It’s not how often or how hard you can train. The real question is, how well can you recover between sessions?
While many are focused on training harder or more frequently, they’re only looking at half the equation.
If you want to crank up your training, the first thing you need to consider are ways to crank up your recovery.
Luckily for you, I have a few ideas that can help!
Here are just a few quick-hit ideas that you can use to either improve how quickly you recover, or at the very least, the quality of your recovery/regeneration between training sessions.
Let’s start with the basics first. How many hours of sleep are you getting every night?
If you’re training intensely, you need to shoot for 7-9 hours of sleep nightly (and yes, I can feel some of you rolling your eyes as you read this).
Another thing to consider is the quality of your sleep. How quickly do you actually fall asleep? Do you lay there with your eyes peeled open thinking about everything you need to do the next day?
Once you are asleep, how deep and restful is it?
These are all things to consider. If you haven’t checked it out before, I would highly recommend reviewing my Sleep 101 blog post that I wrote last year. It’s chock-full of tips and tricks to improve your sleep.
One other note: Let’s say you simply can’t get a ton of sleep in consecutive stretches at night. Instead, maybe you can score some naps throughout the day. I’m often shocked at how much better I feel even if I get a 20-30 minute power nap at some point during the day.
Give it a shot!
Diet and Supplementation
I’m not going to harp on this one too much, because it’s not necessarily my forte.
I can tell you this, though – far too often we get so caught up in calorie counts, macronutrient splits, etc., that we forget about something really important:
Make a conscious effort to eat more nutrient-dense foods that provide your body with quality nutrition. Vitamins, minerals, etc.
Sitting with Cassandra Forsythe this past weekend for lunch reminded me of this. While people are quick to swing back and forth between what they propose to be “ideal” nutrition (high fat, low fat, high carb, low carb, high protein, etc.) one of the simplest rules we can follow is to simply eat more high-quality real food!
Supplementation is another hotly debated topic, and again, I’ll leave the specific recommendations to the experts. I think most of us reading this would probably do well with a protein shake, fish oils, a multi-vitamin, and perhaps some joint support if they are into lifting the heavy stuff (glucosamine, chondroitin, etc.).
Before we get into some of the sexier options, let’s look and one more staple in our recovery and regeneration routine.
One of the simplest things you can do post-workout is to ice down the specific joints you trained that day.
Now obviously, icing down your hips can be a challenge. But the extremities (shoulders, knees, elbows, wrists, ankles, etc.) are pretty easy to get at.
Self-Myofascial Release/Foam Rolling
How easy is this one?
You already know that foam rolling is great for decreasing stiffness pre-workout. Doesn’t it only make sense to try it out and different times in an effort to get loose and prepared for your next workout?
I’ll often foam roll the night AFTER a heavy workout, or even the day before to get nice and loose. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it definitely works.
Massage, ART and Hands-On Soft-Tissue Therapies
As great as SMR/foam rolling is, they definitely aren’t a replacement for quality, hands-on manual therapy.
I’ve been getting manual therapy performed on myself since 2003. Did I have a ton of expendable income at that point in time?
Was it worth it?
Not only can hands-on therapies address tissues and restrictions that you simply can’t touch with a foam roller or lacrosse ball, but the quality of your movement will improve drastically as well.
Static stretching is another fantastic tool that you can implement with absolutely zero cost outside of your time.
I’ve talked about this pretty extensively in the past, so if you’re looking for a quick and dirty routine to implement, check this out:
Keep in mind this was written a long time ago, so I wouldn’t recommend the thoracic or low back stretches any more. It’s not ideal in the fact that it’s not 100% customized to you, but it’s better than nothing and I’m sure you’ll find some areas that are tight and/or restricted.
Traction is another tool that’s great, especially if you’re pushing the heavy iron on a day-to-day basis. The video below depicts some of the positions we use for the upper body:
Epsom salt baths
This is one of those tools that I used to implement all the time, but I’ve kind of forgotten about. As well, I’m not sure I even remember the science behind them, so hopefully someone will comment below.
All I know is this: When I was squatting heavy for multiple sets of 5, there were times when the DOMS was ridiculous. A good epsom salt bath a night or two after the workout always seemed to expedite recovery and get me ready for my next training session.
“Cardio” seems to be getting a bad rap these days. Unfortunately, I think that’s due more to a lack of understanding and/or poor application than anything else.
Low intensity cardio such as walking, rowing, riding a stationary bike, or even pushing a Prowler/dragging a sled are fantastic for flushing metabolic waste from the muscles and providing nutrition to the joints.
The key words here are LOW INTENSITY. Keep it light and remember this is for recovery purposes – nothing more, nothing less.
If you’re big, stiff, or beat-up, simply going through your warm-up on your off-days is a great way to groove better movement and restore lost function.
This is where products like Magnificent Mobility, Inside-Out, and especially Assess and Correct can be huge. If you haven’t checked out any of these, be sure to do so via my Products page.
Just like we get stiff and immobile from sitting around all day, we also reinforce poor posture and sub-optimal recruitment patterns. This can lead to poor structural balance around muscles and joints, which leads to poor movement.
Bottom line? You’re more likely to get injured, and you’re not as strong or powerful as you’d like to be in the gym or on the field.
One of the things I like to have my clients and athletes do is combine this tactic with the above. Go through a quick mobility circuit throughout the day (Bill Hartman calls them “mini-mobility” circuits) and perhaps pair them with some activation exercises.
The possibilities really are limitless, but here are just a few thoughts:
- Static stretch and/or mobilize the hip flexors, pair with some glute activation drills
- Static stretch and/or mobilize the pecs, pair with activation/motor control drills for the upper/mid-back (like Prone I’s, T’s and Y’s)
This may be the least accessible option on the list, but pool workouts are kick-ass if you have the resources.
Often when you’re stiff and beat-up after a big session, even low-intensity cardio doesn’t sound fun. The last thing you want to do is go and move around!
The pool is a fantastic option. You move around, and the buoyancy feels fantastic on your joints. Not to mention the fact that there’s a very therapeutic feel to hanging out in the water.
So there you have it – 12 ways to improve recovery and make every workout more productive.
But those are just my ideas – what have I forgotten?
What have you used with success, either now or in the past?
I look forward to your comments below!