Long article on recovery!
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The harder, harder and more often you train, the faster you grow. This is proved, but under one condition – if the body can fully recover. Unfortunately, the latter factor is often not taken into account. For example, if you analyze a number of training programs, you will realize that very few include recovery strategies. Any discussion on the topic of recovery revolves around two main questions: What is the optimal duration of the recovery period and after how long can the muscle be re-trained?
Four very different types of recovery. One of the main obstacles to determining the optimal duration of recovery is that our body is not being restored as a whole. There are four main components to recovery from a workout, and each one takes some time. Next, I will describe them, starting with the fastest. It is assumed that you are not overtrained. If this is not the case, then recovery will require significantly more time..
1. Energy recovery. Training requires energy, so its reserves must be restored before the next training. I am talking about two of its types: the first is ATP and phosphocreatine, the second is glycogen. If you are not overtrained or do not sit on a low-calorie diet, then energy recovery is a matter of several hours, at most several days. Carbohydrate-rich food distributed throughout the day, plus creatine and ribose, will speed up energy recovery. This is not the main factor limiting recovery, although the energy state of muscle cells can positively affect anabolic compensation..
2. Hormonal recovery.
Intensive training affects the endocrine system. After training, cortisol levels may fall, or most likely increase, testosterone levels will temporarily increase before dropping for a few hours or, in the worst case, for a few days. In most cases, everything returns to normal after 24 hours. A return to hormonal homeostasis (natural balance) may take longer than energy recovery. But this also should not be a limiting factor, unless, of course, the amount of training you have is reasonable. If your hormonal system has not recovered 24 hours after an excessive training load, then problems may arise. If the levels of anabolic hormones are still lowered after, say, breast training, leg training will bring additional chaos to endocrine homeostasis. Training on the third day will further aggravate the situation. By artificially raising levels of anabolic hormones, steroid users can exercise more often than natural athletes. Remember this when you try to copy the champion’s training schedule. Prohormones can accelerate hormonal recovery in many natural bodybuilders who are faced with endocrine problems..
3. Contractile recovery.
Everything is much more complicated here. After an average, non-traumatic training session, the recovery of the contractile apparatus – actin, myosin and supporting components – occurs quite quickly. Professor Volkov from Russia noted that weightlifters need from 16 to 28 hours to fully recover after training of moderate intensity (1) – 16-17 hours for small muscle groups and 24-28 for large ones. That is, the speed of muscle recovery is not the same. Volkov made another important remark – the restoration of the contractile apparatus – the process is very uneven. The highest speed is observed the first 7.5 hours after training, then it falls.
If the training load is high, then the recovery period increases from 24 to 48 hours (1). However, the process is again uneven. After 24 hours, 87% of athletes’ power is restored, but the last 13% takes another 24 hours.
Note that this is true for weightlifters, but not for bodybuilders. The negative or eccentric phases of weightlifting exercises are not so long or accented. Since muscles are injured most in the negative phase of movement, bodybuilders need a much longer rest after an intense, traumatic workout.
As with weightlifters, their first phase of recovery is very fast. Protein intake immediately after exercise accelerates the anabolic response to the load, therefore, recovery is accelerated. Unfortunately, damage to muscle fibers causes small intracellular calcium leakage. Despite muscle recovery, intracellular calcium is deposited in “inappropriate” places. Within a few hours, the body reaches the calcium threshold, catabolic processes are launched that stop recovery.
Such a delayed post-training effect can last for days or weeks, anabolic processes are stopped, catabolic processes are accelerated. This is why post-workout muscle pain does not occur immediately after exercise, and may disappear even after a few weeks..
The concept of two-phase reduction is well illustrated by one study conducted in 2000 (2). The restoration of the strength of the participants in the experiment took place rather quickly in the first 11 hours after a hard training of the legs. In the next 11 hours, the process slowed down. Recovery ended after 33 hours, not after 12. After less traumatic training, athletes recovered after three hours. Therefore, the full restoration of the contractile apparatus is one of the factors limiting your ability to resume intensive training for this muscle group. Of course, the “repair” of contractile fibers depends on the complete restoration of the endocrine system and replenishment of the body’s energy reserves, which brings us to another serious limiter.
