoulders are where people carry most of their tension. Hunching over a computer screen all day long or carrying an overloaded bag can throw you out of alignment.
Shoulders: How To Do It
Most people know the basic shoulder massage move: Grab both shoulders from behind and use the thumbs to push down. Amateurs often mess this up by breaking rule number 2 -- they work too fast.
Shoulders: How To Do It 2
If your hands get tired easily, use your forearms. Have your partner sit up while you stand behind him. Place your right forearm on his right shoulder, palm facing up. Rest your left hand on his left shoulder. Then use your body weight to press down on your forearm while rotating it in toward his neck. Repeat on the other side.
Shoulders: Pro Tip
An even easier way to work tight shoulders? Grab a tennis ball. "Simply roll the ball all over with the palm of your hand," Pottratz says. You can't mess it up this way. It saves your hands from doing all the work and it feels amazing.
Put your hands on your hips, says Gruver. Those two thick, stiff columns your thumbs land on are the muscles responsible for keeping you upright. They're made to be tight or else you'd fall over, but rubbing them can relax a painful lower back.
Lower Back: How To Do It
While straddling him, position one hand on his lower back muscle, with fingers pointing away from his spine. Place your other hand on top of the first hand. Use your body weight to push down slowly, pressing the heels of your hands into the muscle like you're pushing it away from his spine. Try one hand on either side of the spine; rock back and forth. If he has trouble lying on his stomach, place a pillow under his hips to ease the pressure.
Anything from how you sit at your computer to the way you sleep can lead to chronic neck pain, which is why so many people complain of tense and overstressed muscles in this spot.
Neck: How To Do It
While he's on his stomach or sitting up, gently place your palm on the back of his neck, creating light pressure with your thumb on one side and four fingers on the other. Slowly pull your hand toward the back of the neck while squeezing your thumb and fingers together around those neck muscles. (Avoid pressure toward the front of the neck so you don't choke him.)
Neck: How To Do It 2
Another great beginner's move is to make a bowl with your hands and have your partner just lie back with his head in your palms. Your fingertips should be pressing against the muscles that attach to the back of the head, called the suboccipitals. "This is a wonderful way to treat tension headaches," says Brown.
Neck: Pro Tip
The neck has major arteries, so pressing too hard or holding too long could cause fainting. If you feel a pulse, ease up. Another red-flag spot is the indent behind the ear -- pushing hard on it can trigger nerve damage or even facial paralysis, says Kathy Gruver, Ph.D., a massage therapist in Santa Barbara, California.
What is it about a salon hair wash that feels so fabulous? "You may not notice it, but every time you chew, talk, or raise your eyebrows, the muscles in your scalp are working, so rubbing them can be surprisingly relaxing," Gruver points out.
Head: How To Do It
Brace your thumbs near the top or back of his head and rotate your fingertips in small circles on the scalp, moving slowly from the forehead to the back of the head. "When you're done with the scalp, position your thumbs at the hairline in the middle of the forehead. From here you can use your fingers to rub the temples and also the jaw, which can get really tense," says Brown.
Hands and Feet
If you only have a few minutes, give your partner a hand or foot massage. Extremities really take a beating, and they deserve a little relief.
Hands and Feet: How To Do It
Hold your partner's hand in both your hands, with your thumbs on top. Apply pressure to the meaty muscles in his palms with your finger pads and slowly pull down. Do the same to each finger, but don't pop the knuckles. Then take one foot in both hands so your thumbs are on the bottom of his foot. Squeeze and slide your hands from the ball to the heel. Criss-cross or circle the thumbs up and down the sole.
How To Get Rid of Knots
When muscles are overworked, they shorten or get stuck in spasm, resulting in painful lumps. Often when people try to release knots, they push down hard and rub furiously. That just makes it feel worse, Pottratz says. Start with a soothing, total body massage first, using the techniques in the previous slides.
Step 1: Press and Hold
Find the lump and rub over and around it with firm, even pressure. Do some long, broad strokes down and up his back using your palms. Then, with a knuckle or thumb, press down on the knot and hold it. (Now is the time to push pretty hard, but take cues from your partner.) Have him breathe into it. Hold until you feel the muscle relax, but don't get discouraged if it doesn't release completely. Stubborn knots can take more than one massage to fix.
Step 2: Cool Down
"Now you want to use light strokes to relax the tissues," Pottratz says. Go back to what you started with: long, broad, soothing strokes.