The weight is smashed on the floor and another deadlift record is in the bag.
Now it’s time to go home and recover for the next workout.
But there’s a problem.
The next day, your legs and your back are so sore, that you can’t even take a flight of stairs.
It feels like as if someone is stabbing your leg with a knife.
And so, like most people, you decide to wait out the muscle soreness. Couch, TV and relaxation … this has got to do the trick.
Well, here’s the truth … being sedentary is actually the worst possible thing you can do for your recovery.
Why Do Muscles Get Sore
Muscle soreness after a workout.
This is good, because it means that you’ve actually done some work in the gym. You see, a lot of people don’t even get sore after their workouts, because they’re spending more time in the gym lurking on Facebook than actually lifting weights.
So, if you’re sore, then you’re doing something right.
But why do muscles actually get sore?
Basically, when you lift weights, you’re making micro-tears in your muscles—especially during the lowering part of the rep—and this stimulates your pain receptors within your muscle tissue. This is why you feel pain.
The technical term for this kind of pain is called delayed onset muscle soreness.
Like the name says, the muscle soreness is delayed, because the pain peaks at about 48 to 72 hours after the exercise and it can last even up to 7 days.
And depending on the type of exercise performed and your fitness level, the pain can be light like “Oh, I didn’t know these muscles were getting worked” to harsh like “Shit, it feels like someone is stabbing my hamstrings with a knife!”
So, now the question is… how to relieve muscle soreness, so you can work out again ASAP?
This is best done with the following muscle recovery tips.
The Top 7 Muscle Recovery Tips
What I’m about to describe here, are my top 7 tips for improving your recovery.
“Jeez, thanks captain Obvious, like I didn’t know that!”
Yeah, I bet you knew that, but be honest for a second … how does your diet look like right now?
If it’s clean and healthy, then more power to you. But you’d be surprised to know how many people suck at their diets.
Nutrition needs not to be complicated. Here’s a recipe for a diet plan that will help you recover faster, while still allow you to enjoy the foods you love: 80% of the time eat real foods—foods that grew from the earth and foods that at some point in time had eyeballs—and 20% of the time, eat chocolate or whatnot.
Good nutrition is not rocket science like some people would want you to believe. Just stick to the basics and reap the rewards.
Sound Sleeping Habits
For me, fixing my sleeping habit is actually the hardest habit to fix and it’s probably costing me a lot of muscle gains. I just don’t know why, but I always struggled having a regular sleeping schedule.
But here’s the deal about sleep … not only do you need sleep to live a healthy life, but sleep plays a major role in your recovery and your muscle building capabilities. You see, when you’re asleep, your body starts to release a bunch of hormones—mainly human growth hormone and testosterone—which are directly responsible for muscle growth and recovery. And the release of these hormones is closely tied to your circadian rhythm.
What’s the circadian rhythm?
The circadian rhythm is your internal biological clock, which tells your body, when it’s time to wake up and when it’s time to go to sleep, amongst other things. Your circadian rhythm is closely tied to the sunrise and the sunset, which means that, if your sleeping schedule is highly erratic and you’re going to bed really late, you’re potentially missing out on some recovery hitpoints.
So, here’s my suggestion to you … more than going to sleep early—which I know a lot of you guys won’t do—I’d rather suggest that you stick to a regular sleeping schedule. This means waking up and going to sleep at the same hours, every day.
This will help you optimize your hormone production and your recovery.
LISS cardio stands for low impact, steady state cardio.
LISS cardio is all about doing “easy” activities at a pace, which you can sustain for a long time, which is around 30+ minutes.
The purpose of LISS cardio is to spike your heart rate up, in order to increase the blood flow to your muscles. With increased blood flow, your muscles will be able to get more nutrients and oxygen into them, which will speed up your recovery process.
I actually believe that sitting out your muscle soreness, is the worst possible recovery strategy you can adopt, because, you’re not doing anything to flush more nutrient-rich blood flow to your muscles. Actually, by sitting on your ass all day, you’re just increasing the time it takes for you to fully recover.
With that said, here’s my top 3 activities for LISS cardio:
- walking in nature (my favorite)
- riding a bike
- light jogging
Low Emotional Investment
Now, this might sound a bit woo-woo, but just hear me out for a second.
