6 Rules To Recover Right

Improve your results and reduce your aches and pains with these gym tested, research–backed tips


Andrew Heffernan |

Photographer: Sean Laurentz

Getting stronger is a two-step process: 1. Lift; 2. Recover. We often focus on the first step, and pay lip service to the second. Bad idea. “Every time you work out, you’re digging yourself a hole,” says John Rusin, a physical therapist who specialises in athletic performance and recovery. Recovery is refilling that hole before you challenge your body again. Here are six ways to recover right.

Related: Here’s What You’ll Gain By Taking A Rest Day

1. Find ways to rest and calm your body

If your habits are a mess, you’re leaving gains on the table. Time to target sleep and stress. If you can’t sleep eight hours a night, then learn to nap. Take naps no later than mid-afternoon, or you may screw up that night’s sleep. Aim for about 20 minutes; any longer, and you’ll sleep too deeply and wake up groggy. For stress, Rusin advises, end workouts with five minutes of deep breathing while lying on your back, feet slightly elevated.

Related: How Masturbating, Breathing, and 23 Other Stupidly Simple Habits Can Make You the Healthiest You’ve Ever Been

2. Consume plenty of protein and water

We’ll spare you the lecture on vegetables, and go straight to the protein. Aim for 1.1 to 1.54 grams per kilogram of body weight daily, says Stuart Phillips of McMaster University. As for hydration, there’s an easy way to assess that, says MH nutrition advisor Dr. Mike Roussell. Clear urine means you’re drinking enough. Fewer than two clear or semi-clear urinations a day means you’re not. And no, pH-balanced waters don’t help.

3. Allow enough time between workouts

According to the 48-hour rule, you should wait at least two days before hitting the same muscle again. That’s fine for single-joint moves such as biceps curls, but you may need up to four days to recover from heavy multi-joint lifts like bench presses, suggests research in the International Journal of Exercise Science. So if you work your chest with heavy weight and low reps on Monday, go for higher reps and low weight later that week, says study author Adam Korak.

Related: The 5 Biggest Mistakes Made By Weightlifters

4. Allow enough time between sets

Most trainers prescribe 3 to 5 minutes of rest between sets if your goal is strength, and 60 seconds if your goal is size. But a recent study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning compared rest intervals of 1 minute and 3 minutes and found that the longer breaks were significantly better for both strength and size of most muscle groups over an eight-week programme. So add more recovery time and do more reps (and therefore more work) each set.

5. Don’t be afraid to stretch

It was once believed that doing extended static stretches before exercising could make you slower and weaker. Now? We all need to stretch pre-workout, says strength coach Mike Boyle. He recommends daily stretches in areas that shorten when you sit: quads, hamstrings, hip flexors, chest, and biceps. Hold each stretch for five deep breaths, which should take about 20 to 30 seconds. Foam-roll before your workouts too, says Rusin.

Related: The Best Stretches For Men

6. Spend your rest days being active

Studies show that active rest on non-workout days – a 45– minute walk, for example – reduces soreness. But that’s not why you should make it a habit. The real reason to walk or do yoga? Easy movement clears metabolic waste from your extremities. It’s nature’s detox, aiding with soreness and more. “Recovery isn’t just not feeling sore,” Rusin says. “There are mental, physical, and emotional aspects to it as well.”

READ MORE ON: muscle recovery recovery rest sleep training

Copyright © 2020 Rodale Inc.