Recuperation & Recovery: Integrated Methods

By: Sandra Prior

Bodybuilders and other athletes these days work out with extremely heavy loads. To continue handling such heavy loads, they must be able to recover quickly. Both proper nutrition and ample rest are necessary for recovery, but they're just part of the story. For best results, you need specific recovery methods in your training program that are right for you.

Your training program should include a variety of restorative measures, such as massage, sauna, hydrotherapy and electrical muscle stimulation. If you use one method to the exclusion of the others, your body will soon adapt and will no longer help you to recover. And the methods must be applied wisely. Take the sauna, for example. If you have a sauna immediately after an intense workout, instead of helping you recuperate, it will put you in an even deeper state of fatigue. If, however, you use the sauna 2 - 4 hours after the workout, it's extremely effective.

The same goes for your weight training protocol, of course. If you do the same exercises with the same weight and the same number of repetitions, your body will soon adapt to hit and you'll hit a plateau. Variety is the key, and to make progress, you must regularly change your recovery and training methods.

By using a variety of methods, you're better able to choose the ones that produce the greatest effect for you. For example, if you have very heavy and large muscles, mechanical massage may in many cases be more effective than a hand massage, especially if the massage practitioner doesn't have extremely strong fingers and hands. The mechanical massage can get much deeper than the hand massage, so it may be more effective, but you should try them both to see what works best.

The same goes for the restorative methods that help to rapidly eliminate the fatigue following a bout of heavy training. In this category are rubbing the neurolymphatic points and other points of massage. A general guideline is to use one particular method two to three times a week. Do not use the same method every day.

Aids in Restoration

A different group of restorative measures is needed to allow the body to increase in its work capacity level so that you can perform better in future events. Hydrotherapy and saunas fall into this category, although they are also used for other purposes. Another use of restorative measures is to stimulate the athletes work capacity before the start of a training session or competition. Here, warm ups, training massage and neurolymphatic system stimulation are most important. These types of massage are performed differently before training than they are after a workout.

During the general, base building stage of training, various types of baths (such as pine, eucalyptus and sea salt), contrast showers, stimulation of the neurolymphatic points and restorative massage are effective. Their main purpose is to get rid of the lactic acid and other fatigue factors, as well as to help the athlete relax from a hard workout. When the training becomes more specialized and more concentrated, restorative measures are administered more frequently. The most effective are localized manual massage, various restorative baths and treatments with ultra violet and infrared rays.

Intense Massage for Working Muscles

When an athlete gets to the competitive period, he should receive more intense massage in the primary working muscles. Massage techniques include, stroking, rubbing, kneading and shaking for up to 8 - 12 minutes. In addition, the use of spas (sitting in hot tubs with water jets massaging the body) and light rubbing with heat liniment can be effective, as well as alternating hot and cold showers lasting 1 - 3 minutes. Some of these methods are also effective before actual competition.

After a workout, try various restorative baths with dissolved ingredients, different kinds of showers and treatments with light rays. To show how the restorative measures can be alternated, here is a breakdown of a complete micro cycle.

Day 1: After a medium workout, a warm salt water bath.

Day 2: After another medium workout, hand massage for the muscles most actively involved, as well as neurolymphatic stimulation.

Day 3: After a light workout, contrast showers along with localized massage.

Day 4: After another light day, sauna and hand massage.

Day 5: After a heavy workout, hand massage and neurolymphatic points stimulation.

Day 6: Rest. A warm salt water bath.

Day 7: Rest. Contrast showers and segmental massage.

If you workout both in the morning and evening, additional methods can be used in between the training sessions and especially after the second session. This is needed to prepare the body for the next day's work. The use of restorative measures is fairly new in the USA, but they are well established in many other countries of the world.

By incorporating these methods in your workouts, you should not only be capable of increased muscle growth, but experience less fatigue and soreness, too.

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