If you’re here, you probably know the sore feeling after going hard at the gym. So, if you’re wanting to continue with your gains, there’s going to be something you need to learn. Recovery from your training is important.
First a little background. When lifting weights, we carry out a training stimulus on our body. After this stimulus, our bodies need time to recover and adapt, a process known as Stimulus-Recovery-Adaptation (SRA), a sports science principle that describes the cycle that takes place during and after training.
Stimulus occurs during the actual training, while recovery takes place after. Recovery systems within the body heal the disruptions after training and attempt to return your systems back to normal. As the recovery process happens, adaptation takes place. Adaptation measures your performance and compares it to when you started. This is where the gains in muscle size and strength occur.
Where most lifters have problems are in the recovery and adaptation phase. So, here is a checklist help with proper and consistent recovery:
Reduce Program Volume
The first thing an athlete should consider is reducing their training program volume.
Why would this step be the most important?
I like to use the analogy of a light dimmer switch. The more you turn up a dimmer switch, the brighter the light. As you know, the brighter light will create more heat and the bulb will take longer to cool down. The same happens to the human body. Recovery and adaptation take longer.
You might take longer to reach your fitness goals, but negative effects like fatigue, injury and burnout can happen less.
I recommend you reduce the number of reps to 8-12 sets per muscle group. With the reduction of reps, you can focus more on technique as a better use of training sessions.
Here are some questions to ask to find out if lower volume training is for you:
- Do you dread going to the gym?
- Is your sleep quality worse than normal?
- Are your training loads/reps decreasing?
- Are your aches and pains worse than normal?
- Are you experiencing overlapping soreness when you train the same muscle again?
Check and Apply the Recovery Methods
Smart training is an important part of recovery, but not the only thing you can do. Here are some non-training methods you can use to recover better. (Listed in order of importance)
Sleep is crucial for recovery of all body systems. Good quality and quantity sleep vastly improves every health marker in your body. Athletes and highly active people should sleep between 8-10 hours a night. For someone with recovery issues, you should make a goal of reaching the higher end of that range.
2. Stress Management
Everyone has a certain amount of uncontrollable external stress. You can’t control what happens to you, but you can control how you handle it. Some healthy ways to handle stress include getting plenty of sleep (see above), taking regular breaks, talking to people about your stresses, or even brief meditation. Find what works for you, and when you find your stress levels increasing, learn to recognize them and use what works.
Daily, regular, structured relaxation is a great tool in reducing fatigue. Relaxation is good for your well-being and a key part of your recovery. Relaxation can include things like watching Netflix, talking to a friend, playing video games or reading. Make sure you get both a physical and mental break.
Good nutrition provides your body with all the raw materials it needs in order to recover and adapt from training. In order to optimize your recovery, you should prioritize your nutrition intake in this order: Calories, Proteins, Carbohydrates, Fats, Micronutrients, Meal Timing, and Supplements.
Therapeutic Recovery-Adaptive Modalities
Therapeutic recovery is a relatively new method of recovery use in the sports medicine and exercise fields. The methods should be used in an “as needed” basis, and under the direction of a qualified practitioner. Here are some current therapeutic methods with some scientific backing that are being used:
- Cold Application Therapy
- Heat Application Therapy
- Temperature Contrast Application Therapy
- Static Compression
- Dynamic Compression
- Social Support
- Electrical Stimulation
When deciding on implementation for these physical therapies, be sure to weigh the costs and benefits of pursuing them as part of your recovery plan.
After pursuing all these recovery methods, and after talking to a specialist, they may recommend you returning to increased volume workouts. Some advice is to be sure the increased volume is necessary for reaching your fitness goals. Armed with the knowledge of proper recovery techniques, you should be much better prepared for increasing your training regimen.
Written By: Adam Peeler
Instagram Handle: @adamdpeeler