Muscle recovery – 13 effective techniques and tools

Exercise the right way and you'll get bigger, stronger muscles. strength training trainers know this, but do they understand how muscle recovery is to this process? This is what allows muscles to repair themselves after a workout.

To progress, be comfortable, and avoid or minimize injury, you must include recovery time. The day of complete rest, diet and good sleep are essential for this. Some of you may also use equipment that speeds up the muscle recovery process.

We will also review them to help you choose the best tool to repair your muscle cells. 

But first you need to understand how this process relates to building muscle.

Where does pain come from after a workout

muscle recovery after a workout

Anyone who trains knows that feeling. You put in intense effort and pay for it the next day with sore muscles. This is called body aches, or delayed onset muscle pain (acronym DOMS). Soreness can be at most 24-48 hours after a workout and then improve.

DOMS cause pain, reduced range of motion, and muscle fatigue. This can have a direct impact on your physical abilities for a few days. The probable cause of this phenomenon is the accumulation of tiny tears in the muscle tissue. It can happen after any type of intense workout, and some people seem to be more susceptible to it than others.

If you experience muscle soreness during or immediately after a workout, it's usually due to a buildup of lactic acid. This should dissipate quickly. On the other hand, sudden pain that doesn't go away after training is more likely an injury, such as a strain or strain.


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How long does muscle recovery take?

The time it takes for your muscles to recover from exercise depends on your fitness level and the difficulty of your workout.

The volume, intensity and duration of your sports session all play a role in its impact on your body.

After a relatively light workout, your muscles can recover in 24 hours, while a harder workout can take 2-3 days. Very intense workouts may take even longer.

Other factors that can affect your recovery time include:

  • how you sleep
  • The amount of calories you consume
  • The level of stress you are under
  • Doing exercises that involve many different muscle groups or near maximal effort

It's important to give your body time to fully recover after a workout.

Your body also needs time to eliminate the lactic acid accumulated in the muscles.

What is recovery and why is it important?

how to recover after strength training

It may seem surprising to you at first, but a good strength training session aims to damage muscle fibers. This is precisely what activates the regeneration process responsible for mass gain.

The repair process strengthens fibers and tissues, which gradually produces bigger and stronger muscles. It is the phenomenon of protein or protein synthesis that allows the construction of new muscle tissue using amino acids.

Over time, your muscles adapt and it takes more effort and loads to trigger this cycle. 

To build muscle, you need to stress the muscle tissue enough to damage it, but you also need to give it a chance to repair itself. Working the same muscles day in and day out produces no results or even detrimental effects on your athletic performance. Plus, you can injure yourself with overtraining.

The recovery phase gives your muscles the time they need to rebuild. During this period, your hormones are at the service of cellular regeneration.

And you'll see how to help your body get the most out of it.

Here are 13 techniques and equipment that promote post-workout recovery.

I have classified them into 4 main categories:

  • Lifestyles or habits
  • Specific techniques used by the pros
  • Food supplements
  • Equipment specific to muscle recovery

Lifestyles that help recovery

Nothing can make up for bad lifestyle habits when it comes to muscle recovery. The most important thing you can do is have a healthy lifestyle.

Here are the most important rules to follow:

1. Get plenty of sleep

Several studies on athletes have revealed that the quality of sleep is one of the most important factors in a good recovery. Lack of sleep increases inflammation in the body, which prevents muscle recovery and repair of muscle tissue damage caused by a workout.

2. Have good eating habits

A suitable and balanced food program is extremely important for the recovery period. 

Specifically, focus on getting enough protein to help muscles repair and grow. Eat a post-workout snack with about 30 grams of protein to supply damaged muscles with repair materials. Also eat some carbohydrates to replenish your muscle glycogen stores (your immediate energy stores).

And in your everyday life, try to consume healthy foods above all. They also play an important role for your immune system.

In general, good nutrition means:

  • Minimize your consumption of processed foods
  • Eat lots of fruits and vegetables
  • Get at least 1.4 to 2 grams of protein per pound of body weight if you do strength training

3. Drink plenty of water

Hydration is also crucial for the recovery process. So drink enough during and after your strength training session. Don't wait for the feeling of thirst because it just tells you that you've waited too long and are suffering from a lack of hydration. This does not mean that you have to drink industrial quantities at the risk of water retention or spending your time in the toilet 😂

If you sweat a lot, you may need to consume an isotonic drink rich in mineral salts during your session. However, I urge you not to abuse it.

4. Limit alcohol consumption

Alcohol interferes with the recovery process. It dehydrates the body, which slows blood flow to the muscles. It can also impair protein synthesis, which is crucial for rebuilding muscle.

5. Promote blood circulation

Recovery doesn't mean slouching on the couch all day. It is better to move a little. You can take a walk, chores, or bike ride around the neighborhood for an active recovery day. This will circulate more blood to the muscle tissues, which will facilitate their repair and the elimination of waste.

Don't forget the cardio. Aerobic exercise is essential for good health and fitness, but it also aids in muscle recovery. One of the important changes triggered by regular cardiovascular exercise is the growth and size of blood vessels. This increases blood flow to the muscles, which is essential for recovery.

