Apr 27th, 2013
Author: PJF Performance
Category: Performance Enhancement
It’s no secret that elite athletes and everyday gym goers are constantly on the lookout for better recovery methods. Every athlete that I train wants to recover quicker in-between workouts to enhance their athletic gains and attain a competitive edge. Even my non-athlete clients want to recover quicker because, well, being sore sucks. No matter which category you fall under it is imperative that you consider the recovery process a vital component of your training program.
It doesn’t matter how hard/smart you train, if you don’t allow your body to recover you’ll never make gains. Improvements in your body happen during rest NOT in the gym.
Understanding the importance of the recovery process is the first step. Learning methods to enhance recovery is the next. Here’s a list of my top 10 favorite recovery methods.
1) Proper Nutrition
This one is pretty obvious, but is definitely the most important. Without adequate protein your body simply won’t be able to re-build muscle. Without adequate carbohydrate your body wont be able to restore glycogen and you will experience increased fatigue in following workouts. To ensure that your macronutrient intake is adequate, be sure to eat nutrient dense foods every 2-3 hours throughout the day.
Post workout meals are crucial for enhanced recovery. Immediately after your workout you should get your first post workout meal in the liquid form. An hour after your workout you should eat another post workout meal, this time in the solid form. I also recommend taking fish oil, amino acids, a quality multi-vitamin, and possibly ibuprofen.
Most of your muscular development actually happens during sleep. Considering this, one could assume that a lack of sleep would be detrimental to recovery. The general recommendation is 6-8 hours of sleep per night, but I don’t see any harm in aiming for 8-10 hours for highly active individuals.
3) Self Myofascial Release/Foam Rolling
Foam rolling multiple times a day is a great way to decrease tissue stiffness, increase flexibility, and push metabolic wastes out of your muscles. For the smaller areas such as the Pectoralis minor use a lacrosse or tennis ball and apply ample amount of pressure.
4) Ice Baths
Ice baths immediately after a workout is a great way to decrease inflammation. If you don’t have access to an ice bath a solid alternative is a cold shower. I know what your thinking, “hot showers feel great after hard workouts”, but heat is only adding to the inflammation. After you finish up with your cold shower be sure to ice each joint that you trained that day. I usually ice each joint on and off for 10 total minutes.
5) Static Stretching
Static stretching post workout helps return muscle tissue to its normal resting length and drives metabolic wastes out of muscle cells. For optimum recovery be sure to not only static stretch on workout days but also the day after intense workouts.
6) Specific Recovery Training Sessions
I just realized that I’ve been using this method for years but never actually gave it a name. The reason why I’m calling it Specific Recovery Training Sessions is because this method is specific to the muscle groups you previously trained. It’s pretty simple, the day after a hard workout you go back to the gym and do the exact same exercises. This time you’re using either body weight or very light weights for high reps. Your goal isn’t to create more intramuscular damage, rather it is to get maximal blood flow to these sore muscles. The more blood flow you get to these sore muscles the more nutrients the muscle is receiving and the more metabolic wastes are being pushed out. Take note that the goal isn’t a full body pump, just a pump in the muscles that were previously trained. If you have extreme soreness in your pushing muscles then getting a pump in your pulling muscles would be contraindicating because it would take away from the total blood volume potential of the pushing muscles. Another key point to this method is that you should drink a carb/amino acid combination during the session. Since we’re increasing blood flow it only makes sense to supply extra nutrient for your muscles to easily absorb. Aim for 1-2 sets of 20+ reps on all the exercises that made you sore in the first place.
7) Mobility Circuits
I use mobility circuits directly after my Specific Recovery Training Sessions. I generally aim for 15-minute circuits with my main focus on putting each joint through a full range of motion. Of course, your mobility exercises should be tailored to your Functional Movement Screen results. If you haven’t tried a full body mobility circuit you are missing out. It’s amazing how good your body feels after completing just a 15-minute circuit.
8) Pool Workouts
Pool workouts are a great way to stay active and speed recovery with little to no stress on the joints. When clients are sore to the point where sitting in a chair is a difficult task, I recommend a pool workout. Sometimes telling a client to perform a mobility circuit when they couldn’t even raise their arms to wash their hair earlier that morning just isn’t realistic.
I would have placed massage higher on the list but not many people can afford a massage every time they get sore. Foam rolling and other SMR techniques seem to be the poor mans version of massage. However, if you can afford it, massage is one of the best techniques to help accelerate recovery.
10) Epsom Salt Baths
Epsom salt baths has been a method used to treat inflammation and muscle soreness for some time now. For some people it works wonders, for others it seems to be a waste of time. The placebo effect might be present in the case of Epsom salt baths but hey if it works for you then keep doing it.
Remember that everybody responds differently to certain recovery methods so figure out what works for you and stick with it. These 10 recovery methods are the ones that I use on a weekly basis but certainly aren’t the only beneficial methods out there. Feel free to let me know if you think I left out any recovery techniques that you think should be placed in the top 10.