Recover Like A Pro
By Matthew Ibrahim
Everyone wants to train hard but no one wants to spend quality time on recovery.
Let’s just open this up with one of (if not) the best Twitter posts of all time. #legendary
Here’s the breakdown – we all understand the importance of lifting heavy in general. I don’t need to convince you that lifting heavy helps in the following areas:
· Tissue tolerance and quality
· Structural strength (i.e., ligaments, tendons, bones)
· Musculoskeletal resilience
· Bone mineral density
· Long-term health
· And the list goes on and on…
However, where people seem to miss the boat is in the recovery department. Increasing strength with poor tissue quality, poor joint loading techniques, and without pristine form is like to trying to fit a round block into a square hole; it just won’t work.
I always find myself referring to a powerful mantra from Mark Verstegen, one of the most well known figures in the performance industry. His mantra goes as follows: Work + Rest = Success.
The problem isn’t convincing you that hard work pays off. Intuitively, you all know this. Also, it’s quite obvious that success is the outcome goal. However, the missing piece where people often skip is the “rest” portion.
The perfect solution: recovery.
WHY RECOVERY IS SO IMPORTANT
An intelligently designed recovery program helps to:
· Build quality movement patterns
· Increase joint integrity and centration
· Increase body awareness
· Create optimal loading positions
· Decrease the window of time needed in between bouts of training to get your body feeling “fresh” again
Most importantly, utilizing a good recovery program can save you from trips to the injury bin. Think of recovery as taking your daily vitamins. It should become a staple in your training and performance.
All training and performance starts with a good warm-up (as discussed in my previous article) and equally ends with a step-by-step recovery routine. And no, I don’t mean just dropping down to touch your toes and holding that hamstring stretch for 10 seconds and then calling it a day. Your body deserves better than that.
This is why recovery, although boring and unsexy, is so crucial to your performance. Anyone can drive themselves into the ground in their training but not everyone has installed a step-by-step recovery routine to help bulletproof their body for long-term resilience.
Sure, it’s cool to see elite level professional athletes using high tech recovery tools like float therapy, cryotherapy, altitude tents, hyperbaric chambers, sleep boots, nasal strips, light therapy, and I’m sure the list goes on and on (technology is pretty wild these days). Ultimately though, is it necessary for you, the general fitness enthusiast, to follow suit?
The short answer: absolutely not.
Recovery can be highly effective when programmed intelligently and at the right dosage. A mutual friend of Dr. Tim DiFrancesco and mine (Dr. John Rusin) has teamed up with me to show you how recovery can be a simple, straightforward process in our upcoming workshop this summer at Boston Physical Therapy & Wellness on July 29.
Whether you’re a general fitness enthusiast or a professional athlete, your overall quality of life is still of the utmost importance. Therefore, building a solid foundational base of quality movement should be your top priority. Recovery is where you build that quality movement in addition to increasing your ability to move well.
I’m a firm believer in repeating important phrases, so I’m not shy to re-state what I said in the previous article:
“Remember: quality movement precedes quality training and performance.”
BODY AREAS THAT NEED THE MOST ATTENTION IN RECOVERY
Truth be told, this is not all that different than what is needed in your warm-up.
It’s quite simple when you break down the purpose of each section:
· Warm-Up – Prepare your body through movement patterns for the upcoming training ahead.
· Training – Provide external resistance and force on the body through loading specific movement patterns to elicit an adaptation response over time.
· Recovery – Recharge your batteries through movement patterns, positional capacities and recovery techniques.
Notice the word “movement” being present in all three phases. There’s a reason for that. Building quality movement in specific areas is pivotal in your health and performance.
Similar to the specific body areas that need the most attention in the warm-up, the recovery focuses on addressing:
· Tight hips (both anterior and posterior)
· Immobile mid-back (thoracic spine and thoracic-lumbar junction)
· Locked down shoulder girdles
· Glued down ankles
Regardless of your fitness level, whether you’re a general fitness enthusiast or an elite level professional athlete, these restricted areas are quite common. Life puts us in different positions and postures throughout the day, at our workstations, at social events, at home during our leisure, etc. Our bodies adapt to these positions and take the path of least resistance. Why? Because it’s easy.
That’s really not a problem though if you’re working through an intelligently designed recovery routine on a daily basis to keep your joints and body moving well for the long-term.
