After intensive physical activity, muscles often experience swelling and inflammation within 24 to 72 hours. This manifests as pain during movement, limited limb extension, and reduced strength.
While stretching is a common post-workout practice, scientific evidence shows it has no significant impact on inflammation, muscle soreness, or strength decline. Instead, consider the following effective recovery techniques:
1. Cold Baths
Cold reduces inflammation and pain, reduces swelling and helps muscles regain strength faster.
The pressure of the water accelerates the release of metabolic products from the muscles, which also promotes faster recovery.
In addition, cold water reduces the feeling of fatigue and brings back vigor. This is useful during competitions, when you need to recover faster after one stage to show good results in another.
At the same time, you should not use this technique in your normal training process. At least not if you are going to increase your strength and build muscle. The cold depresses the recovery process and reduces the anabolic signals needed for muscle growth and strength, which will slow down your progress.
- Benefits: Reduces inflammation and pain, minimizes swelling, and accelerates muscle strength recovery.
- Water pressure expedites the release of metabolic by-products, aiding faster recovery.
- Caution: Avoid regular use during normal training to support muscle growth and strength.
2. Sauna Sessions
There's no evidence that a sauna after exercise helps reduce postponed muscle soreness or speed up recovery. But if you go there before exercise, the effect will appear: you'll feel less sore and stiff after exercise.
Scientists suggest that this is due to a good warming up of the body. Staying in a sauna increases the temperature of the tissues, reduces tension and increases flexibility, as a result of which the muscles are not damaged as much during exercise and, as a result, are less sore after exertion.
- Timing Matters: No evidence for post-exercise benefit, but pre-exercise sauna can reduce soreness and stiffness.
- Warming up tissues in the sauna enhances flexibility, potentially reducing muscle damage during exercise.
3. Compression Clothing
Compression clothing helps to reduce pent-up soreness in your muscles and help them recover their ability to produce force faster. Scientists suggest that compression simply reduces the space for swelling and slightly changes the osmotic pressure, which prevents fluid from escaping into the tissues. Less swelling means less pain.
- Post-Exercise Application: Reduces muscle soreness by limiting swelling and altering osmotic pressure.
- Wear compression garments for 24 hours after exercise to optimize recovery.
4. Massage Roller
This technique helps ease the tension of the fascia, the connective tissue in which muscles are wrapped. Since pent-up pain is largely dependent on changes in it, relaxing the fascia helps relieve discomfort and maintain range of motion and strength performance.
In addition, massage improves blood flow, which helps to flush out metabolic waste products as quickly as possible and reduce swelling.
- Targets Fascia Tension: Eases tension in connective tissue, aiding discomfort relief and preserving range of motion.
- Improves blood flow, expediting the removal of metabolic waste and reducing swelling.
5. Professional Massage
- Timing Matters: A 30-minute session post-workout decreases muscle soreness for 24-72 hours.
- Decreases cortisol levels, increases beta-endorphin concentration, and reduces inflammation markers.
6. Active Recovery
A light exercise reduces inflammatory markers and accelerates the recovery of creatine phosphate and glycogen - substances that serve as fuel for muscles.
- Gentle Exercises: Perform light activities the day after intense workouts to warm up muscles and reduce soreness.
- Keep activity below 50% of maximum effort to avoid overexertion.
7.*BCAAs (Branched Chain Amino Acids)
- Preventive Measure: Take BCAAs to prevent delayed muscle soreness and maintain performance after intense workouts.
- Consume 200 mg per 1 kg of body weight daily, even on rest days, divided into 2-3 intervals.
Remember, while these techniques are beneficial, maintaining a balance of regular exercise, proper nutrition, and sufficient sleep is crucial for sustained progress, minimizing pain, preventing injuries, and overcoming plateaus.