Kinesiology for Massage Therapy

Massage therapist explaining kinesiology to patient

A career in massage therapy is an exciting aspiration. Helping people by providing them comfort and giving them a way to physically relieve the stress and tension in their bodies is an incredible service with tremendous value. A massage therapy education will get started with training in how to provide this kind of comfort and relief in a safe and healthy way. Massage therapy training is comprehensive, and also gives a massage therapist everything they will need to begin their career.

A Base in Kinesiology

However, it is worth noting that there is additional information about the human body that could help you take a massage therapy career to the next level. Adding to the knowledge base by extended education can also help take one’s reputation in the community from novice to authoritative. Many massage therapists study Kinesiology to give them a better understanding of their profession and provide more informed services to their clients. Let’s take a deeper look into what kinesiology is, what it studies and also how it helps a massage therapy practice.

What is Kinesiology?

In a general sense, kinesiology is the study of how different kinds of muscular movements interact with various other parts of the human body. This physical field of study doesn’t include all muscle groups, however. Kinesiology, as well as massage therapy, do not deal with cardiac (heart) muscles or visceral (internal organ) muscles. Skeletal muscles, or the ones used to exert force and generate movement, are the focus of these physical support studies.

What is the Relationship Between Kinesiology and Massage Therapy?

These two areas of study share a lot of the same characteristics and have a lot of common ground in terms of the information they cover. Kinesiology is an important part of a comprehensive and complete massage therapy education. It focuses on the effects that different kinds of movements have on different regions and body systems.

How Does Kinesiology Impact Massage Therapy?

Massage therapy teaches how to manually manipulate regions of muscle to relieve pain or facilitate repair. Knowing how muscles move and how they interact with other areas of the body can help a massage therapist determine where a problem is located in a muscle group and potentially how it got there. It can help identify behaviors and environmental factors that can cause on-going damage and discomfort. in hopes of preventing future damage and bodily breakdown.

Kinesiology provides a larger context for the healing work of massage therapy and a fundamental understanding of body movement as a whole. So, while massage therapy may be the field of study used to help remedy a physical issue, kinesiology is the field that helps us prepare for and better understand many of those ailments and the areas they afflict.

What Kinds of Movement Does Kinesiology Focus On?

There are three different kinds of physical movement that kinesiology focuses on. Each of kind of movement affects the body in a different way. Understanding all three is important to understanding how damage and exhaustion can happen and how it can be repaired.

Isometric Movement

The word isometric is broken down to mean “same length.” These are the kinds of muscle movements that expend energy when a person is perfectly still. A good example of isometric movement would be holding a box. The length of a body’s muscles does not vary and neither does the resistance (in this example, gravity).

Isotonic Movement

Isotonic means “same tension.” Isotonic movement is movement that keeps muscles contracting with the same amount of tension even if the pace or duration of the repetitions vary. For instance, climbing a flight of stairs or doing push-ups are considered isotonic exercises. It doesn’t matter how fast or slow one goes. The tension needed to climb the hundredth stair or do the hundredth push-up is the same tension required to do the first.

Isokinetic Movement

This movement is a little bit more complicated than the other two types of movement. Isokinetic exercise has to do with maintaining the same speed throughout each movement repetition regardless of changing tension requirements or conditions. For example, this exertion includes cycling and swimming at a constant speed. Even if there is additional resistance added through water currents or terrain incline, the speed of the movement would remain constant (of course, provided that a person could maintain a constant speed). Isokinetic exercises are used in physical therapy during rehabilitation. When found in the clinical setting of physical rehabilitation, a machine enforces a steady and constant speed to the movement.

What Areas of the Body Does Kinesiology Focus On?

To begin, there are hundreds of different muscles the human body uses for mobility and physical force. Kinesiology focuses on muscle groups that cover larger areas rather than hyper-focusing on each of the individual muscles themselves. Though kinesiology focuses on the entire body there are main muscle groups and areas of the body that kinesiology concentrates on.

Shoulder Girdles

This area is the region of the shoulder that includes the clavicle and minor parts of the chest area. This part of the shoulder helps connect the shoulders to the back, neck and chest and also serves as the support that needs to generate power from shoulder movement. A person’s trapezius and minor pectoral muscles are numbered among the muscles found in this zone.

Shoulder Joints

While a person’s joints are the actual hinge points for human body movement, there are a lot of muscles that help manipulate those points in all different directions. The area around the actual shoulder joint deal with many small muscles. However, it also includes major pectoral muscles and larger muscles such as the latissimus dorsi that facilitate and support shoulder joint mobility.


