Muscle recovery is one of the most important factors for all training programs. Think about it – without proper recovery after training your body is damaged for much longer. Plus recovery is the process that leads to muscle growth, which will be minimal if recovery is not executed properly.
Muscle recovery is not instant and won’t be taking place in just an hour or so. Some supplements say instant recovery, but there’s no such thing. However, there are different proven methods for recovery that should work for you.
Let’s take a look at the no BS approach to improvement.
Why Does Muscle Soreness Occur?
As a trainer, this is one of the most frequent answers that I’m asked throughout the week. The simple answer is most likely microscopic tears that occur in muscle fibers after being put through strenuous activity. This leads what is
called “DOMS”, which stands for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness.
DOMS doesn’t take place until about 12 hours after training and can last from 24-72 hours. The soreness you feel immediately following a workout is lactic acid buildup in your muscles and not DOMS.
These two concepts are not related to each other and are different processes. DOMS can also come felt in signs such as muscle swelling, weakness and even stiffness as well. Lactic acid is similar in symptoms but only lasts a few hours. Though they’re separate processes; both fall under the category of muscle soreness.
How to Increase Muscle Recovery through Stretching
Stretching has been shown to not really help reduce DOMS, but this does not mean it sucks for recovery. Any person I’ve trained has experienced a better recovery process by performing both active and static stretches a few times a day. Myself included in performing this method for muscle recovery.
Now let’s look at two different stretching techniques for training. Active stretching is to be performed to help reduce DOMS, speed of recovery, and possibly prevent injury.
This type of stretching is when you move your muscles and joints through movements actively i.e. in constant motion.
This type of stretching has been proven to help reduce DOMS, and is the only type to do so.
Always actively warm up before resistance training to
“loosen” muscle fibers and “lubricate” your joints. Tight muscles forced under tension tear much worse and can lead to injury.
Static stretching is when you just take a joint and place it through it through its full range of motion then hold the position. This movement is generally held for 30 seconds or longer, but is not good to be utilized prior to training.
Static stretching is bad pre-workout because you’re telling your muscles to relax and “go to sleep”. Save this type of stretching for after your workout and rest days.
Perform Light Resistance Training
Sounds a bit odd, but creating movement with resistance actually helps your muscles heal and recover better. The reason for this is because you’re increasing the blood circulation in your body bringing nutrients to the damaged muscle fibers.
This essentially supports the process of protein synthesis, which is when your body uses consumed protein to repair muscle fibers.
These proteins are carried via your bloodstream, so it’s important to have good circulation. Tight muscle fibers decrease this circulation.
Now, when I say to perform light resistance training, I’m not saying to get fucking crazy with it. All I’m saying is bodyweight movements, light cardio, or just the active stretches previously discussed.
Low resistance bands are okay too.
Consuming Food for Muscle Recovery
Okay, not all food is created equal. Eating a greasy taco isn’t going to help your recovery process. Turmeric, tart cherry juice and ginger are good foods to consume. These are anti-inflammatory foods, which mean they help reduce inflammation.
Consuming protein and extra BCAA’s (Branched Chain Amino Acids) will help reduce muscle soreness as well. As
mentioned, protein is used to repair your muscles and increase their growth.
So obviously you need to eat enough protein to sustain muscle repair and growth.
A good time to consume a light protein rich food is prior to bed, and the type is casein protein. While you rest your body is hard at work trying to repair itself and prepare for the next day.
During this process nutrients are used up and you are fasting, so protein that digests slowly becomes ideal to keep assisting your muscles. Cottage cheese is a good food to consider for this.
Foam Rolling for Muscle Recovery
Improving your recovery process through self-myofascial release is an awesome habit to get into. Basically you’re using the foam roller to rub and place pressure on your muscles and fascia. Fascia is the connective tissue that runs throughout your body.
After training your muscles can stiffen up and fascia becomes knotted. This is where the roller comes in to help literally roll the knots out to improve blood circulation and reduce inflammation.
Foam rolling usually does not feel comfortable especially when you first try it. But over time you get used to it because the rolling just feels so damn good you enjoy the pain.
Simple massages can also do the trick if you go to a professional. But foam rollers can be a one time cost of $15 versus the high costs of seeing a masseuse.
Get Enough Damn Sleep!
This is one of the most imperative factors that you need for proper muscle recovery. You shouldn’t need someone to tell you that rest is important but here we are discussing it because many of people just don’t get this concept.
Sleep so your body can actually start recovering at full potential. This also improves the release of growth enhancing hormones. So if you’re doing everything else right but still not gaining, then you need to take a look at your sleep patterns.
The Choice is Yours: Recover Properly or Whine in Pain
The methods I gave you are actually science backed and proven to help under most circumstances. On another note, some may ask about compression garments. These help your muscles recover quicker after brief bouts such as heavy deadlifting. However, they do not help with anything beyond training.
Post workout therapy is just as important as training itself. Properly execute it and your body will definitely show a reaction to it. Grow my fit friends and feel free to ask any questions about muscle recovery.
Strong fit living. Do it. Live it.
- Brian Pankau (CPT, SNS)