MAIN COMPONENTS OF A QUALITY RECOVERY PROGRAM
Similar to your warm-up, efficiency is the key here.
You’ve got 1 hour to train. That’s it. Run through your warm-up, train hard, and if you have some time left at the end of your session, get some recovery in.
However, I also recommend spending quality time later that day on your recovery. Yes, spending a few minutes directly after your training session on a couple key areas will have benefits. Spending more quality time later that day - 8-10 minutes - will also provide a host of benefits for you as well.
My advice: if you have those few extra moments post-training, select one or two key areas. Prioritize and keep it simple.
Later that day is when you’ll want to attack the complete recovery routine though. Feel free to print this recovery template out and start using it on a daily basis.
Here’s the recovery breakdown:
· Trigger Point Pin & Stretch – This is where we get some targeted soft tissue work in. Sure, basic foam rolling and lacrosse ball rolling both definitely help. However, we’re taking a more specific approach here to really pin down specific trigger point areas and add short movement (“stretch”) to elicit some recovery benefits.
· Positional Breathing – I’m a big fan of breathing. Not only does it help to bring you down from a sympathetic state (i.e., high-intensity training) into more of a parasympathetic state, it also helps to decrease some tone and tension post-training. The added benefit here is getting into specific positions (after being “warm” from training) to help increase movement quality and overall movement capacity. The nervous system is king and breathing plays a pivotal role as the doorway into the nervous system.
· Active Stretching – There’s definitely some overlap between this portion of the recovery routine and the warm-up routine (as seen in my previous article), in terms of specific positions. The difference here is that we’ll be focusing on static positions during our stretches. The goal is to slowly but surely increase range of motion very slightly each time. This isn’t an area for monumental gains in the snap of a finger. Think of it more as moving slow like a snail: eventually, it will get there.
PUTTING THE PIECES TOGETHER
Here’s how to build your complete recovery routine by tying all of the pieces together.
Below is a complete step-by-step breakdown of your recovery. Make sure to follow it in this specific order. After you’ve done it a handful of times, you’ll become efficient and only need 8-10 minutes to complete the full routine.
· Trigger Point Pin & Stretch
o Seated Hamstrings – x20 sec/side
o Feet (Arches) – x20 sec/side
o Calves – x20 sec/side
o Quads (VMO) – x20 sec/side
o Glutes (Piriformis) – x20 sec/side
o Hip Flexors – x20 sec/side
o Lats (Infraspinatus) – x20 sec/side
o T-Spine w/Peanut – x20 sec
· Positional Breathing
o Wall 90/90 – x5
o Wall 90/90 w/Hip Internal Rotation – x5/side
o Wall 90/90 w/Alternating Overhead Flexion – x5/side
o Wall 90/90 Floor Slides – x5
o Prone Turtle – 5x
o Quadruped Rocking – 5x
o Brettzel 1.0 – x5/side
o Inchworm Walk Up – 5x
· Active Stretching
o Half-Kneeling Wall Quad-Hip Flexor Stretch – x20 sec/side
o Hammer-Nail Glute Stretch – x20 sec/side
o Split-Stance Adductor Stretch – x20 sec/side
o Hamstring Stretch w/Strap – x20 sec/side
o Single-Leg Hamstring Floss – x5/side
o Yoga Push-Up Stretch – x20 sec
o Bench T-Spine/Lat w/PVC – x5
o Wall Calf Stretch – x20 sec/side
o Wall Triceps Stretch – x20 sec/side
o Wall Pec Stretch – x20 sec/side
Matthew Ibrahim is a strength and conditioning coach, physical therapy rehabilitation coach and licensed massage therapist at Boston Physical Therapy & Wellness. As a Boston-based sports medicine provider for the ClinicalAthlete global network, he routinely works with athletes from all walks of life and training disciplines to help bridge the gap from rehab to training. He is also the founder of Movement Resilience, a blog geared toward enhancing the fields of human movement and athletic performance through featured articles and guest speaking engagements.
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Tim DiFrancesco, PT, DPT, ATC, CSCS spent 6 seasons as the Head Strength & Conditioning Coach of the Los Angeles Lakers and is the founder of TD Athletes Edge. He is nationally renowned for his evidence-based and scientific approach to fitness, training, nutrition, and recovery for athletes and fitness enthusiasts.
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