4 Essential Ways To Recover After Heavy Lifting
So, you’ve finished your powerbuilding workout. You’ve pushed hard, broken a sweat and beaten your personal best. You’re feeling amazing. How do you keep the momentum going? By looking after your body, recovering properly and giving your muscles time to repair.
It’s so tempting to get carried away at the gym. I get it. You’re smashing goals and getting stronger. Of course you want to keep going.
But whether you’re starting out or reaching new milestones, it’s important to take time for recovery. Really important — because skipping recovery can actually delay your body’s ability to grow muscle and slow down your progress.
When it comes to workout recovery, there are lots of things to consider; from active stretching to getting enough sleep. I’ll share below some of the essential ways to take care of your body and be in top form to nail your next heavy-lifting session.
Why is recovery so important?
Whether you’re doing a squat, bench press or deadlift, exercise uses lots of energy and causes your body and muscles physiological stress. I don’t call it an advanced workout for nothing!
Lifting weights causes minor damage to your muscles because they’re being exposed to heavier loads than they would experience in everyday life. This muscle damage is why you experience pain, or DOMS (delayed-onset muscle soreness), in the days following a heavy-lifting session. Makes sense, right?
The minor damage you experience from lifting heavy weights creates micro-tears in your muscles. During your recovery these tears heal, helping your muscles grow in size. It might sound intense, but it’s actually very normal. Our bodies are pretty damn amazing.
If you’re familiar with my program BUILD, you’ll know that progressive overload plays an important part. Basically, the workouts gradually increase in intensity to help you gain strength. Recovery is key to successful progressive overload, as your muscles are continually being put under more stress and they need time to repair themselves.
4 Ways to recover after heavy lifting
Regular recovery sessions will help you get the most out of BUILD, by increasing muscle growth, preventing injury and getting you back in the gym as quickly and safely as possible. Here are my top four ways to recover after a powerbuilding workout.
1. Complete an active recovery session
Active recovery, or a rehabilitation session, can help reduce soreness and increase circulation to speed up your body’s healing process. It can also help lessen muscle fatigue.
Active recovery is basically light activity that promotes blood flow. Think a walk on the treadmill, swimming, foam rolling, stretching or a session on the exercycle. Any movement that gets your blood flowing and is low intensity is great for active recovery.
In the Recovery section of my BUILD program, you’ll find a bunch of active recovery sessions designed especially for powerbuilding. They include:
Finishing your heavy-lifting workout with a foam rolling session is an effective way to reduce soreness.
Put simply, foam rolling is a form of self-massage or in technical terms “self-myofascial release”. Foam rolling helps reduce tension in your muscles post-workout and can target specific parts of your body that you may struggle to stretch out. You’ll find a series of targeted foam rolling sessions in the app, which I strongly suggest you do after working out.
A static stretch is a deep stretch where you hold the same position for about 30 to 60 seconds. Static stretching should be kept for after your BUILD session when your muscles are already warm.
Apart from making you feel amazing, static stretching can increase your range of motion, which will come in handy as you move on to new exercises in my program.
Focus on the muscles that feel particularly tight. This will differ from workout to workout.
No matter what you’ve trained, I provide you with a stretch for each part of the body that’s been put under strain. I won’t let a week go by without doing them. All you’ll need is a foam roller and a yoga mat.
2. Eat the right foods
When it comes to your powerbuilding diet and workout recovery, there are lots of things to consider.
Lifting weights uses up your glycogen stores for energy and fuel. So, once you’ve finished at the gym you need to rebuild these stores. Fuelling your body with the right food after powerbuilding can help speed up this process.
So what should you eat straight after a BUILD workout? Restore your body’s energy with carbohydrates and protein. Think rice cakes, bananas, lean proteins and starchy foods like rice.
There are also some general things to consider for your diet to help with recovery. Including plenty of protein, such as salmon, steak and eggs helps your body to repair muscle damage. It also helps reduce your risk of injury from overtraining. I’m a big fan of lean red meat, beef and fish. But find what works best for you.
One of the most important things when it comes to diet? Drinking plenty of water. Working out dehydrates your body, so you need to stay hydrated before, during and after a heavy-lifting session. Bring your own drink bottle so you don’t forget!
3. Sleep for at least eight hours
You’ve no doubt heard this one before, but getting eight hours’ sleep has loads of benefits for recovery. I know, I know; sometimes eight hours is wishful thinking.
The more intense your heavy-lifting workout though, the more your muscles will break down and the more time they’ll need to recover. Your muscles will start to repair themselves as soon as you stop lifting, but a good night’s sleep is essential for proper recovery.
On the other hand, having a bad sleep or not getting in enough hours can get in the way of your body’s ability to build muscle and recover. So make sure you get into a good sleeping pattern. Naps are OK too!
4. Rest for a full day
There’s no denying the benefits of a rest day. BUILD is made up of six different workouts per week and one rest day, where you take a break from training.
Sometimes, I find taking a day off frustrating. It can make me feel like I’m quitting. But I know that it’s something I absolutely need to do.
If you need to take an extra day or two, that’s totally fine. It’s important to look after yourself and avoid overtraining.
When it comes to rest, I always listen to my body. That means stopping when I’m feeling exhausted, or doing different exercises to focus on areas of my body that aren’t as sore. Think switching up shoulders and arms for an extra leg workout if your upper body is feeling sore from training.
Listening to your body is also important when it comes to the weights you’re lifting, the time you spend resting between reps and the frequency of your workouts. Ultimately, if your body says no, listen to it. You’ve only got one, after all.
Recovery is key to muscle growth
Workout recovery is a really important part of my BUILD powerbuilding program. While you might be short on time (I know I am), looking after your body and resting up should always be a priority.
Mobilise, foam roll, stretch, keep your body moving, eat the right foods, get plenty of sleep and take a day or two to rest. Basically, just listen to your body. You’ll feel all the better for it, and you’ll bounce back quicker, too!
What do you do to recover from a heavy-lifting workout? Comment below. I’m always keen for more inspiration.
* Results from BUILD may vary. Strict adherence to the program is required for best results.