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11 Proven Muscle Recovery Tips (Reduce DOMS)

Muscle Recovery

Resistance training, particularly at the beginning can cause some pretty severe Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) leaving you in a lot of pain and discomfort.

This is perfectly normal, and the pain and discomfort of DOMS will go away with time.

After training consistently for a few weeks you probably won’t even suffer from DOMS any more, unless you do a particularly intense session.

Now it should be made clear that there is nothing that you can do to completely eradicate DOMS, and nor should you want to (it is an important part of increasing size and strength in your muscles).

However, the following tips have been scientifically proven to reduce the effects of DOMS and to help your muscles recover.

Tip #1: Warm Up And Cool Down

To reduce the risk of injury and to reduce muscle soreness post-workout you should take time to warm up. This will help to increase blood flow to your muscles, and will also help to loosen them up.

5-10 minutes of cardio and light stretching should suffice as a warm-up.

Your cool down after the workout is also important as it will help to reduce your heart rate and gradually cools your body temperature.

The cooldown will also help give your muscles time to return to the normal length, and again light stretching is recommended.

Tip #2: Sleep More

Sounds pretty easy huh? Just make sure that you are getting adequate sleep. It is whilst sleeping that the majority of your recovery from exercise occurs.

This is due to a process known as Muscle Protein Synthesis which we will go into more detail on further on.

Studies have shown that ingesting whey or casein protein before going to bed will improve post-exercise recovery [1].

So if you have exercised during the day, a nighttime protein shake will help you recover during your sleep. Other studies have shown that increasing the duration of your sleep can have a huge impact on performance [2], mood [3], and the release of Testosterone and growth Hormones [4].

All of these benefits will help with recovery and will leave you in better shape the next day. Just bear in mind that a lot of these studies found between 8-10 hours sleep to be sufficient. So having 6 hours or 16 hours might not be as helpful!

Tip #3: Consume A High Protein Diet

Muscle Protein Synthesis (MPS) is the use of dietary protein to fuel muscle repair and growth. When you exercise every contraction you perform breaks down muscle fibres, immediately afterwards your body begins to repair them through MPS.

To get the most out of MPS you should be consuming the right amount of protein, athletes (or people who exercise regularly) need to consume a lot more protein than sedentary people [5]. So adding high protein foods and protein shakes [6] to your diet can help you increase MPS which will, in turn, lead to better recovery.

Tip #4: Increase Testosterone

Raising your testosterone levels can improve MPS and lead to greater muscle recovery [7][8].

Obviously there is one easy way to increase testosterone that is very popular amongst bodybuilders and that is injecting yourself with Testosterone. As this is illegal however we will look at natural ways to do so.

Firstly there is increasing sleep which was mentioned before.

Some studies indicate that supplementing with Vitamin D boosts testosterone [9] (though many others did not indicate this), and other studies have shown that a diet high in fat can also increase T [10].

Also, free weight exercises such as barbell squats [11], and kettlebell swings [12] have been shown to have a huge effect on Testosterone and Growth Hormone levels (particularly when compared to resistance machine alternatives).

So correct exercise selection can lead to improved recovery from exercise, get your head around that if you can!

Tip #5: Foam Rolling

This is an interesting subject, many people will swear blind that foam rollers can completely cure DOMS.

This, however, has been proven to be incorrect [13], foam rolling does not speed up recovery nor does it improve sporting performance. However many studies have demonstrated that it lowers fatigue [14].

So you should either use the foam roller as part of your cool down (post-exercise) or as part of your warm-up the day after. There won’t be any serious improvements in your performance but there may be less discomfort and less fatigue which should help you train better.

Tip #6: Ice Bath

The topic of ice baths has been subject to much debate. There are many who believe that there isn’t anywhere near enough evidence of it improving recovery to justify utilising it.

Yet some studies have found improved recovery after using ice baths, and almost every Olympic athlete and sportsperson uses it as part of their recovery process.

A study by Vaile, Gill, & Blazevich (2007) found that using an ice bath led to reduced DOMS in recreational athletes [15].

Now filling a bathtub with ice may be the sort of thing that athletes can do but it’s not the most practical of practices.

An easy alternative would be to use ice cubes wrapped in a cloth or towel applied to the affected muscle group. As this technique is controversial you might want to avoid unless you’re particularly concerned with DOMS, and even then results are not guaranteed.

Tip #7: Wear Compression Workout Clothes

Research has found that wearing clothes that compress your muscles can reduce DOMS [16].

It is believed that when your muscles are constricted by the clothing you will experience less fluid build-up. This helps to reduce swelling in your muscles.

Tip #8: Know Your Limits

If you are new to exercise or are starting a new regime then it is a good idea to start off slow and build up your fitness rather than pushing yourself beyond your capabilities.

Of course, you should work hard but not to the point where you are in pain days later.

Tip #9: Pain Relief Creams, Balms And Patches

Rather than taking an NSAID like aspirin or ibuprofen to ease your pain I would suggest using a pain relief cream instead.

There are counterirritant ingredients available, such as menthol and camphor that produce cold and warmth that can block pain signals from travelling to your brain.

The relief experienced is only temporary but as the cream is applied topically the relief is almost instantaneous.

Massaging the cream into your skin and muscles also aids the recovery, as it helps to increase blood flow.

You can apply the cream to wherever it needed, but make sure to avoid sensitive areas.

Tip #10: Take A Hot Bath

Taking a hot bath after a workout can help to dilate your blood vessels, which will promote blood flow and recovery [17].

Tip #11: Active Recovery

If you are suffering from DOMS then you may not want to move much. However, it could actually aid in your recovery.

Even going for a short walk will help, as stretching out those sore muscles will provide you with some relief.

It may be painful to start active recovery, but after a few minutes and the blood starts flowing you will soon start to feel a little better. A little light stretching will help too.

In Conclusion

If you are pushing yourself at the gym then, unfortunately, DOMS are something that you are going to experience.

Hopefully combining some of the above tips will help to reduce DOMS and aid with muscle recovery.

Remember that DOMS is a positive reaction to the work you are doing in the gym. It is also a warning sign that you should ease off a little until you have recovered.

If you try to ignore the DOMS and choose to regularly overtrain then you will soon begin to suffer.

You may experience fewer gains, a plateau or even injury. All the things that you don’t want to experience if you are looking to build muscle.

The aim of your training regime is to find a balance between your training and recovery. Please make sure you give yourself adequate time to recover between workouts!



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