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How to recover more quickly from your workouts - for faster results
If you read my article on periodization and overtraining, you will know that too much exercise without enough time for recuperation will put you in an overtrained state, affecting your training efforts very negatively, perhaps even causing you to regress.
Ultimately, the body will recover from any training session, no matter how hard it was – if you give it enough time. The problem is that our bodies often take a long time to do this.
Being the impatient, greedy creatures we are, hungry for results – we are inclined to train again before we have fully recovered.
Ideally, we would like to recover very quickly, so that we can train again sooner and get results quicker. That is one of the reasons why anabolic steroids are so effective – they allow you to recover very quickly.
I am however, not an advocate of that approach and have always gone the natural route. Luckily, there are many safe techniques you can employ to help speed up recovery quite dramatically.
Soviet researchers recommend cycling your recuperation efforts, employing more techniques and giving more attention to them, the harder your training gets.
The complete, integrated recovery process they recommend is a 3-phase approach, consisting of techniques you employ before your workout, during your workout and after your workout.
Phase 1: Pre-workout techniques.
Salicylic acid (Aspirin):
Note: Always obtain medical clearance from your physician before taking any medication. Also, see my disclaimer page.
Aspirin helps improve recovery by improving blood flow. It does this by reducing the body’s output of thromboxane – a chemical which helps platelets stick together. Even a fraction of a normal sized tablet before training can help thin the blood to the point where muscle tissue becomes exposed to greater amounts of nutrient-rich blood. This dramatically assists in speeding up recovery between sets.
This increased blood flow to the muscles also assists in more rapid removal of lactic acid and other waste products.
Another benefit of taking aspirin prior to workouts is that it helps reduce swelling. Proper recovery cannot begin until muscle swelling has subsided.
Research has shown that lower doses of aspirin can be just as effective as higher doses, so seek to find that smallest dose possible that assists your recuperative efforts.
Aspirin can irritate your stomach lining, so it’s advisable you take your dose with milk, preferably crushing the tablets into it. Your body will also build a tolerance, so do not use it with every workout, save it for the most difficult ones.
Due to the fact that most of us spend the majority of our days sitting, our legs often develop some swelling. Going into a leg workout with swollen legs will affect your performance during and your recovery afterwards.
Prior to strenuous leg workouts, try lying down with your legs elevated against the wall for about 20 minutes. This will aid in reducing swelling and help restore optimum circulation.
Phase 2: recovery during your workout.
Recovery begins as soon as you stop doing work. So, essentially the recovery process begins every time you finish a set, not just at the end of your workout.
Move around between sets.
Most people sit down and do nothing as they rest between sets, however a much quicker recovery between sets can be obtained by moving around. This aids circulation and the subsequent removal of waste products from muscle tissues, as well as reducing muscle swelling.
Peripheral Heart Action Training.
This is where you organize your workouts in such a manner so that lower and upper-body exercises are alternated.
This might not always be practical or necessarily fit in with your training objectives at the time, but where possible it should be done. It assists in moving blood between all the major areas of the body, which accelerates the removal of waste products, re-oxygenation and recovery of each body part.
“Light days” to remove muscle soreness.
A properly periodized training program should have many ‘light days’ scheduled. As mentioned in the article on periodization, you cannot train with all-out intensity, all of the time.
For every third session for a given body part, drop the weight to about 55% of 1RM (to learn how to calculate 1RM and what it is, read this article.)
A workout at this lower intensity will give sore muscles plenty of fresh blood and help flush waste products from the affected muscle tissues, without taxing them too much.
Aside from this, occasional light days are also important for psychologically giving yourself a break. Mentally, it is very difficult to push yourself to the limit all of the time.
Phase 3: Recovery after your workout.
This is perhaps the most important phase of the recovery process. Whilst some of these techniques might not be all that pleasant to employ, they are the most effective at speeding up your recovery. If you were only to make use of some of the techniques, these are the ones you want to use.
This should be done immediately after training. Expose your lumbar region to alternating bursts of hot and cold water. Make the water as hot as you can tolerate and also as cold as you can tolerate. Try for 2 minutes of hot water and 2 minutes of cold water. Repeat 5 times.
Alternating extremes of hot and cold in this manner, cause your body’s blood vessels to constrict and dilate – massively improving circulation and the subsequent removal of waste products.
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Article by: Bryan Hamann.
Bryan is a personal trainer, certified bootcamp instructor, Ironman Triathlete and author of THE PRISON WORKOUT.
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