Here's a basic guide to maximizing recuperation for your muscle-building benefit.
SHORT-TERM NEEDSMost recuperation takes place immediately after completing a set of exercises. You gain back more than 90% of your strength within one minute. Thirty seconds to a minute is a normal rest period. Wait even longer between especially heavy sets of basic exercises. Perform another set only when your breathing has returned to normal and you feel most of your strength has returned.
Immediately after a workout, endeavor to stay warm. Warmth maintains your muscle pump longer, and a pump will keep your muscles loose and keep necessary nutrients coursing toward the depleted cells, thus fostering recuperation. Conversely, cold can diminish a muscle pump and stiffen muscles and joints. A hot shower after a workout can also help to keep muscles warm and recovering.
HOW MUCH REST?Healthy muscles will recover from workouts on their own, with no special prompting other than a proper diet and an adequate amount of rest. It generally takes three to five days for a bodypart to recuperate and grow after an intense weight-training session. Averaging this to four days means a muscle trained on Monday should be ready for another session on Friday and then again on the following Tuesday.
Let soreness be your guide. Mild muscle soreness the day after a workout is a good thing. It highlights the fact that you had a productive iron-pumping session. Don't train that bodypart again until the soreness has all but disappeared. Also note that if soreness is extreme, if it is located anywhere but your muscles or if it persists without diminishing for a week, it is something other than a precursor to muscle growth and you should consult a doctor.
Sometimes the best thing you can do for your body is to skip going to the gym. Be satisfied that you had a productive workout the last time, and allow your muscles to fully recover before you wear them down again.
Always guard against overtraining. The sidebar below provides a checklist of overtraining symptoms.
SLEEPAs an adult, it's important that you get approximately eight hours per night of continuous or nearly continuous deep sleep to experience enough slow-wave and REM sleep, thus allowing both your body and mind to be properly refreshed.
STRESSNot only does stress make it difficult for you to get quality sleep, but it also depletes your energy reserves and slows down your body's recuperation. Stress can come in the form of anxiety or it can be caused by physical hindrances, such as drugs, alcohol, illness or an improper diet. Physical activity unrelated to your regular workouts is a common stress-booster.
A healthy lifestyle void of drugs or alcohol and with plenty of water, protein, natural foods, vitamins and minerals will allow your muscles to most quickly recover from workouts.
Bodybuilding is a demanding sport. If non-bodybuilding activities are depleting your energy reserves, you need to make changes.
The key to combating anxiety is dealing with the root cause. If the problem can't be eliminated or minimized, try to channel the mental stress into your workouts or other positive areas. Also, some relaxation techniques, such as yoga and massage, can aid in minimizing anxiety. If the mental stress becomes a major hindrance, consult a professional counselor.
ENHANCING RECUPERATIONStretching not only keeps your muscles and joints pliable, but it can also increase blood flow, assisting recuperation. If you wake up sore, stretch the aching muscles. Similarly, massage helps loosen tight and sore muscles and increase blood flow.
Heat can also aid recuperation, whether it's applied in the form of a whirlpool, a sauna, heating pads or a warm bath. Whirlpools are often the best method, because they provide both heat and a water massage. Warmer than average temperatures bring blood to the skin and the muscles, thus keeping your body loose and recuperating. Warmth can also help to alleviate minor joint pain.
REST AND GROWNever underestimate the benefit of lounging on the couch and sleeping in on a Saturday morning. It may be exactly what your body needs. Just as you can't grow without enough exercise and nutrients, you also can't grow without enough rest. Don't think of the time you spend out of the gym as resting. Think of it as growing.
OVERTRAINING CHECKLISTThese symptoms may indicate you are not allowing for recuperation and are probably overtraining.
- You tire more easily than normal, and you have an increased need for sleep.
- You lose or maintain weight when you want to grow. This is often accompanied by a decrease in appetite.
- Your strength plateaus or decreases, or it increases at a much slower rate than usual.
- Your resting pulse rate is higher than normal.
- Your blood pressure is higher than normal.
- Your body temperature is higher than normal.
- You feel lethargic.
- Your enthusiasm for training wanes.
- You become overly irritable.