Some useful techniques

Often used by professional athletes, these techniques are effective. You can take inspiration from it, even if you don't have as many resources as the pros 😉

6. Massages

Many athletes incorporate massage into their training to reduce muscle soreness.

A 2020 study on the NCBI US site found that massage had an effect on improving flexibility and decreasing delayed onset muscle soreness.

Regular massage improves blood flow to the muscles, relaxes them and allows myofascial release. The latter refers to stretching and releasing knots in tight connective tissue.

Further you will see that there are quite inexpensive tools for doing self-massage.

7. Hot-cold therapy

This technique consists of alternating periods of immersion in hot and cold water. Some even go so far as to take an ice bath (cryotherapy). Without going to extremes, you can try taking a cold shower and see if you see any improvement.

This change in temperature causes your blood vessels to contract and expand and changes your heart rate. Research has shown that this habit can help reduce post-workout muscle soreness.

The best supplements for muscle recovery

Protein Shaker for Muscle Recovery

Although the previous points are by far the most important for recovering after exercise, some supplements will help you perform well and speed up the regeneration process. According to numerous studies, only 2 food supplements are really interesting. No need to make an endless list

8. Creatine Monohydrate

Creatine is one of the most studied supplements. Research shows it can help improve muscle strength in resistance training.

Research has also found that creatine can help athletes recover faster from intense training by promoting the repair of muscle damage and inflammation. It also helps to replenish glycogen stores in your muscles.

9. Protein powder

Protein powders, whether whey or plant-based, are a convenient way to ensure you don't lack this macronutrient in your diet.

Many protein supplements contain a full spectrum of essential amino acids.

Do you need muscle recovery tools?

Recovering muscle tissue after a workout primarily depends on rest and a healthy diet. If you fuel your muscles properly and rest between tough workouts, you may not need recovery tools. However, some people need a little extra help.

You may want tools to speed up or aid recovery after a particularly intense workout or if you suffer a lot from DOMS. Athletes use recovery tools because they need to prepare for the next event or game. Those who train casually and don't push too hard don't necessarily need anything more than rest and food.

Best Muscle Recovery Tools

If you want to speed up or improve your recovery, certain equipment can help you. Here are some of the best recovery tools:

10. Foam Roller or massage roller

It's a really inexpensive option that works well for many people.

One of the best ways to use a massage roller is to target painful or tight spots and hold it there for 30-45 seconds. Don't spend money on a vibrating foam roller. It's not more efficient.

FFEXS Massage Roller Foam Roller for Trigger Massage...
  • THE ULTIMATE SELF-MASSAGE TOOL – The Massage Roller...
  • AN EFFECTIVE RECOVERY TOOL – The roller of...
  • EXCELLENT PORTABILITY – the recovery roller is...

11. Massage gun

This is a more expensive option for myofascial relief that is still affordable for many people. Like a foam roller, it is a self-massage tool. What differentiates it from the foam roller is its precision.

You can more easily target trouble spots with the gun. They also come with different settings and heads so you can modify them to suit your needs.

12. Lacrosse massage balls

It is a classic and inexpensive recovery tool. It works like a foam roller or massage gun to trigger myofascial release and smooth tight muscles.

It's by far the cheapest tool and it allows you to get into smaller places using your body weight to get a deep massage.

Navaris 2x massage ball - Lacrosse ball self-massage muscle feet...
  • PAIN RELIEF ACCESSORY: Relieve your muscle pain with...
  • POINT TRIGGER: The balls allow you to press the points of...
  • DETAILS: You receive a set of 2 light gray and gray balls...

13. Compressive garments

It is a tight garment that is supposed to improve blood circulation and bring more oxygen to the muscles that need to recover. You can find inexpensive socks, leggings, t-shirts, and other compression garments.

The results of studies on the effects of compression on sore muscles are mixed. So if you want to try, start with the cheapest clothes. In any case, the effect is less than for massage or cold therapy.

Conclusion on muscle recovery

Allow your muscles to fully recover after exercise to limit the risk of injury.

If you no longer see improvements in your physical condition or if your muscles are constantly inflamed and sore, increase your recovery time.

Whether you train to stay in shape or are a competitive athlete, the best way to maximize your muscle recovery is to eat a healthy diet, drink enough water and get good quality sleep.

No other recovery technique or equipment can compensate for bad habits in these three areas. Either way, a lack of sleep would cause a loss of motivation.  

Frequently Asked Questions

The most important is by far the quality of your sleep, a balanced and healthy diet and the habit of drinking enough water (at least 2 liters per day). Afterwards, the means to speed up recovery are to drink little or no alcohol, to do cardio and to use techniques such as showers or cold baths and massages or self-massage tools.

All proteins are interesting, whether vegetable or animal. It all depends on your preference. Most importantly, they contain all 9 essential amino acids: tryptophan, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, valine, leucine, isoleucine and histidine.

No. If you don't let your muscles recover between workouts, you risk injury. The repeated stress of exercise causes small tears in the muscles that lead to pain and inflammation. This puts you at risk of developing a larger tear. In the most severe cases, this may require surgery to repair damaged muscle. If you don't fully recover, you'll likely notice that your athletic performance declines over time.  


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Last updated on 2023-10-01 / Affiliate links / Some images come from Amazon Product Advertising API

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