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10 Muscle Recovery Tips for Improved Performance

Exercise is imperative for improving muscles and overall health. In fact, exercise helps to increase stamina, muscle strength and endurance while getting lean in the process. But if you truly want to improve your muscles and overall health, the recovery process is just as important. Here are 10 steps that you can take to help you enjoy the improved performance at every workout.

1. Stretch! This is an old standard that is still crucial during the recovery process. Actively stretching keeps your muscles flexible and ready for the next workout. Without it, muscles shorten, and you lose range of motion, which can set you up for injury, joint pain and muscle damage.

But stretching keeps your muscles lean and helps create flexibility throughout the muscle fibers as well as the joints and ligaments they are attached to. This means your muscles, and the entire body will experience improved performance with an increased range of motion that can prevent injury. The trick to stretching is to do it every day and be sure to stretch either after exercise or after a short 5-10-minute warm-up if you do so before your routine.

2. Cardio exercise keeps your blood flowing, which may help remove waste from the bloodstream. In fact, it is one of the best therapies to help muscles recover after an intense workout. Some fitness enthusiasts suffer from delayed-onset muscle soreness, or DOMS, especially after leg workouts. Butone study from the California State University-Fullerton found that moderate-intensity cardio on a stationary cycle right after a workout can help leg strength return an entire day sooner than those who did nothing.

Cardio helps by increasing blood flow, which may deliver more oxygen and nutrients to tired muscles. Increased nutrient and oxygen supply can help damaged muscle tissues recover and help improve performance in the next workout. Try 10 to 20 minutes of stationary cycling after each workout as part of your recovery process for improved performance.

3. Contrast Therapy is the application of alternating heat and cold on sore muscles to help them recover. Applying cold packs to sore muscles constricts blood flow, which in turn decreases inflammation that comes with a heavy workout. Heat draws blood and nutrients to the muscle area, which supports the healing process.

During contrast therapy, alternative, apply ice packs and a heating pad or other heating source on your muscles. Alternating the hot and cold ensures that you will avoid muscle spasming from too much cold or adding to inflammation with too much heat.

To do this therapy at home, begin with a cold application for a minute or two then switch to a hot application for a minute or two. Alternating like this for 10-12 minutes can help muscle repair for improved performance for your next workout. For whole-body recovery, take a shower and alternate cold temperatures with hot for about 10 minutes. But don’t do temperatures that are overly extreme, or this therapy can work against you.

4. Hydrate with water or electrolyte water. Muscles grow stronger from exercise by first breaking down muscle fibers, forcing the body to repair them through muscle protein synthesis. But your body requires plenty of fluids for the process, so staying well hydrated is necessary to help your muscles recover. At the same time, proper hydration aids in heart rate recovery while you avoid workout fatigue.

5. Massage enhances recovery after a workout. Of course, it feels good and is even an overall stress reducer, but there may be more benefits. As massage increases blood flow and oxygen transport; the heightened amount of oxygen can aid in muscle repair. In addition, it could bring extra nutrients to the fatigued areas to enhance muscle recovery, while many advocates claim it helps to keep muscles from tightening or spasming after a workout.

6. Foam Rollers are one way you can massage your own muscles. Sometimes called self-myofascial release, this technique is recommended by many fitness trainers to reduce muscle tension, increase flexibility and increase blood flow to muscles after a workout. This can not only promote a sense of relief after a workout but can help minimize the risk of developing collagen or muscle adhesion's, which are common after intense workouts. Most gyms have foam rollers for members or can be found at many stores for an affordable price for those who prefer to do this at home.

7. Spread out your protein intake. While the “anabolic window” theory claims that delaying protein intake after a workout will result in slower growth during the recovery, your body is still open to utilizing it throughout the day. Protein is made from the building blocks of amino acids that help muscles repair for growth and improvement.

An average person requires anywhere from 0.8 grams of protein to 2 grams of protein each day for optimal muscle growth; depending on body composition and activity level. Since your body can only digest one serving of protein at a time, spreading your servings out over the course of a day can allow for better absorption while keeping your metabolism up.

8. Amino Acid Supplements are a great way to ensure you get enough protein. Currently, many fitness trainers are advocating BCAA’s or branched-chain amino acids, which refers to the chemical structure and similar to amino acids found in meat, eggs and some dairy products.

More studies are finding that taking BCAA supplementsimprove muscle recovery while decreasing post-workout soreness. They also seem toreduce fatigue from exercise, which can ensure you have plenty of energy for your next workout.

9. Rest and relaxation are imperative for muscle recovery. During rest, our bodies have a greater ability to repair and rebuild muscle tissue. In fact, bodybuilders only train different body parts twice each week to ensure full muscle growth. Be sure to get enough rest each day and allow your body a break from exercise at least one day each week.

10. Listen to your body to help avoid over training. A smart workout routine alternates intense workouts with lighter ones and allows for recovery. Listening to your body means to pay attention to physical issues like fatigue, soreness, and even negative self-talk. By paying attention, you may have a better chance to determine when your body needs more rest, requires more protein or when you can increase your workout.

Taking care of your body will bring many rewards from better health to more energy. Including rest as part of self-care can help you stay on track so you remain motivated on your path to fitness with improved performance.

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