Recovery Techniques

Recovery is done to offset fatigue.  Sleep and nutrition play a very large role in the overall ability to recover between workouts.  Assuming those two aspects are implemented well, here are some additional techniques you can use.

Traditional Recovery Techniques

Ice Bath – An ice bath works to speeds recovery by reducing inflammation.  Research is contradictory on the benefits of ice baths, but most professionals agree that during repeated high intensity bouts of exercise, ice bath is a quick way to flush inflammation from the muscles and return the core temperature to normal.  Think multi-event/multi-day CrossFit competitions, workouts that involve eccentric damage, and workouts that cause a spike in core temperature.

Self Myofascial Release (SMR)This technique is generally done using a foam roller or lacrosse ball.  There are many other tools that work, so I would encourage you to find the one that you prefer.  This is a soft tissue technique that works on the muscle as well as the connective tissues.  Reducing tonicity and improving mobility are the main objective in SMR, and it is very simple to do.  Target the muscle and tissue on either side of the joint that needs improved mobility.  You can choose to roll over the tissues repeatedly, or find a knot and hold pressure on it until you feel it start to release.  SMR should allow you to see an improvement in your mobility, so test the position you are trying to improve both before and after.


Epsom Salt Bath – Epsom salt is actually a mixture of magnesium and sulfates.  Soaking in a tub of epsom salt produces reverse osmosis – where toxins are released from your body and magnesium and sulfates are absorbed through the skin.  Magnesium reduces inflammation and improves muscle and nerve function, while sulfates promote nutrient absorption and detoxification.  Epsom salt has been used for hundreds of years for ailments such as muscle strains, healing wounds, reducing back pain, treating colds, and detoxifying the system.  An epsom salt bath before bed is a great way to improve sleep quality as well.

Massage – Generally thought of as a relaxation technique, massage can benefit athletic recovery in a number of ways.  Massage strokes allow blood and nutrients to flow back into tight muscles, as well as helping to remove waste products like lactic acid.  Tissue elasticity is also improved by stretching and breaking down scar tissue.  The touch, pressure, and warmth of massage have been shown to relax the muscles and ease pain.

Alternative Recovery Techniques

Inversion – This enables the body to stretch and re-align.  Nearly every physical activity involves some form of compression of the spine.  The compression effect of gravity is compounded by activities such as running and weightlifting, which can place an significant toll on the spine, discs, and muscles.  Inversion helps to reduce pain in overworked muscles by providing a lymphatic flush, as well as rehydrating the discs that act as shock absorbers in the spine.  You can begin your inversion with just a slight downward angle and work your way to full inversion, as seen below.  If you have disc or other back issues, you should consult your doctor before trying inversion.


Contrast Showers –  This is an easy way to improve circulation and wake up the central nervous system simply by using hot and cold water, respectively.  The hot water opens your blood vessels, allowing for blood and nutrients to flow to damaged muscle tissue.  The cold water forces blood toward your organs to keep them warm, thus producing a detoxifying effect by alternating between hot and cold.  Try starting with 30 seconds of each, for three rounds total.  It can provide a very invigorating start to your day.

Cupping – As in most forms of recovery, cupping is used to promote blood flow to damaged tissue.  The suction from the cups literally pulls the tissue up, allowing adhesions to break apart and blood to flow in.  The suction also allows fluids to drain from the area, thus reducing inflammation.  When the cup is removed, blood flows freely and brings nourishment to the muscle tissues.  Cupping should be done by someone with experience in this technique.  Many massage therapists also offer cupping.


Back WalkingThis type of recovery is used to produce deep pressure using a large surface area (the feet).  The pressure produced by someone’s full or partial body weight forces the muscles to relax, and allows the feet to massage without any tension.  This can be used on the back, hamstrings, quads, calves, triceps, and even forearms.  You should have someone who is familiar with back walking instruct you on proper technique, such as gradually adding pressure and avoiding joints.

back walking

Sauna – The benefit of the sauna is increased cardiac output without muscular stress.  It is passive recovery, since the result is increased circulation without a rise in blood pressure.  This increased circulation brings nutrients to the tissues, while at the same time relaxing the muscles.  The use of the sauna also allows the skin, the largest organ in the body, to detoxify via profuse sweating.  Sauna has also been known to alleviate pain from arthritis and improve respiratory problems such as chest congestion and sinusitis.


Benefits and Effects of Massage.
Epsom Salt Uses and Benefits.
Hot and Cold Contrast Shower Benefits.
Starrett, Kelly.  Becoming a Supple Leopard:  The Ultimate Guide to Resolving Pain, Preventing Injury, and Optimizing Performance.  2013.



Posted on November 5, 2014, in Olympic Weightlifting, recovery, Training and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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