Thursday, May 4, 2017

Keys to recovery; don't let soreness hold up the next workout! Part 2; Recovery workouts and techniques.

Part II of the Consistency series
You will never be successful in your workout if you cannot stay consistent and manage soreness and injury..
As discussed in part one found here, the amount of success reaching your fitness goals means making sure you can string together enough workouts. As we said in our last post; consistency is key!!! 

There are many things that can get in the way of a consistent routine.  For those new to my blog, I use sports science to prevent the number one way of loosing your consistency.. Injury!  But injury alone does not hinder our progress.  Travel, work obligations, family obligations and delayed onset muscle soreness(DOMS) from the previous workout all conspire against results.
Finding exercises that fit your time and lifestyle (discussed in this post) can take care of the when and where. Preventing injuries can really get your routine on a roll(discussed hereherehere and here,), but will you be giving that next workout your best?  
The Commandments of weight training;
For success in any workout program it has to adhere to the principles of training: specificity, overload, rest, adaptation and reversibility. These are the basics "commandments" of exercise, and for your next workout to really be effective, the second "commandment": overload must be adhered to (really all of them do).  Today we will cover overload and rest. Specificity should be prescribed by your fitness pro, and it should be derived from a needs analysis. 
Reversibility is the process in which you loose your gains (rate of 1/3 you gained them).

Overload: Human's can't register a 10% difference

You can progress your workout or "overload" it a number of different ways, slight changes are sure fire ways of "upping the ante".
  1. Increase the working weight,
  2. Increase the repetitions,
  3. Increase the time under tension, 
  4. Increase the number of sets  
  5. Increase the intensity(decrease rest time)
You're either moving towards me or away from me. 
As you can see, there needs to be a progression to really force adaptations to training and ultimately progress in to a stronger, leaner and better athlete. It's widely known that if your sets, reps, weights are decreasing you are most likely over-training. The amount of overload will be largely dependent on how recovered you feel. The take home message is that; if you are not progressing you are regressing!  So lets get to what has been proven and what has been reported by athletes to help. 

Rest speaks to recovering, the more you do to recover, the less rest you need. The following factors will speed up the process and lessen the chance of injury overall.
Active Recovery
This concept is basically about getting the blood pumping to the body and the sore muscle groups in question. What the research is showing is that it's better to perform a light, low intensity workout as opposed to just completely resting.  One study documented the lactate clearance was improved when performing related activity either after an event or in between sets. The intensity was at 30 % the original(1).  Another study noted that adding the active recovery also improved psychological recovery by adding relaxation(2). A third study showed a decrease in overall lactate levels in athletes who added recovery workouts and massage on rest days(3).  Excellent examples of Active recovery workouts on rest days include but are not limited to:
  • light kettle bell work (swings, halo's, dead-lifts, windmills)
  • Battle ropes
  • Jump rope
  • Cardio (rowing, treadmill, walking, elliptical)

This one would seem to be a slam dunk right? Stretch a sore muscle. Yet much of the available research tells us the contrary is true. There is little benefit to stretching to relieve muscle soreness.  Which makes the next subject a bit more confusing(4,5,6).  Please do not completely abandon stretching, it's still has some merits!

Many automatically infer that Yoga is about stretching, when in reality, there is a strong body stabilizing/strengthening effect, an affect on breathing/oxygenation as well as a calming effect. Another reason it would seem beneficial is that it's a low load long duration activity, much like our active recovery. If recovery workouts are beneficial, then adding extra oxygen to metabolize lactate and increasing circulation are the way to go(7).

This modality has been around and has obvious benefits, while there is plenty of studies, it's been used and commented on so many times, that there's no need to expand much further(8). Many athletes come in to our office on a maintenence basis to make sure they are at peak performance.  Athletes all the way up to the professional level do the same. 

