One of the most disappointing experiences you can have in the gym is realizing that your muscles are still busted from your last workout.
You grab the loaded bar, squeeze out a few reps, but you already feel drained and weakened from the intensity of working only half of your set.
Your workout suffered because you didn’t know how to maximize recovery.
Not anymore! I lift weights for at least five days a week, and I have no issues using the same muscles or exercises on several consecutive days in a row.
Here are my tips to ensure that you will maximize recovery and kill your next workout:
Yes, you’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again. Drink your damn water! But don’t just drink it during your workout. Drink it before, during, and after.
Because water is your muscle lube. It gets your muscles ready and recovered.
Also, make sure to drink water first thing in the morning. Because when you wake up and you’re dehydrated, your body isn’t functioning properly.
That said, you’re much stronger hydrated than you are dehydrated.
As long as your urine is clear, you are drinking enough water.
I recommend buying and using a plastic gallon of water. You can use it everyday and it’s under a buck to purchase.
Get enough sleep every night. This bit is crucial. Without enough sleep your body won’t adequately recover.
I wake up every day at 5:00am and I schedule to be asleep by 10:30pm almost every night.
Have a sleep schedule to follow and your body will use that time to recover.
Because if you don’t take time to sleep, your body will make time to sleep. Then you’ll start to crash in the middle of your day.
So it’s best to make the time to get your sleep hours in.
Be as productive as you can be throughout your day so you can reward yourself with sleep earlier than your allotted time.
The more sleep, the more likely your muscles will recover for tomorrow’s workout.
Consistent Weightlifting Times
Have your workouts generally around the same time every day.
Working out Monday night at 9:00pm followed by a 6:00am Tuesday morning workout isn’t really giving your body much elbow room for recovery.
Consider that not only do you need adequate sleep. You also need adequate food intake to help your body recover.
If you’re working out with sufficient intensity, it is difficult to believe that you’ve given your body enough recovery resources it needs in the span of 10 hours.
I weightlift as soon as the sun rises and I’m able to see my surroundings. This can be as early as 5:30am to 7:00am, depending on the season.
Considering how I lift, I get nearly 24 hours of recovery before my next workout.
Although everyone is different, 24 hours of recovery is undeniably more effective than 10 hours.
So to consistently recover you need to give your body enough time before your next weightlifting session.
Your muscles won’t even recover if you’re not taking in enough protein.
Think of your body as a business. Your muscles are your employees. If you make them work then they are going to expect compensation.
How do you pay them? Protein.
Sure, they like all the other benefits you offer for the job; carbs, vitamins, minerals.
But nothing beats cold, hard protein.
Not paying your muscles the protein they’ve worked for will make them drag their feet.
And your body’s performance will decrease.
So be sure to feed yourself enough protein to maximize recovery time.
BONUS: Ballistic Stretch (In-Between Sets)
I am guilty of not stretching as often as I should after a workout.
What I’m not guilty of is stretching in-between sets.
By performing ballistic stretches between sets you will improve recovery time for your next immediate set.
Ballistic stretching lets your muscles relax by swinging your limbs and allowing gravity to do the stretching for you.
It’s an effective use of the down time that you have resting between sets.
What if I’m still sore (I haven’t recovered)
Your intensity has gone up
If your diet is good and you’re getting enough sleep, you’ve probably increased the intensity.
Maybe you’ve increased the weight at the expense of reps or vice versa.
Perhaps you’ve added more exercises to your routine and/or extended the amount of time you have in the gym.
If this is the case, then your body is left more depleted than before.
Make sure you truly are eating enough calories, hitting your new maintenance or a small surplus.
Another possibility is that you’ve reduced your resting times.
This happened to me when I first dropped my rest times to a one minute max.
It’s far less time-consuming and I recommend everyone modify their weightlifting routines to have only one minute rest periods.
Your body will grow accustomed to shorter breaks within a week.
Your calories are below maintenance
If you’re losing weight or ‘cutting’, you need to lower your intensity.
In other words, if you’re cutting your calories, you need to cut your sets.
Fight hard to keep your exercises at the same reps and weight as before your cut.
And leave out the extra sets.
Not doing so will result in losing muscle, since you’re actively tearing your muscles and not getting them the calories they need to recover.
You haven’t exercised those muscles in forever
You’re probably stiff. Move around.
Your recovery will be faster if you move those muscles around more than if you didn’t use them at all.
And it’s a pain waiting for neglected muscles to recover.
So to avoid the long recovery time in the first place, you can work them up from a very low weight/rep range.
Sure, low weights can be embarrassing. But using your legs modestly 5 days a week is better than using them once a week and waiting to recover from being sore and stiff.
Use A Different Muscle Group
This seems like the obvious thing to do.
However, I do full-body workouts.
Whenever I feel like I didn’t recover enough from my last workout I tend to cut my entire workout short.
If I know my body isn’t going to be able to reach the same reps and weight as last time, I call it a day.
I could work out a different muscle group. But instead of using my body’s resources for lifting and recovery. I rather I let my body focus on full recovery for the day.
Depending on how you train you may choose between using different muscle groups or calling it a rest day.
To conclude, every work day make sure you are:
- drinking enough water
- getting enough sleep
- giving your body the time to recover
- eating enough protein
Follow these basic steps and you will maximize recovery and be ready to kill it at the gym again tomorrow!
If you want to know how to have a killer workout when you’re short on time, check out this post.