Strategies to Accelerate Recovery
Our ability to tire out our muscles, joints, nervous system, and endocrine system is limitless. We just have to keep working out more. However, our ability to recover is extremely limited. Faced with this dilemma—and keeping in mind that recovery is eternal—we can choose to passively let nature take its course, or we can take control of the situation.
If you want to take charge, you can use these two strategies:
>Accelerate the regenerative process by using reminders.
>Get a head start on recovery.
Why Does Recovery Take So Long?
The length of recovery is the result of the rapid decrease in anabolism after a workout. Scientific studies show the following: In the 8 hours after a workout, recovery is very efficient; however, after that point, recovery slows down, and the speed of regeneration decreases exponentially. For example, if 48 hours are required for recovery after a given workout,
>85 percent of your physical capacity is recovered in 24 hours, and
>the other 15 percent requires an additional 24 hours.
If the speed of recovery during those first few hours were maintained, only 4 additional hours would be needed for a complete recovery. Unfortunately, we have to struggle with the inefficiency of the regenerative process; this process slows down too early, before completing its masterpiece.
The Concept of Reminders
We must find ways to maintain the recov-ery mechanisms until the body has completely recovered. The first way is to exploit the benefits of nontraumatic “reminders.”
Reminder sets involve performing just a few sets of an exercise to lightly work a recovering muscle. These sets should be long and light. Reminder sets are the best way to reenergize the anabolism process when it is slowing down. Instead of waiting for the complete recovery of a muscle group, you will gently retrain that muscle group during the recovery phase. If this work is truly not traumatic, there will be no negative effects. However, if you traumatize the muscle again, your recovery will be even further delayed. Sayers et al. (2000. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 32(9):1587-92) showed that in the days after a very traumatic biceps workout, doing a light set of 50 repetitions daily accelerated recovery speed by 24 percent. Here are a few simple rules to follow when you want to rework a muscle without traumatizing it:
- Choose an isolation exercise rather than a compound exercise. This enables you to better focus your efforts.
- Opt for machines or cables so that you can avoid free weights. Free weights do not isolate muscles as well and can cause more trauma.
- Use a light weight and do a high number of repetitions. Your goal is to bring as much blood as possible to the muscle.
- Be very careful to use proper form while performing the exercise.
- Do no more than three sets with low intensity.
Stretching can also strengthen waning anabolism. The advantage of stretching is that it is less tiring than a reminder set; the disadvantage is that it is also less productive. Ideally, you could combine stretching and reminder sets for maximum effectiveness. But do not go overboard either! Beyond a certain point, too many reminder sets will fatigue the muscle, not help it. Two to four sets of static stretches, held for 15 to 20 seconds, can be a good foundation to work with.
How Can You Integrate Recovery Reminders?
The arsenal of recovery can be implemented 24 to 48 hours after you have worked the muscle involved. Reminder sets can be included at the beginning of your regular training (as a warm-up) or at the end (as a cool-down). Stretches can be done both before and after a workout.
Get a Head Start On Recovery
Another strategy enables you to work a muscle again even if the muscle has not yet fully recovered. This partial-recovery approach allows you to increase the frequency of your workouts for a muscle while avoiding overtraining. It is primarily intended for experienced lifters who are suffering from recovery issues. This tactic involves using a single exercise for the muscle in each workout and alternating exercises every workout.