Help Your Muscles Recover

Do you overlook muscle recovery?

It's an important aspect of a strength training routine, we often forget about. 

The faster you can recover from a training session, the more strength and muscle gains you can make.

Don’t make the mistake of ignoring recovery techniques like foam rolling, contrast showers, massage, stretching, sleep and post workout nutrition. They can mean the difference between setting a personal record the next time you train, or failure to get a rep, or worse, getting injured.


Make sure to get enough rest. The standard is eight hours a day. Some can get away with less, some need more, depending on age, activity level, profession, genetics. See how you perform in the gym with less than ideal sleep and compare to when you get enough.

It may not make much of a difference when you first start out training, but when the intensity rises and you are stressing your body and central nervous system hard, the importance of sleep will become apparent.

Inadequate sleep can result in decreased energy levels, decrease in testosterone, decrease in growth hormone, increase in catabolic hormones. (muscle destroying)

Replace fluids

When you lift weights and run hills, or drag a weighted sled, you sweat and lose fluids. Hydration is important before, during, and after training. Drink water all day, especially before training. I try to stop drinking any fluids an hour or more before sleep to avoid waking up during sleep.

Photo from  Fort Carson  Rights Reserved(CC)

Photo from Fort Carson Rights Reserved(CC)

Foam rolling

Self-myofascial release techniques have become more popular and a decent foam roller is easy to find and not too expensive.

Using a foam roller will increase flexibility, mobility, reduce soreness, prevent injury and help with posture.

Self-myofascial release, (fancy term for soft tissue massage) is also shown to eliminate scar tissue and adhesions and reduce inflammation.

There are alternative tools besides a foam roller for self-massage. You could use a pvc pipe with foam wrapped around it. Tennis balls and lacrosse balls work well on the feet and legs. You could also use a medicine ball at the gym, for hips, legs and glutes.


There has been much research on the benefits of static and dynamic stretching for sports and fitness. There are different opinions like on any subject, but I have used both methods of stretching for years and have found much benefit from each.

I use dynamic stretching before training as part of a warm up, and I use static stretching post workout. Dynamic stretching is beneficial for getting the proper muscles activated before weightlifting and for mobility. The benefits of static stretching are flexibility, range of motion, reduced soreness.

Active recovery

Instead of just sitting on the couch and hoping your muscle soreness goes away, try active recovery. This includes light exercise, cardio and dynamic stretching You can keep it simple and just go for a half hour walk or bike ride.

If you have resistance bands, they are an excellent tool for active recovery. Let’s say you have triceps soreness from Overhead Press or Bench or dips. The next day you do triceps band pushdowns to get blood flow into the area and promote a faster muscle recovery. Also try some sled drags to increase blood flow, with no damage to the muscles.

Contrast water therapy

This method is one anyone can do in the shower. Just alternate extremely cold and extremely warm water to enhance blood flow into muscles and improve recovery.

Opinions on the duration of time vary but generally it’s believed that for every minute of hot water, contrast with a half minute of cold, for up to ten minutes.

The heat works to reduce pain and the cold helps reduce swelling and inflammation. I have found this method beneficial, and I continue to experiment with the duration of shower and extremes of temperature.

Epsom salt baths are also a great method to reduce muscle aches and pains and clear your mind after hard training sessions.

I usually get just plain epsom salts from the grocery store but there are many varieties, some with eucalyptus or lavender or other beneficial remedies. Magnesium is a common deficiency and this is a great way to help alleviate that problem.

Some studies suggest magnesium is better absorbed through the skin. Try both epsom salt baths, and taking a high-quality magnesium supplement, if your physician allows, of course.

Strength training brings with it a host of symptoms including decreased range of motion, increased muscle soreness, muscle stiffness, muscle swelling, and decreased muscle force production.

In order to accelerate muscle recovery, try to incorporate some, or all, of these muscle recovery techniques.

~~~~For more strategies to enhance your training, check out my free e-book NUTRITION HACKS FOR THE BUSY MAN   ~~~~~