Whether you’re on a set training plan, hit several classes every week without fail or just want to keep training injury-free at home, it pays to step-up your recovery game to keep you moving well. Not only will paying more attention to your post-exercise recovery help you feel prepared for your next session, you can also mitigate your risk of injury and, handily, improve your range of motion across certain lifts.
Perhaps the best perk, though, is that it needn’t cost you the earth. Whether you opt for ice baths, resistance band work, massage guns or ‘cupping’ (more on that below), there’s certainly a method for you; even if it’s just taking an extra rest day. To that end, we enlisted the help of Third Space Elite Personal Trainer Stu Slater for his take on recovery and, crucially, what you can start doing for speedier results.
Utilise Rest Days
“Recovery is all about assisting the body’s natural processes as well as mental clarity and focus. In terms of physical recovery, we need to remove the toxic chemicals that build up through exercises, encourage the muscle to lengthen after creating micro-traumas, and replenish the cells with water and electrolytes,” Slater explains.
“Your recovery will be specific to your body, but 99% of the time you should aim to use the ‘off time’ to extend your stretch times in joints of particularly low mobility. The methods that will work best will generally have these three properties: pressure, temperature change and movement.”
“Massage Guns are effectively a form of vibration therapy, with its specific use on recovery showing mixed results,” says Slater. “Imtiyaz et al reported them to be equally effective as a hands-on massage in quicker restoration of mobility and strength. Caution should be taken in using them with any underlying health conditions, however. Chen et al reported the severe adverse responses in one subject in the form of Rhabdomyolysis: severe muscle breakdown.”
“If you are short of time and unable to get a massage, these would be a time-efficient substitute for the areas you can reach.”
“Cupping has inconclusive support when it comes to improvement in recovery, however, there is some support for decreasing pain perception and removing the chemical contributing to DOMs from the affected tissues,” says Slater. “The specific nature of cup placement means this may therefore be an option for those who have very specific areas of residual muscular soreness or tightness. Cupping can be performed with and without the use of alcohol and flames to create the vacuum, so be sure to check if fire is a concern.”
“Cryo is much like cupping when it comes to the research on recovery, with reports both supporting (Hubbard & Denegar, 2004) and dismissing (Crystal et al, 2012) its use. However, cold therapy has been used extensively in the treatment of injuries and so may well provide welcome relief from acute pain following hard training. Cryotherapy could therefore be an option to help reduce inflammation following the damage of a hard heavy workout,” says Slater.
“Another option is to simply turn your shower down as cold as possible, stand in it for 10-20 seconds and air dry for only a few minutes until shivering is induced. This would effectively do exactly the same thing.”