How to

Give a Great Back Massage

It's a skill every man should master.

The ability to give a good massage is an essential skill that every man should master. It can come in handy in a multitude of situations and will certainly set the mood for any romantic evening. But you want to know what you're doing. While most of us think we can give a pretty good massage, it's not one of those things you want to half-ass. Because the recipient of a bumbling, misguided massage will definitely know it. So we sought out internationally trained massage therapist Amy Jokinen of the posh Beverly Wilshire Hotel Spa, for some expert tips. And it turns out, you don't need to master a bunch of different techniques. But you will want to stay clear of unnecessary, misused moves like those silly and not-very-sexy karate chops. Here's how to give a rub down to remember.

 

Set the

Mood

You want to introduce a tranquil space and create the tone for the massage. A bed provides a comfortable position, but don't be afraid to get creative. "We come to expect certain experiences when you go to a spa," says Jokinen. "So dimming the lights and doing simple things like setting down pillows on the floor for the other person to lay on shows that you're treating them." A good time to give a massage, she says, is after a bath when the body is warm and muscles are loose and relaxed.

 
 

Oil

Is Better
Than Lotion

Your most crucial tool for giving a good massage is a quality body oil, like sweet almond oil or coconut oil. "Aromatherapy automatically sets the body to relax," says Jokinen. She recommends essential oils like cedar or spruce to ground and destress. "Or if your recipient is low on energy, use citrus oils to uplift and invigorate them." Heat the oil by rubbing it in your hands (which also releases the scent into the air).

 

Start at the shoulders and using long, slow strokes, smooth your hands down the sides of the spine and back up.

Gently grab the skin at the back of a neck (like a cat) and slowly release it.

Massage the lower scalp with your fingertips, focusing on the ridge at the back of the head.

 

Go

Slow

Begin with light, gentle strokes. Your focus, according to Jokinen, should be on keeping the palms of your hands on the body as much as possible. Use long, slow strokes. Start at the neck and shoulders and go down to the lower back, smoothing your hands along the sides of the spine. Remember to keep your hands and arms relaxed as well—if you're comfortable, they will be too.

 

Use Your

Intuition

"You know what feels good to you," says Jokinen. "Keep that in mind when you're massaging someone." And don't take it so seriously. "Think of it as artwork, like you're painting the back." For extra points, work the pads of the feet and the hands. Then to finish things off, she recommends two tension relieving moves. First, gently grab the skin at the back of a neck (like a cat) and slowly release it. Then work up the neck with your fingertips, and massage the lower scalp, focusing on the ridge at the back of the head. These areas contain a lot of nerves, which allows for a great release of stress and tension.

 

Start at the shoulders and using long, slow strokes, smooth your hands down the sides of the spine and back up.

Gently grab the skin at the back of a neck (like a cat) and slowly release it.

Massage the lower scalp with your fingertips, focusing on the ridge at the back of the head.

Oils to Have on Hand

Sweet almond oil, $5.01 by Aura Cacia

Citrus bliss oil, $15.97 by doTERRA

Spruce essential oil, $7.30 by Edens Garden

Coconut oil, $15.79 by Life-Flo

Arnica warming massage oil, $11.39 by Weleda