If you have ever trained strength training, you are probably familiar with the painful feeling in the muscles after intense strength training – severe burning, heaviness and stiffness in the loaded muscle groups.
It’s about muscle fever and more precisely – delayed muscle fever after exercise (DOMS – Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness).
It can last from a few hours to a few days after a workout and be so severe that it prevents even the correct performance of the next one. And I do not recommend you to move on to the next workout (of the same muscle group) if it has not yet recovered well from the previous one.
In fact, there are studies that show that the additional load on a still exhausted and sore muscle has a negative effect on strength performance, significantly limiting the activation of a particular muscle during exercise and reducing its strength capacity.
Simply put – if, for example, you train your back again while this muscle group is still suffering from severe muscle fever from the previous workout, it is very likely that you will violate the technique of performing the exercises due to the inability of the muscle group to cope with the load. You start unconsciously transferring the load to other muscles, joints and tendons, and this is an easy recipe for injuries…
That’s why I want to share a few easy preventative measures that will help you alleviate this pain and shorten the recovery time after an intense workout to be fully prepared for the next one.
1. Myofascial massage
One of the newer methods for recovery after intense exercise is myofascial massage with a fitness roller (foam roller). In addition to improving mobility, this seems to be a very effective way to relieve muscle pain after a workout.
As it is relatively new, there is not much research on this method, but almost all of the few conducted so far prove its positive effect in reducing muscle pain and improving recovery. As a result, study participants showed better physical results in subsequent workouts.
If you decide to use this recovery option, you can take 5-10 minutes for it after your workout. Focus on the muscle groups you worked on during it.
The movement should be slow and smooth, focusing on the more exhausted and tense muscles. Avoid running your joints and lower back on the roller, as this can cause discomfort and even injury.
2. Active recovery
The next method I will pay attention to is active recovery during or after a workout.
It is about the so-called “cooling” or muscle relief at the end of the workout and in the days after it. Active recovery normalizes blood circulation in the body and improves the recovery of stressed muscle groups. It consists of various exercises or activities of low intensity.
Here, too, research shows that recovery from muscle fever is significantly better with the implementation of active recovery in the training process than without it.
However, in order for it to have an effect, you need to practice active recovery in the right way.
Again, I think 5-10 minutes of cooling down after a workout is enough to feel the positive effect of it. Again, focus on the muscle groups you have loaded during the respective workout.
If you have been training your legs, for example, 5-10 minutes of low-intensity monotonous cardio is a suitable option for cooling down.
If the training was for the upper body – a few light series of rowing machine or swimming (if you have the opportunity) will do the same job.
3. Static stretching
This is the method of recovery that I rely on in my work with clients and in my personal training regime.
Static stretching allows the body to gradually slow down after intense exercise. Blood circulation and respiration are normalized smoothly, muscles are cooled effectively and recovery is accelerated.
In addition, it improves muscle flexibility and range of motion.
4. Nutritional supplements
Nutritional supplements are also an option when it comes to post-workout recovery. And while there are a variety of products on the market that claim to improve recovery, for many of them there is no convincing research to confirm their effectiveness.
However, this is not the case with omega-3 fatty acids, which I want to pay special attention to here. For them, the research is numerous and promising. They prove their many positive properties, including recovery.
A recent study demonstrated the positive effect of polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids on the functions of anabolic hormones and their positive role in muscle growth and recovery.
Another study proved that due to their anti-inflammatory properties, taking 1000 to 3000 mg of omega-3 per day significantly reduces muscle pain after strength training.
So even if you do not have the desire or ability to invest in various nutritional supplements for recovery, if you simply include a few omega-3 pills a day or increase the intake of fish in your diet, you can significantly improve your recovery.
5. Select the appropriate load
You may also experience prolonged and painful muscle fever from overtraining.
If you are training recently or returning to training after a long break, it is a good practice to give your body a few weeks to get used to the load, relying on training with lower intensity and volume.
This will reduce muscle pain and you will be able to recover more easily until the next workout, and you will avoid possible injuries from overwork.
Once you feel that you are gaining strength and getting into a rhythm, you can gradually begin to increase the load, while at the same time watching the correct technique of performance.