The neck and the back are incredibly important parts of the skeletal muscle system. These intertwined muscle regions protect, support and articulate the neck and spine. They are even engaged when we are stationary, if we are upright. The spine, which is the primary origin of middle body movement, is also responsible for an aligned spinal cord. Spinal support includes trunk muscles such as the interior and exterior obliques. Neck health also includes muscles protecting and supporting neurological and cardiovascular components. So aside from being a region of the body that can be especially uncomfortable when injured or weakened, it is connected to many other systems.

Elbow Joints/Arms

Our ability to utilize our elbows allows us to extend and contract our arms to lift, push, and exert force with our upper bodies. They allow us to connect and control our arms as articulate limbs with extreme precision and much greater force than without them. This means that when this area of the body has tension or discomfort it can be a real problem. The muscles of this region include the triceps and biceps but also include the smaller muscles around the hinge point of the elbow itself.


Our wrists and our hands are made up of many different tiny bones and muscles that transform them from crude gathering tools to instruments of accuracy that do things like type, paint and many other activities that require manual dexterity. This area, while primarily made up of very small muscles exclusive to the region, is not isolated when it moves. There are other parts of the arm that affect and connect to hand and wrist movement. Forearm muscles are also a big part of wrist dexterity and strength. This area is a good example of why kinesiology focuses more on regions than specific, individual muscles. It’s about how a region moves as a whole.


A person’s hips and pelvis (supported by some of the upper leg muscles) are crucial areas of the body when it comes to movement. This region makes it possible to move the legs and helps create the power needed to increase speed or deal with uneven terrain. Again, many minor muscles are a part of this area, but some of the largest and most notable among them are the gluteus maximus and Medius.

Knee Joints/Leg

Knees sustain a lot of impact and therefore require a lot of muscular reinforcements to guard against injury and to sustain knee movement. The ability to bear weight, bend or straighten a knee joint and even rest comfortably can be seriously affected if the muscles around this crucial joint are compromised. A person’s quads and hamstrings are two of the major muscles used when bending the knee.

Lower Leg/Ankle/Feet

The muscles of the lowest extremities are responsible for grounding points, pivot stances and overall balance while moving as well as while standing still. Their strength and integrity are a substantial part of comfortable, stable movement. Similar to the hands and wrist, there are a lot of small muscles that help individually move all the small bones in the ankles and feet, there are also larger muscles (such as the calf muscles) that are used in both lower leg and knee movement. These overlaps and connections of one area to another are much more easily seen when looking at broad body areas rather than laser-focusing on individual muscles.

What are the Benefits of Combining Kinesiology and Massage Therapy?

Benefit #1: Deeper Understanding of the Human Body and How It Moves

The understanding of how muscle regions function and correlate is invaluable in massage therapy. When a client describes the pain or tension they experience during a particular movement or activity they will be able to better deduce what muscle region(s) that movement or activity utilizes and address those issues with more confidence and precision. Knowing how different muscle regions create movement and the different kinds of movement that occur in the human body will help provide maximum relief through massage therapy practice.

Benefit #2: Allows A Massage Therapist to Give More Informed, Authoritative Advice to Benefit Clients

A massage therapist’s deeper understanding of various muscle areas through kinesiology will help them give meaningful suggestions to clients that will improve their health beyond merely giving them a massage. Massage therapy is great for a lot of different reasons. It decreases toxicity and harmful chemical build up in muscle tissue, it eases tension and stress, it helps work out knots and it helps ease the pain of wear and tear that the body inevitably endures. Massage therapy informed by kinesiology can take that relief to the next level. A massage therapist’s extended knowledge of human movement will allow them to give their clients advice that can help them avoid future injury, increase their mobility and flexibility or deal with a chronic ailment.

Want to Learn More?

Did this information about kinesiology for massage therapy is interest you? If you are interested in the healing powers of massage, you can begin your career in massage therapy at Minnesota School of Cosmetology. Our short-term massage therapy training program is designed to be completed in as little as 5 months with full time enrollment*. Our massage therapy training program is designed as a holistic program that will prepare students to focus on body mechanics of their clients as well as develop positive habits for the therapist. Together, those two areas will provide a foundation that can lead to longevity in the career field.

Contact us today to learn more about becoming a massage therapist and starting a rewarding career in the massage industry.

*Completion time for this program is defined by 35 hours per week.

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