Pain equals gain! More training means more muscle! Train until you puke or pass out! Does this sound familiar? Does this sound reasonable? NO! This is the hardcore mentality that many bodybuilders and gym fanatics adhere to but this mindset usually results in plateaus and injuries galore. Recovery is not taken seriously enough and it’s not recognized as part of the muscle building and strength training process by most of the enthusiastic young muscle worshipers. Recovery comes in many forms yet most of these forms are ignored by weightlifters, powerlifters and bodybuilders in the iron game.
Rest comes in 3 forms when referring to resistance training. There is rest between your exercise sets which can vary in time depending on the style of training you’re following and the amount of intensity being used. Then there is rest that you take during the week you’re working out which is usually that day or two off which is needed for muscle recovery and growth. Last is the active rest period which is not really taking a large period of time off, but rather taking a small amount of time like 1 week for every 4 weeks of hard training which allows you time away from the normal weight training routine. Active rest also helps to avoid hitting plateaus by making sure you partake in some different activities that you normally would not do. Taking a week off for active rest and enjoying biking, hiking, step classes or basketball is ideal for recovery. Just make sure to pick something fun and take your mind off of the weights. The active rest period for the week really helps to shock your body and get it ready for ongoing gains when you get back into the gym. These forms of rest cannot be ignored if you want consistent and continued results with your training program.
Water, which is not normally covered when talking about recovery methods, is actually a huge part of recovery. Drinking 8 glasses of water per day is the minimum that the governments dictates knowing most people will barely get this amount in. However, you should be working toward drinking a liter or more per day if you are very active or if you consume excess caffeine, sugars and processed foods. Water carries oxygen into your system which is very important for muscle growth and recovery.
Stretching helps to bring oxygenated blood through to the muscles which enhances the results of packing on lean muscle tissue. Stretching also prepares the muscles for the next intense workout and helps decrease muscle soreness the day after training.
A popular supplement that is widely used for muscle recovery and rebuilding is glutamine. An average of 5 grams per dose taken 1-4 times per day is a great way to help your joints as well. Glutamine is one of the cornerstone supplements you should include in your dietary regimen for muscle recovery and growth!
Getting enough sleep each night is critical for recovery. It amazes me how many people function off less than 5 hours of sleep per night especially when 7 hours per night is already cutting it a little low. A normal person who has a traditional job and does not workout or do any strenuous activities still needs 8 hours of sleep per night to function optimally. Now, let’s take the athlete or bodybuilder who is busting their butt in the gym 4-5 days per week lifting heavy weights and also doing hours of cardio each week. A minimum of 8 hours of quality sleep is crucial for these people in order to allow for optimal muscle recovery, rest and recuperation. It may be hard to get into an ideal sleep pattern so keeping a sleep diary might help with this as well as including things like chamomile tea, a small banana before bed or some hot milk (the latter 2 choices are not ideal if you are overweight). Make sure to keep the temperature in your bedroom on the cooler side and keep it as dark as possible with very little noise. These factors are very important for setting up your sleeping environment and taking advantage of the benefits from getting hours of quality sleep during the night.