4. Restoration of the nervous system. Muscles contract because the brain sends them the appropriate signals, that is, the nervous system is a critical parameter that determines your strength. Training tires the nervous system, and, like muscles, it takes time to recover. However, she would need more than that for this. One study in 2000 showed that muscle pain resulting from intense leg training went away after five days, but the nervous system took more than 10 days to fully recover (3). This makes the recovery time of the nervous system the main limiting factor in training volume and strength gain. Just as in the case of the endocrine system, hard training the next day can only postpone the period of its full recovery. Practical data.
Another study on this subject, which is very important for bodybuilders, was carried out by Professor Dietmar Schmidtbleicher (4,5). Its results would go unnoticed, as they were published in Germany, and for some reason in two different sports magazines with an interval of a year. To understand the meaning of this study, you must read both publications. Participants in the experiment were asked to complete five sets in three repetitions in bench presses with maximum weights. One group performed only the positive part of the bench press, while the other did both positive and negative, that is, performed full repetitions. Scientists measured maximum isometric strength over three weeks. Some other parameters were also fixed, but they are hardly of interest to bodybuilders. In the group that performed only the positive part of the repetitions, the level of strength decreased after 48 hours. On the third day, the strength increased by 21.5%, indicating that the recovery was more than complete and there was an increase. On the seventh day, strength increased by 24% compared to the base figure, and after 10 days – by 27.
The drop in the strength level 48 hours after the training was more significant in the group that performed full repetitions, that is, the negative and positive parts. Three days later, the strength increased by 20%, which was slightly less than the indicators of the first group. After seven days, its level was higher than the base figure by 24%, after 10 – by 27.5%. Up to this point, no particular differences in the strength indices of the first and second groups were observed, except for a slight delay in the recovery of participants who performed full repetitions. Everything became much more interesting in the third week. While in the first group the training effect was not observed at all, in the second group the strength continued to grow and reached 29%. It would be interesting to know what happened next, but the experiment stopped.
The results of this study are very important for bodybuilders. Non-traumatic training brings faster, but moderate, results compared to traumatic. But since the gained strength also disappears faster, you should train more often. Injuries received by muscles during eccentric repetitions cause greater growth, but in order to get the training effect from traumatic training, you must be patient – it takes a little longer. To get more effect, you should reduce the frequency of training. In other words, you must adjust the recovery time according to the amount of damage done to the muscles. I’m talking about dynamic regulation, and not following a tight training schedule.
The disadvantages of the above studies.
Any research, even if scientists try to bring conditions as close as possible to reality, in reality rarely rarely completely copy it. The experiments considered by us are no exception. The participants were not real bodybuilders, so the bench presses caused them more injuries than athletes. On the other hand, bodybuilders rarely perform only five sets when training chest. A large load will only increase the time required for recovery. Moreover, bodybuilders train another muscle group the next day, which significantly inhibits recovery. They need more time to recover and grow. These comments are similar to the conclusions reached by Raastad (2)
It is important to take into account the fact that the recovery time is individual for each muscle group. In the study described above, Schmidtbleicher determined that the legs need at least 72 hours to fully recover, while the breasts need only 48 hours (6). This is if you want muscle volume. If you are interested in improving muscle reactivity, then rest time for the legs can be reduced to 48 hours. If your goal is speed, then 24 hours is enough to recover. These figures should be taken into account when drawing up training programs for athletes of various sports. At least it’s clear that in bodybuilders, all processes are slower.
Recovery is not just slow, it is much slower than we previously thought. Recovery takes several forms, and for each muscle group it is different. There is still two-phase. You should familiarize yourself with all the processes that provide general recovery and use them targetedly. Only then can you plan an active recovery strategy to accelerate your hypertrophic response.