While you’re lifting weights, your mind can also get smashed, but in a different kind of way.
When most people lift weights, they do so in a state of high emotional arousal. They blast their ears with loud music, make animal sounds, clap their hands or even use smelling salts, in order to psyche themselves up for the set. And all of this is done for the sake of lifting more weights or doing more reps.
But here’s the thing about psyching yourself up.
Being in a state of high mental/emotional arousal can drain you mentally. And when you’re drained mentally, every feeling of muscle soreness you might have, will be greatly amplified, even though, the actual muscle damage isn’t that bad. Your mind will lead you to think that you need more time to recover, when in reality, your body is more then ready to take on another bout of iron.
So here’s a radical suggestion.
Next time when you’re working out, instead of psyching yourself up with loud music before each set, try taking your emotional level down a notch. While working out, I do this by :
- listening to soothing music
- listening to an interesting lecture
- learning a new skill between sets (like trying to solve a Rubik’s cube)
This will help you speed up your recovery process, because your mind will stay fresh, and thus, it won’t give your body false signals that it’s not ready for another workout.
But don’t get me wrong here. Psyching yourself up before a lift has its place and it’s a technique that you should use when you’re trying to break a personal record. I just feel that a lot of people tend to overuse it.
Cold showers will make you a man.
Plain and simple.
At first they’re brutal, but once you get used to them, you won’t be able to live without them.
But why would anyone in their rightful mind endure such a “brutal punishment” every day?
Well, first of all, taking a cold shower every day makes you automatically a badass. Second, cold showers have a lot of awesome health benefits, which also help you boost your recovery:
- Improved circulation
- Decreased inflammation (less severe DOMS)
- Increased testosterone levels
When I started to take cold showers every day, I noticed a huge boost in my recovery capabilities. All of the sudden, I was able to handle way more training volume than I did while taking hot showers.
And if you find that cold showers are too brutal for you, start with hot water first, and then gradually decrease the temperature, until you can’t go colder no more.
But don’t sweat it, if you’re not able to go ice cold straight from the get go. It took me three days to muster enough courage to turn the faucet all the way down to ice cold, so take your time here.
5 minutes under the cold water is all it takes to reap the benefits.
Branched Chain Amino Acids
I don’t believe in supplements much, mainly because 99% of supplements out there are a lump of dog poop.
With that said though, there are a few supplements in which I believe in. One them is creatine monohydrate, and the other one is BCAA.
BCAA stands for branched chained amino acids and they are the building blocks of proteins. The BCAAs are essential amino acids, which means that your body can’t make them on its own, so that’s why you need to get them through food.
BCAA are made out of 3 main ingredients:
From those three, Leucine is apparently the biggest “muscle builder” so that’s why most mixes of BCAA, have a ratio of 4:1:1 (Leucine:Isoleucine:Valine).
Usually the day after a session of heavy deadlifts, I felt like someone was stabbing my hamstrings and my lower back with a knife. But when I started to take BCAAs during my workouts, I didn’t feel an ounce of muscle soreness afterwards. Even after a killer deadlift session, my hamstrings and lower back were completely soreness-free.
So next time you work out, try to drink anywhere from 10 to 30 grams of BCAAs throughout your workout. Just take a sip here and there between your rest periods.
Soft Tissue Work
It’s low cost and it’s extremely effective to loosen up your tight muscles and help you recover faster.
Everything you need is a foam roller and an optional pair of lacrosse balls. Both things cost less than $25. It’s like the best deep tissue massage you can get, but for a fraction of the cost.
With a foam roller, you’ll be able to work on every part of your body while with the lacrosse balls, you’ll be able to really hone in on those tight spots. My favorite spot for the lacrosse balls is on my back, more specifically the erector spinae muscle—the long back muscle.
With the help of these tips, you’ll drastically improve your recovery capabilities, guaranteed.
Now here’s two things I’d want you to do:
- Pick a technique you’re going to use and test it out for the next couple of weeks.
- Let me know in the comments section below, if you have any other techniques, which help you relieve the muscle soreness after a workout.
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