Muscle recovery is a big aspect of any type of physical exercise and is often overlooked. The quicker you can recover from your workout, the more strength and muscle gains you can make. Don’t make the mistake of ignoring recovery techniques like foam rolling, contrast showers, massage, stretching, sleep and post workout nutrition. They can mean the difference between setting a personal record the next time you train or failure to get a rep, or worse, getting injured.
Sleep. Make sure to get enough. The average is eight hours a day. Some can get away with less, some need more, depending on age, activity level, profession, genetics. See how you do in the gym with less than ideal sleep and compare to when you get enough. It may not make much of a difference when you first start out training, but when the intensity rises and you are stressing your body and central nervous system hard, the importance of sleep will become apparent. Inadequate sleep can result in decreased energy levels, decrease in testosterone, decrease in growth hormone, increase in catabolic hormones. (muscle destroying)
Replace fluids. When you weight train and run hills, or drag a weighted sled, you sweat and lose fluids. Hydration is important before, during, and after training. Drink water all day, especially before training.
Foam rolling. Self-myofascial release techniques have become more popular and a decent foam roller is easy to find and not too expensive. Using a foam roller will increase flexibility, mobility, reduce soreness, prevent injury and help with posture. Self myofascial release is also shown to eliminate scar tissue and adhesions and reduce inflammation.
Massage. Even better than foam rolling is to go for a professional massage. There are many different types of massage that are available. Deep tissue , swedish, or sport massage work wonders for stiff sore muscles.
Stretching. There has been much research on the benefits of static and dynamic stretching for sports and fitness. Use dynamic stretching before training as part of a warm up, and use static stretching post workout. Dynamic stretching is beneficial for getting the proper muscles activated before using weights and for mobility. The benefits of static stretching are flexibility, range of motion, reduced soreness and risk of injury.
Active recovery. Instead of just sitting on the couch and hoping your muscle soreness goes away, try active recovery. This includes light exercise , cardio and dynamic stretching You can keep it simple and just go for a half hour walk or bike ride. If you have resistance bands, they are an excellent tool for active recovery. Let’s say you have triceps soreness. The next day you do triceps band pushdowns to get blood flow into the area and promote a faster muscle recovery. Also try some sled drags to increase blood flow, with no damage to the muscles.
Contrast water therapy. This method is one anyone can do in the shower. Just alternate extremely cold and extremely warm water to enhance blood flow into muscles and improve recovery. Opinions on the duration of time vary but generally it’s believed that for every minute of hot water, contrast with a half minute of cold, for up to ten minutes. The heat works to reduce pain and the cold helps reduce swelling and inflammation. I have found this method beneficial, and I continue to experiment with the duration of shower and extremes of temperature.
Exercise brings with it a host of symptoms including decreased range of motion, increased muscle soreness, muscle stiffness, muscle swelling, and decreased muscle force production. In order to accelerate muscle recovery, try to incorporate some, or all, of these muscle recovery techniques.
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