There are few experiences in life that deliver the same feelings of satisfaction and crushing a tough workout. Results are made, PRs are broken, and the flood of endorphins that ensues are simply sublime.
What you may not be ready for (or even thinking about) while basking in the glory of your mental and physical feats is the vicious aches, pains, and muscle soreness the next few days.
And, when you train hard and really push yourself to your mental and physical limits, it’s to be expected that you’ll be sore.
But, the degree to which you are sore can vary greatly and what you do immediately before and after your workout can have a significant impact on your soreness and recovery.
Here are 7 effective workout recovery methods to reduce DOMS and boost performance.
#1 Train Smart(er)
The old saying goes “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” and it applies to countless aspects of life, including training and recovery.
Your body has a finite amount of stress from which it can recover. Exceed that, and even the best recovery practices won’t be that effective.
To make matters just a bit more complicated is that there are multiple forms of stress, including physical (exercise), emotional, and psychological. While we may think that they have unrelated effects, they all lead to increases in cortisol and dip into the body’s recovery reserves.
If you live a high-stress lifestyle and routinely get poor sleep, you won’t be able to handle the same amount of training intensity and volume as someone who eats well, sleeps 7-9 hours each night, and has relatively low life stress.
With this in mind, it’s imperative to be smart with your workout programs.
Being cognizant of how much total volume and intensity you can effectively recover from will go a long way to keeping DOMS in check and making sure that you can continue to show up regularly for your workouts and get the type of results you want from your transformation challenge.
If you need help choosing a workout program that fits your lifestyle, goals, and preferences, log into the 1UP Fitness App where we provide customized training and nutrition recommendations to help you reach your goals!
#2 Recovery Workouts
Following up on the previous topic, there are only so many days that you can really “push it” in the gym. The rest of the time needs to be devoted to rest and recovery.
But, this doesn’t mean you just have to lie around on the couch all day eating bon-bons.
You can still hit the gym and “workout,” but you need to adjust the volume and intensity accordingly.
Sure, you might not be dripping in sweat or gasping for breath at the end, but these lower intensity workouts serve a very important purpose -- they increase circulation and nutrient delivery all while helping remove metabolic waste products that can contribute to muscle soreness and DOMS.
This ultimately enhances recovery and actually helps you get back to the “hard” training faster!
Recovery workouts can take many forms, including:
- Light jogging
- Active/dynamic stretching
- Mobility drills
The basic rule of thumb is to do low-level activity. You should end your session feeling invigorated and refreshed, not wiped out.
#3 Myofascial Release
Myofascial release is a particular type of physical therapy that applies manual pressure with traction to loosen tense or tight tissues and trigger points.
The goal is to help increase circulation, reduce tightness/soreness, and improve range of motion.
#4 Foam Rolling
Foam rolling is a form of self-myofascial release to alleviate tight spots, movement restrictions, and soreness. The benefit of doing this yourself is that you know how much pressure to apply to the sore and tight areas of your body. You also save a bunch of money as PTs can be pretty expensive.
Foam rolling is typically performed with a foam roller or a lacrosse ball, depending on the particular area of your body that you’re trying to release.
Start with light pressure and adjust to your desired level. Once you find a tight spot, stick on it for 30-60 seconds until it begins to release and then perform several passes across the area to further massage the muscles and enhance recovery.
Massage is one of the oldest forms of relaxation and recovery.
A trained massage therapist (or your significant other) can apply pressure to the tight areas on your body to help “work out the kinks.”
Research has also shown that massage is one of the most effective forms of workout recovery, specifically improving feelings of muscle fatigue and DOMS.
Massages are also great for reducing stress (cortisol) which further accelerates the recovery process!
Cryotherapy (cold therapy) has been used by athletes for quite a long time.
Using ice, ice baths, and cryo chambers immerse the body in very cold environments which help to limit inflammation, pain, and swelling.
However, one thing to keep in mind is that if your primary goal is to build muscle (hypertrophy) you want to avoid ice baths or cryotherapy immediately after training (and for a few hours afterwards).
The reason for this is that inflammation post-exercise is beneficial and is part of the body’s natural recovery and growth mechanisms. Cryotherapy prevents that from happening, thereby hindering your potential for gains.
In-season athletes aren’t interested in trying to gain muscle or strength. They need to maintain their current fitness and be ready to perform ASAP, so taking a dunk in the cold tank is incredibly beneficial for keeping soreness in check.
#7 Proper Nutrition & Supplementation
Just as the amount of training you perform each day/week impacts your ability to recover, so too does the nutrients you consume each day.
Consume too few calories and/or protein and your body’s ability to effectively recover is severely hampered.
That’s why it’s imperative to eat a quality diet, rich in lean protein, healthy fats, fruits, veggies, and whole grains. In addition to that, using the right supplements can further enhance the body’s ability to effectively recover from training, enhancing your progress and results.
With that in mind, here are some ‘best practices” when it comes to diet and supplementation:
- Consume enough fluids each day (water and electrolytes)
- Consume enough high-quality protein (~1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight)
- Ideally, you’d consume between 20-40 grams of protein, such as whey protein, immediately after training
- To further support your protein and amino acid intake, use Essential Amino Acid supplements (such as Her BCAA/EAA & His BCAA/EAA)
- Supplement with creatine (which not only enhances performance and muscle growth) but also hydration and recovery!
- Consider a nighttime relaxation & recovery aid (better sleep supports greater recovery & growth)
- Dupuy O, Douzi W, Theurot D, Bosquet L, Dugué B. An Evidence-Based Approach for Choosing Post-exercise Recovery Techniques to Reduce Markers of Muscle Damage, Soreness, Fatigue, and Inflammation: A Systematic Review With Meta-Analysis. Front Physiol. 2018;9:403. Published 2018 Apr 26. doi:10.3389/fphys.2018.00403