Best Recovery Strategies for Improved Performance by Michael Volkmar, MS, CSCS, PES, CPT
We all want to train hard, but do you put equal effort into your recovery? Most people do not and that is why injuries are on the rise. Doing a simple Google search for overuse injuries will give you an idea of how this is affecting younger athletes specifically. Overuse injuries can be defined as “an imbalance caused by overly intensive training and inadequate recovery” 1. 60 Minutes even ran a recent piece titled “The Overuse Epidemic.” Your ability to recover allows you to train sooner, train harder, train longer, stay healthy, stay on the field, and continue your fitness pursuits. Bottom line? Faster recovery = better performance.
1 – Sleep
Sleep may be the most important factor in boosting recovery ability. Shut down the phones by 10pm and get 8-10 hours of sleep per night. Good sleep is more potent that any dietary supplement at GNC!!! A lack of sleep can also impede your ability to lose weight 4.
2 – Lift
Light activation will increase blood flow and speed up recovery. The best prescription for soreness is light activity. The best light activities are:
– Sled workouts: Load your pulling sled with light weight, just enough to get the blood flowing. Sleds are particularly effective due to the dynamic stretch and lack of eccentric loading.
– Body Weight workouts: Jump Rope, Squats, Walking Lunges, Push ups, TRX Row, Band Pull Aparts. 2 sets x 10-15 reps each exercise.
– Bike workouts: 20-30 minutes at 60% of your max heart rate to get the blood flowing.
3 – Hydration
A dehydrated athlete cramps and suffers from poor performance. Try to drink .75 – 1 oz. of water per pound of body weight each day; i.e. 110 – 145 oz. of water for a person at 145 lbs., 150 – 200 oz. of water for a person at 200 lbs.
4 – Post Workout Nutrition (and General Nutrition)
Eat more protein to fuel muscle recovery. Directly after your workout, try to get 20-40 grams of protein to jump start the recovery process. Also, eat a good breakfast to get your metabolism going.
5 – Self Myofascial Release (SMR)
The foam roller being the most popular choice. Daily or twice-daily massages of the muscles will greatly help recovery by breaking down the scar tissue built up during tough workouts and enhancing blood flow. Other SMR Tools Include:
– Lacrosse Ball
– Tennis Ball
– Foam Roller or Homemade PVC Foam Roller
– The Stick
6 – Be Proactive
Perhaps the most overlooked and important aspect of the recovery is avoiding damage by preventing overuse. Prehab exercises are movements that Strength Coaches have borrowed from Physical Therapists (PT) and Athletic Trainers (ATC). Smart Strength Coaches work to adapt exercises and movements used by physical therapists and athletic trainers–incorporating these beneficial, low-impact movements into their own personal strength workouts. The most overused areas are the knees, hips, and shoulders. Here are some of my favorite prehab exercises for dealing with these problem areas:
– Band Pull aparts
– Band Side External Rotations
– 3 lbs or 5 lbs DB Prone T
– Bulgarian Squat Stretch
– Cook Hip Lift
– Mini Band Lateral Walks
– Strength Band TKE (Terminal Knee Extension)
– Foam Roll IT Band
– Stability Ball Single Leg Glute Bridge
7 – Hydro Therapy
The pool is great for full body recovery. Pool workouts take pressure off the joints and allow for improved blood flow, improved joint range of motion, and a decrease in general muscle soreness.
Contrast Showers: (Post workout/Post Game) Cycle between hot and cold water in the shower. Contrasting relaxes AND excites the muscles, improves post-workout blood circulation, and shortens the restoration time.
– Increased Circulation
– Activation of the Endocrine System
– Improved Detoxification of Muscle Tissue
Contrast Cycle Choices
– 3 min warm, 1 min cold
– 2 min warm, 1 min cold
– 1 min warm, 1 min cold
– 45 sec warm, 45 sec cold
8 – Icing and Cryotherapy
Decreasing muscle recovery time can be done effectively with cryotherapy. The cold helps reduce inflammation and speed up the healing process. Take advantage of the Ice Roller. It combines the benefits of ice and foam rolling.
Take Home Points:
1 – Simply get to sleep
2 – Take advantage of light workouts between heavy training days
3 – Stay hydrated
4 – Eat protein post workout
5 – Get on the Foam Roller daily post workout
6 – Add rehab exercise to your daily warm-up routine
7 – Get in the pool or take daily contrast showers
8 – Get a bag of ice or use the Ice Roller on tender areas
1. Overuse Injuries in Female Athletes. Croat. Med. J. 2007 Dec: 48(6): 767-778.
2. 60 minutes. The Overuse Epidemic. http://www.cbs.com/shows/60_minutes/video/qGQxegz2_k3iUPSbLMIT__PgrcxUK70T/the-overuse-epidemic/
3. Powerful Recovery Methods. Joe Hashey. Copyright © 2010, Synergy Athletics LLC
4. Insufficient Sleep undermines dietary efforts to reduce adiposity. Ann Intern Med. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2011 Apr 5.
MICHAEL VOLKMAR, MS, CSCS, PES, CPT, received his master’s degree in Exercise Science with a specialization in Exercise, Nutrition, and Eating Behavior from George Washington University (GWU). In 2001, Mike started his well-traveled path in Sports Performance Training at the Junior College level (OCC, Onondaga, NY) working with the baseball team. He worked for three years as the Strength and Conditioning Coach at GWU, first with the Single A affiliate (High Desert Mavericks) of the Milwaukee Brewers, and later season with the Double A affiliate (Harrisburg Senators) of the Washington Nationals, before moving on to spend one year at the International Performance Institute of IMG Academies, FL. Mike continued his professional development by becoming the Director of Strength and Conditioning at the APEX Academies. Currently, Mike is the strength and conditioning coach at the Peddie School. A Division I baseball player during his undergraduate career, Mike is an amateur powerlifter with a passion for all things fitness. Mike has advanced specialty certifications in strength and conditioning, post-rehab exercise, athletic development, and sports medicine. Mike stays active in social media with Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. He also runs a Summer Strength and Speed program at the Peddie School.