When you’re building up your body, you don’t want to go soft on yourself and proper recovery is the last though on your mind. Pushing yourself to the limit and “feeling the burn” is a core part of the bodybuilding experience.
But even with weightlifting, it’s possible to go too far. Overtraining means doing high-intensity, high-volume workouts in several sessions during the day. When you overtrain, you can end up doing damage to your body.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with high-volume, high-intensity training. For a single day, it can be hugely beneficial. But if you push yourself this hard for weeks or months, you can end up actually losing progress.
Your muscles don’t have time to recover, and your metabolism is on overdrive. All of a sudden, you may start actually losing muscle. You can also become fatigued and stress your immune system, making yourself sick. When this happens, you may be forced to rest for as long as three months. Ouch!
So, how do you recover from an intense workout session? Here are five tips to keep from getting overstressed, and get a possible benefit from your high-intensity workout.
1) Rest Between Training Sessions
When you lift weights, you’re actually doing physical damage to your muscles. You’re fraying muscle fibers, which then heal and create more muscle fibers. When all goes well, this means you get big, bulging muscles. But the process isn’t magical. It takes time. Between high-intensity sessions, you should avoid lifting for at least 36 hours. If you don’t, your muscles won’t have time to recover.
What does this mean? It means you can hit a plateau since you haven’t actually grown any new muscle fibers. And if you continue working out without resting enough, you can lose muscle mass, and even injure yourself during a workout.
This might sound counterintuitive. Aren’t you supposed to push yourself to the limit? Absolutely! But then you need to reward your body with a break. If you’re feeling weak after an intense session, give yourself another day or two of rest. When you return to working out, you’ll feel fresh and invigorated. You might even find that your performance has improved!
While you’re resting up, it’s also important to get plenty of sleep. This is the time when your body does the bulk of healing and muscle growth. If you’re staying up half the night, you’re not getting the full benefit of your days off.
Besides lack of sleep, there are other stressors that can reduce the benefit of your rest time. These include overwork, menstruation, and jet lag from travel. And needless to say, if you’re sick, that’s also going to reduce your body’s ability to heal.
2) Split Training Sessions
If you prefer to do high-intensity training every day, there’s a way to do it safely, without overtraining. Just split your sessions, so you’re focusing on different muscles on different days. This is a tried and true method used by many bodybuilders. If you plan ahead, this can be very easy to do.
For example, you can work your arms on Monday, your lats and traps on Tuesday, and your legs on Wednesday. By Thursday, your arms will be raring and ready to go again. Then, rest or stick to cardio on Sunday.
3) Deep Tissue Massage
A deep tissue massage, sometimes called a “sports massage,” can go a long way towards helping your muscles heal. We’re all in lockdown right now, but in the future, seeing a masseuse is a great option.
A massage releases tension, so your muscles relax and heal more efficiently. Not only that, but massage therapy can even help you prevent injuries. The looser your muscles are, the less likely you are to hurt yourself.
That said, you don’t have to see a professional masseuse get many of the benefits of massage therapy. A percussion massager allows you to relieve stress in your own muscles.
Keep in mind that this is different from a standard vibrating massager. Percussion massagers are specifically designed to reach your deep tissue, providing the kind of therapy you need to recover from overtraining. Not only that, but they can improve your overall flexibility. They can even relieve stress on overused joints.
4) Temperature Contrast Therapy
Temperature contrast therapy is sometimes called “heat shock” or “cold shock” therapy. When your body is exposed to very hot or cold temperatures, your nervous system has a strong reaction.
Nerves on your skin carry a signal deep into your body. This can improve your circulation, which boosts muscle recovery. In addition, it can also boost your immune system. Ice baths and hot baths or showers are great tools you can use at home.
5) Make Sure You’re Getting Good Nutrition
When you’re bodybuilding, it can be tempting to limit your food intake. This is a good idea right before you compete if you’re going to compete. That said, it’s actually a bad idea while you’re bulking up.
Your body needs nutrients, and plenty of calories, to recover and build muscles. Eat plenty of carbs, plenty of protein, and healthy fats. Chicken and fish are great choices because chicken is high in lean protein, and fish is high in healthy Omega-3 fatty acids.
In addition, it can be helpful to take nutritional supplements. Powdered protein can boost your protein intake. And a good multivitamin will keep your immune system healthy and help you stay energized.