Common Sense
Some exercise enthusiast may be a little too aggressive when starting a program, if you soreness lasts more that 7 days, consult your doctor(not your exercise professional).  In cases of excessively long periods of soreness consider a more gradual increase in any of the "overload" factors. The body cannot register a difference of 10%, so that is always a good starting point. Remember the greatest ability is AVAIL-ABILITY, you aren't getting stronger if you can't get off the couch. 
We will cover some of the other principles in a third installment of Key's to recovery.

The take home message is that the traditional approaches many take just don't work. Research shows that light activity in between sets and workout are the best way to make sure your moving to live and living to move!

Today we provided principles, so you can adapt your own protocols, don't hesitate to contact us with questions. 
Please let us know you visited our blog by liking, commenting & sharing.

Dr. Serafim is a Rehabilitation and a Strength and Conditioning Specialist. He lives and works in the Exton PA area and has devoted himself to furthering his understanding of movement related disorders. He teaches continuing education and operates a private practice. More information can be found at and feel free to like us at our facebook page.

(1) Effects of active recovery on plasma lactate and anaerobic power following repeated intensive exercise. Ahmaidi S, Granier P, Taoutaou Z, Mercier J, Dubouchaud H, Prefaut C. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 1996 Apr;28(4):450-6. PMID: 8778550

(2) Effect of incorporating low intensity exercise into the recovery period after a rugby match. M Suzuki, T Umeda, S Nakaji, T Shimoyama, T Mashiko, and K Sugawara, British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2004 38: 436-440.

(3) Blood Lactate Removal Using Combined Massage and Active Recovery. Micklewright, D P. 1; Beneke, R FACSM 1; Gladwell, V 1; Sellens, M H. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 35(5) Supplement 1:S317, May 2003.
(4) Lund, H., Vestergaard-Poulsen, P., Kanstrup, I., & Sejrsen, P. (1998). The effect of passive stretchng on delayed onset muscle soreness , and other detrimental effects following eccentric exercise. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports8, 216–221.
(5) Herbert, R., de Noronha, M., & Kamper, S. (2011). Stretching to prevent or reduce muscle soreness after exercise. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Issue 7, CD004577. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD004577.pub3
(6) Cheung, K., Hume, P., & Maxwell, L. (2003). Delayed onset muscle soreness: treatment strategies and performance factors. Sports Medicine33(2), 145–164.
(7)Boyle, C., Sayers, S., Jensen, B., Headley, S., & Manos, T. (2004). The effects of yoga training and a single bout of yoga on delayed onset muscle soreness in the lower extremity. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research18(4), 723–729.
(8)Training, Journal Of Athletic. Effects of Massage on Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness, Swelling, and Recovery of Muscle Function (n.d.): n. pag. Web.
Part III of the Consistency series

What you're missing: The Commandments of exercise.
Essential advice for putting together a successful workout program and smashing through the plateaus when your workout becomes stagnant.

It sure looks like cross-fit in some ways

In parts one and two we covered some of the issues that can interfere with consistency as well as went over the "Commandments of training".  In this final installment we will finish talking about the essential concepts of exercise so you can train smart and "MOVE TO LIVE & LIVE TO MOVE"

In review the basic tenets are  overload, restadaptation, specificity and reversibility.  We covered the first two last time so lets get to the rest.

Specificity: You reap what you sow
Anyone want to guess what Micheal Johnson's adaptations were?

If you sprint, you develop big quads.  If you work with your hands, you develop big forearms.  Humans are adaptable creatures, almost everything we are exposed to eventually we adapt to. Whether it's a hot bath or a loud room at a party or concert, what your initially exposed to eventually becomes "background noise".  Fitness training is no different, it shapes and molds each one of us (activity dependent), and if done enough, it becomes a bit routine. The S.A.I.D. principle (a common rehab/fitness concept) states exactly that, we specifically adapt to the imposed demands placed upon us; it's the reason the stone masons forearms are so big and strong or the Kenyan marathoner who seems built for what he does.  In fact the Kenyan IS built for what he does, and is the work of many generations and demands imposed.  These individuals commonly have crossed large desert distances for generations and have become efficient at doing so.
Here's a thought;  If this is true, why do we train our high school pitchers in the weight room? We're training them to be slow and plodding, a pitcher's biggest need is speed!  

