Bodybuilders lift heavily and often, some six days per week. Because muscle recovery is crucial to gaining mass, it is important to balance muscle overload, nutrition, and rest periods for optimal results. Allowing muscle cells to recover properly will minimize the chance of injury and will produce maximum hypertrophy, or growth, of the muscle fibers. It's important to keep changing up routines to produce gains, but maintaining a rest/recovery cycle needs to be part of every bodybuilder's plan during and after the workout.
Getting Oxygen To Muscle Cells
Since lifting heavy weights means breathing heavily, a proper breathing pattern during a lift means oxygen is getting into the blood while the muscles demand it. This can make a difference post-workout as well. Before the first repetition, take a deep breath. With each repetition in the set, exhale during the muscle contraction and inhale during the eccentric phase. Doing this from the very first through the last repetition will make a big difference in recovering to do the next set.
In Between Sets
Maximal lifting days mean you will need to sit and rest for one to three minutes between weight sets, breathing deeply while maintaining good posture to make sure the diaphragm has full range of motion to get the most air into your lungs. On days where you are lifting slightly less weight, do some cardio activity in between sets. Studies published by the American College of Sports Medicine show improved recovery of glycogen stores in muscle tissue when resistance training is combined with cardio intervals. The easiest way to incorporate cardio intervals is to jump rope, perform jumping jacks, or jog around the perimeter of the gym.
One Hour Post Workout
Consume a mixture of protein and carbohydrate within one hour of weight training. Low fat chocolate milk is an economical and easy to drink option. Other choices are a turkey sandwich, peanut butter and apple slices, or tofu and vegetables. Drink water with your meal. Static stretching of the muscles worked in the gym will also help prevent soreness.
Give The Muscles 48 Hours Before Training Again
It takes time for the swelling to go down and the waste products to be eliminated. Nutrition, adequate sleep and proper training methods make a difference in how fast the muscle will recover after training, but most bodybuilders need at least 48 hours to regain strength. Bodybuilders rotate between muscle groups every workout to allow for this recovery time. It's called a "split" because you split your body into different regions and work them on different days.
Coming Back From Injury or Illness
If you have not lifted heavily for a period of time due to injury or illness, it will affect the recovery of the muscles. A better and safer way to come back to bodybuilding after time off is to retrain nervous system motor neuron patterns by performing a greater number of repetitions at lower weights. This muscle endurance protocol will build up glycogen stores in the muscle cells. It is a safer and more effective way to return to lifting heavy weights.
- ExRx.net: Weight Training Tips
- JohnBerardi.com: Weight Lifting and Post Exercise Muscle Recovery
- "Advanced Fitness Assessment and Exercise Prescription"; Vivian H. Heyward