Almost every gym aficionado is on the lookout for new ways to fatigue a muscle, shock their body, and stimulate new growth. However, too few realize they could get the gains they’re looking for by shifting their focus in the opposite direction. Instead of finding new ways to attack the muscle, they should look for new ways to improve their muscle recovery.
Before you can focus on muscle recovery, you have to know why it’s important. Your muscles don’t actually grow when you work out – your workouts are just a growth stimulus. When you lift weights, you actually cause micro-trauma to the muscle. You then have to rest and recuperate from this “damage”. When you do, in a sense of self-preservation, your body doesn’t just rest and recuperate itself back to where it was – it builds the muscle bigger.
This is because the body is naturally lazy and wants to make things as easy for itself as possible. If curling 100lbs is hard with small biceps, but easier with big biceps, then the body wants to build bigger biceps to make those 100lbs curls easy. But it can only do this when you give the body a chance to rest, repair, and grow. So the more and better muscle recovery you have, the more often (and harder) you can train, perpetuating the muscle-building process.
The first thing you should focus on for better muscle recovery is getting enough sleep. Sleep is the most important factor in physical health, and is going to have the most dramatic effect on your rest as a whole. You could employ various other recovery tactics, but they’ll all still be rather ineffective if you’re not sleeping enough. Try to ensure that you get at least 8 hours of sleep per night, but more is better. Read our article on the importance of sleep on training goals here.
Food is used as workout fuel, but it’s also critically important in the recovery process. If you’re not getting enough nutrients (and in the right ratio) your body’s natural repair and growth processes won’t be able to occur as they should. Making sure your nutrition is right seems like a very elementary point, but it’s also that important. A good place to start is to consume 13-15 calories and .75-1g of protein per pound of body weight.
If you have the big basics of sleep and diet in line, your recovery should already be about where it needs to be. When many people start having problems is when they train too hard, too often, or do too much volume. The more working out you do, the more you have to recover from. And if your muscle recovery isn’t commensurate, your gains will diminish greatly.
More often than not, many bodybuilders would actually get way more muscle growth if instead of trying to up their recovery so they could train more, they trained less to match their current recovery levels. That way instead of being overtrained or under-recovered, they’re matching the two to one another. Once they have that level of growth sustained, they can start to up the training and incrementally add additional recovery techniques.
Just like some lifters start taking supplements before they have their diet correct, too many try to add new or different muscle recovery techniques when they don’t have the basics down, first. But once you have the above in line, you can start to add new things to minimize your recovery time even further. Here are a few ideas you could add to the mix:
You know that muscle recovery is vitally important if you want to maximize muscle growth. Match your training to your current recovery levels, make sure you get enough sleep, eat right, and you’ll be well on your way to the gains you want.