The perfect marathon machine crafted over generations
Adaptation: It goes both ways...
The body's ability to learn, adapt and improve allows us greater ability, but it also causes our progress to plateau.  Doing the same exercise or activity week in week numbs the physiologic response that is responsible for muscle growth, hormonal adaptations and the enzymatic changes that gives us better endurance (better 02 delivery, improved energy systems).  If it ain't broke don't fix it does not apply in regards to adaptation, while it makes things easier for us, it also makes us comfortable.  In fitness we need to be challenged and constantly pushed.

The point of diminishing returns..
When your're a regular at the gym you see the same people doing the same thing, day in and day out.  Many look the same the always do (and still not at their ideal).  Why isn't their hard work paying off with success?  It's a fact of sports science that if you have been doing a certain type of training for long enough, that you are losing out on gains in strength and weight loss.  I'm a personal example of this, and when I became informed and changed my ways, I was rewarded with less injuries, a leaner physique and a stronger body. I now try and share that knowledge, check out some of these great techniques with a trainer that knows WHY and HOW to do it properly. 

Shocking the system.. it's called Periodization
The process of changing what you do every few months is called periodization, professional athletes do it,  so you should most likely be doing it as well. There are many different reasons to change up what you are doing. It cuts down on injuries by giving some of you body parts and tissues a rest.  In professional sports it's broken down in to seasons;
Preseason- sports specific skills training, improve cardio vascular endurance
In-season-maintenance of strength, manage injuries, light cardio 
Postseason/Off-season-add muscle mass, increase speed, manage injuries
Each period has specific goals and is geared to addressing what may have developed in the period before. While most, if any of us are not professional athletes, they are the gold standard that should be followed.  This set-up can be adapted to any type of athlete or exercise enthusiast.
We can adapt the season analogy defining what the pro's want to accomplish in each period and relate it to someone who wants a great physique. 
Diet down-Getting ready for your Activity or season(bathing suit weather)
Maintain-Keep the weight off while still enjoying life(bike, kayak,watersports)
Get strong-take advantage of additional calories of the holidays to increase muscle mass
Get fast- begin to shed extra weight and improve cardio vascular system

Reversibility: Fear not!
The concept of reversibility is one we can all sympathize with, it's the idea that our gains made through exercise are lost at a rate of 3:1.  In other words If we worked out for one month it would take our body three months to loose or "forget" the benefits that came with said exercise program.  But like adaptation, it goes both ways!  The concept also states that the de-trained athlete will quickly recover the lost gains due to inactivity vs. someone who was completely uninitiated.  So, while it's true that if you don't use it you loose it, it's also true that after you loose it it's easier to get it back compared to someone who never had it to start.  To avoid reversal of gains simply perform one set to complete fatigue of each body part once a week!

To summarize this series, here are some do's and don'ts;
Do Increase you weight, reps, time or sets 10% consistently
Do Get your vitamins from whole foods and stay hydrated
Don't Drink alcohol if you're trying to get in  better shape
Do address post muscle workout soreness with active recovery techniques
Don't get stuck doing the same routine for longer than 4 months
Do exercise the target muscle to fatigue
Don't completely stop, if need be maintain with one set a week
Do train in a specific manner if you are an athlete with specific needs (i.e. baseball pitcher)
Don't just sit there, I just gave you the road map, now get out there and Live to move and move to live!

 Today we provided principles, so you can adapt your own protocols, don't hesitate to contact us with questions. 
Please let us know you visited our blog by liking, commenting & sharing.

Dr. Serafim is a Rehabilitation and a Strength and Conditioning Specialist. He lives and works in the Exton PA area and has devoted himself to furthering his understanding of movement related disorders. He teaches continuing education and operates a private practice. More information can be found at and feel free to like us at our facebook page.