The wrong way to recover after exercise

Correct stretching after exercise can help muscles recover quickly, but using the wrong stretching method is not only a waste of time, some even lead to more fatigue. The stretching methods described below should be avoided as much as possible to avoid serious consequences.


1. Unnecessary stretching

Athletes have been doing stretching in various forms since the dawn of competitive sports. This is no accident, as stretching has many, many benefits.

The main benefit, without a second thought, is increased flexibility. The performance of various sports will be limited by the flexibility of the human body, and the combination of dynamic and static stretching is of great benefit to improve specific sports performance.


But beyond these benefits, stretching has its own limitations. No matter how contrary to what you may hear, there is no evidence that stretching helps recovery.

In fact, there is reason to believe that the tissue damage of rigorous flexibility training actually slightly hinders the adaptive signals sent by other forms of training, including strength training.

That said, not only does stretching not really help with recovery, it may even hinder your adaptation to training. If you play a sport that requires some flexibility, stick to a regular stretching routine, but don't expect it to help you recover.


2. Extreme hot baths and saunas

Hot baths and saunas may help with recovery, especially when relaxing in them. However, some athletes go to such extremes that it backfires. Spending too long in the heat can cause three different problems:


a. Acute fatigue

High temperatures can cause acute fatigue. The high temperature interferes with the various systems of the body, and the body tries to cool itself down, which is a very laborious process. This also produces a flood of stress hormones. Even if heat-induced fatigue does not accumulate, acute fatigue can interfere with the recovery process from chronic fatigue, thereby hindering the recovery process.


b. Disruption of homeostasis

We have reason to believe that prolonged exposure to high temperatures will not only lead to acute fatigue, but also aggravate chronic fatigue. Spending too much time in a sauna or hot tub can cause your body temperature to rise over time, and this elevated body temperature can disrupt homeostasis. Imbalances in homeostasis can cause multiple systems in the body to malfunction and take time to reset after the heat ceases.

This process is energy-intensive and can exacerbate chronic fatigue. The body needs to deal with more fatigue, and the pressure on the physiology is even greater. Therefore, staying in the sauna for too long is not a good way to relieve fatigue.


c. Dehydration

Normal hydration levels are extremely important for maintaining homeostasis. Various functions in the body are carried out with fluid as a medium, and proper hydration is directly related to the normal operation of body functions. Conversely, dehydration can negatively affect a variety of functions, including recovery from fatigue.

Strength athletes will deliberately take hot baths and saunas to dehydrate before competition weigh-ins. In this case, athletes understand and accept the fatigue caused by heat and dehydration. But what puzzles me is that since they all understand this, why do they still feel that the same overheating and dehydration will reduce fatigue after training?

Hot baths and saunas actually have some health benefits, but any talk of toxicity out of dosage is hooliganism. For example, training itself, easy training is good for recovery, but difficult training can lead to chronic fatigue.

The same goes for hot tubs and saunas. Short, intermittent bouts of high heat may stimulate recovery, but prolonged heat can be counterproductive. A few minutes of brief exposure to high temperatures to elevate your body temperature and then a slow cooling down may be an effective way to combat fatigue, but prolonged exposure to high temperatures—especially when you start to feel fatigued—can create far more problems than benefits.

In addition, pay attention to replenishing water before entering high temperature, in high temperature environment, and after leaving high temperature environment.


3. Jogging to reduce delayed onset soreness

Muscle soreness is a struggle for countless athletes. Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), in particular, can be extremely uncomfortable and make training difficult.

DOMS reduces the amount of force a muscle can generate, reducing flexibility. Therefore, athletes and coaches have been trying to reduce or eliminate DOMS in various ways.

Some athletes have noticed relief from DOMS with low-intensity cardio.

Bodybuilders in particular have noticed that brisk walking or jogging for 20-30 minutes after training (especially after a leg workout) has been effective in reducing muscle soreness the next day. Track and field athletes have also noticed the same effect when they cool down after training.

Low-intensity cardio does help with recovery, but not all of these effects are beneficial.

In fact, low-intensity cardio enhances recovery at the expense of fitness. In other words, doing some low-intensity aerobic can limit DOMS so that you can train earlier and harder, but the side effect is that the effect of muscle growth and strength growth brought about by strength training before aerobic training will be discounted. There are three main ways in which low-intensity cardio hinders training adaptations:

a. Cell-to-cell signaling

Cell-to-cell signaling is a major part of muscle and strength growth. Heavy resistance training activates several intercellular messengers, one of the most important of which is mTOR. mTOR is a central regulator of muscle growth and muscle fiber type switching in cells, and is largely responsible for the initiation of muscle growth after training.

However, aerobic training activates another messenger, called AMPk. This messenger leads to endurance adaptations, such as mitochondrial biogenesis, and directly blocks mTOR activation. Therefore, cardio that reduces DOMS may actually directly reduce muscle growth and strength gains.

b. Nervous system adaptation

Resistance training and aerobic exercise affect both the musculature and the nervous system. Heavy resistance training alters the action of the nervous system to allow maximum muscle contraction and maximum force generation.

