How Can I Speed Up Muscle Recovery?

If you spend most of the week lifting, that’s cool. But you have to take time off between workouts to allow your muscles to heal, otherwise you will not maximize the strength-building targets that you are working so hard to achieve. Recovery, however, doesn’t mean chilling in front of the TV until you’re sick or indulging in unhealthy food. It is just as important what you do on off-days as what you do in the gym. So we asked the owner of, BJ Gaddour, C.S.C.S, to weigh in on muscle recovery and how to break the couch potato habit. Here are his three favourite ways to supplement the workout with time off effectively.

By working the joints, encourage circulation

Even on your day off, remain nimble by rotating your palms, wrists, and knees in circles of low pressure. The opening and closing of your joints, while expelling waste and scar tissue, brings fresh synovial fluids to nourish, lubricate, and hydrate these areas. To stop imbalances and accidents from overuse, rotate clockwise and counterclockwise. Warning: To stop unnecessary lateral movement, be careful not to hyperextend, and keep circles close so that your joints do not torque.

To minimize muscle tension, use a foam roller 

You may use a long, semi-soft foam tube to give your muscles a massage if you feel post-workout discomfort or tightness. “Foam rolling breaks up the scar tissue and knotts in your fascia, which can lead to nagging aches and pains in your joints if left unattended,” Gaddour says. Roll your sore muscle groups immediately upon waking, before bed, and anytime you can spare during the day, the more the better. Spend at least 30-60 seconds minimum.

Replace high-intensity isometric exercises

Trade in your lively, high-power weight-lifting exercises for isometrics on a rest day: gentle, regulated stretching and moves to build strength. For a longer period of time, keeping a certain position, the muscles are still active, but at a lower strength. This helps blood and nutrients for the next high-energy training session to repair your body.

The overhead squat is the king of mobility exercises, though jumping around might be the last thing on your mind when you’re wiped, and mastering it can only boost your workouts. It strengthens your joints so that in the gym you can bear more weight, while still promoting blood flow to combat pain. This is how:

Begin with separate shoulder-width hands and feet and catch a resistance band at the ends (a rope, cord, or towel can also work). The resistance band encourages good balance and holds the back muscles in place. Stretch your arms straight overhead and hold your shoulders down and back. Push back the hips and squat down on the heels until the calves rest on the hamstrings. Then force the knees out and stand up easily, powering through the heels, staying for five seconds. Three times a day, perform 5-10 reps to mobilize your body’s tightest regions, specifically your calves, hips, and upper back.