Aerobic exercise optimizes the nervous system toward sustainable, repetitive, low-force levels. In real life, the nervous system can't be the best at both, and when you train one, there's always a price to pay for the other. Low-intensity aerobic may affect the nervous system adaptation of strength training, and the optimal effect of strength training cannot be achieved.

c. Metabolite washout

A small but significant fraction of the total possible muscle hypertrophy is due to the accumulation of metabolites. After a hard workout, especially high-rep workouts, metabolites like lactic acid rush into the muscles and vascular system used in the workout.

These metabolites may, to some extent, signal muscle hypertrophy (possibly mTOR). Metabolites are not responsible for most of the muscle hypertrophy effect (higher weight and higher volume training is), but they may account for as much as 25% of training-induced muscle growth.

Because metabolites stimulate muscle growth, we found that higher metabolite levels for longer periods of time resulted in more muscle growth. This is the principle of the KAATSU training method (compression, blood flow restriction training).

By restricting blood flow to a certain muscle, the metabolites stay in that muscle longer during that time, potentially leading to more muscle growth.

And here comes the problem caused by low-intensity aerobic. These metabolites are quickly flushed from the muscles and blood vessels. This process leads to a reduction in the residence time of metabolites in this zone, thereby reducing the potential training effect.

In fact, low-intensity training can promote recovery while increasing rather than impairing training adaptations. The best way to do it is to use the low-intensity training that is most relevant to your sport (brisk running for runners, light weight for weightlifters, etc.), while keeping recovery training a little further away from normal training.

For example, bench press three times a week, heavy on Monday and Friday, but very light on Wednesday to facilitate recovery. Don't do what you did on Wednesday after practicing on Monday.

Finally, some athletes will deliberately sabotage training adaptations to enhance other aspects, such as football players will sacrifice some leg muscle growth and do some cooling exercises after training. This allows them to recover faster and train more often, which is better for their ability to hone technique and repeat sprints. It's worth sacrificing a little leg muscle growth for these gains for football players. But if your goal is to maximize your strength and muscle size, be wary of these methods of sacrificing fitness for faster recovery.


4. large doses of anti-inflammatory drugs

When you think about it, anti-inflammatory drugs are indeed a remarkable medical and scientific achievement. We have access to drugs that effectively relieve pain and inflammation without serious side effects. By reducing inflammation, these drugs allow our muscles and joints to work properly again, allowing us to get back to training sooner.

Unfortunately, anti-inflammatory drugs have some important disadvantages. Foremost among these is the interference with injury recovery and muscle growth.

High doses of anti-inflammatory drugs have been shown to reduce muscle growth after training. Not all studies have reached this conclusion, but there have been a sufficient number of studies to give us reason to be more vigilant.

In addition, high doses of anti-inflammatory drugs have been shown to delay recovery from injury. Does this mean that taking some ibuprofen and giving us the illusion of recovery is actually killing our muscle and strength gains? It's not that serious, but there are a few things to be aware of:

a. Use anti-inflammatories only when needed

If you can recover from inflammation with ice and rest, hold off on anti-inflammatory drugs for now. Anti-inflammatory drugs should basically not be your first choice.

b. Use as low a dose as possible and for a short time while ensuring the curative effect

If 600mg ibuprofen twice a day can reduce inflammation, why do you have to use 2000mg? Don't skip the dose and reduce the use time for your little muscle strength, but don't abuse it either.

c. Don't confuse being sore-free with real recovery

This is a big problem. If your soreness persists, chances are you're overdoing it, possibly leading to overtraining. At this time, you need to really take a good rest to reduce fatigue, instead of creating a false impression that you have recovered. It is true that your soreness will decrease after taking a lot of anti-inflammatory drugs, but this does not mean that your body has really recovered, and it does not mean that the fatigue has subsided.

Continuing to train can lead to many bad outcomes, such as stagnation and a higher risk of injury. Unless it's a minor muscle pull or tear, anti-inflammatory drugs are not an option for you.

d. Don’t make anti-inflammatories part of your workout routine

If you need anti-inflammatories to train, you're either too old, wear and tear from years of training, or you're just plain dumb. The first two things are understandable and are reasonable reasons for using anti-inflammatory drugs.

But the last one is incomprehensible. These drugs do not really relieve fatigue, and if your training and lifestyle are causing fatigue, you should find ways to adjust your training and life instead of relying on anti-inflammatory drugs. Long-term use of anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve training soreness can mask many real problems, leading to stagnant performance, decline, and even injury.


Summary

Finally, fatigue management should start in the gym. Schedule light weight days, rest days, decompression periods, active rest periods, etc. When you have no problems with training, the methods mentioned in this article will allow you to master greater training volume, stronger training intensity, and give you better training results.

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