Recover and Regeneration

Recovery and Regeneration

By Roger Brooking

We are always trying to seek the best methods to make the most of our workouts. We take our protein shakes after the workouts and set about to pick out healthy choices on our card, aiming to nourish and recover the body after a grooming session. On the other side, in case we go for a hard session and pay little attention to what we do after the workout, it is likely that on the following session, we might feel tired, struggle to complete the workout or might even get an injury. Within this in mind, what can we do to improve the recovery between workouts? The aim of the recovery between the workouts is to restore the physiological and psychological processes, so that we can train again feeling good and make the most of our session.

In this article, a brief summary of recovery techniques and instruction on how to include in your training program is presented.


                                    Red dashed – Active Recovery, Blue – Passive Recovery                                                                  



Active Recovery                                                                                                                    

Active recovery generally consists of aerobic exercise which can be performed using different modes such as cycling, jogging, aqua jogging or swimming. Usually, active recovery is thought to be superior than passive recovery, since it helps to increase blood flow to the exercised area, helping with the clearance of lactate and other metabolic waste products via increased oxygen delivery. Thus, active recovery is a very important factor as it reduces lactate concentrations, accelerated pH recovery and decreases muscle soreness after exercise.

A good strategy for active recovery is low intensity exercise performed between 30% and 60% of maximal oxygen consumption and lasting at least between 15–30 involving running, biking or swimming.



Hydrotherapy utilizes the hydrodynamic properties of water to promote relaxation, decrease pain perception alleviating pressure on joints. Also, it contributes to the displacement of fluid in an inward and upward way from the extremities to the central cavity. This movement of body fluids is likely to increase substrates into the muscle, ameliorating post-exercise, edema, thus minimizing the impairment of muscles after exercise. In addition, water immersion induces cardiovascular response which is mediated by parasympathetic branches of autonomic nervous system. This cardiovascular response induces a cardio-protector effect characterized by bradycardia, increasing in stroke volume and reducing cardiac output. A simple immersion in normal temperature water (32°C) has the potential to lower the heart rate, decrease systolic blood and diastolic blood pressure. However, hydrotherapy might be utilised with different water temperatures. As such, the temperature of the water is likely to elicit a different result on recovery, which influences the success of recovery interventions.


Hot Water

Hot water immersion results in an increase in muscle and core body temperature, which increases peripheral vasodilation resulting in increased blood flow and also has an effect on muscle elasticity. Hydrotherapy with hot water immersion protocols are performed in water warmer than 37 °C for around 20 minutes.


Cold Water Immersion

The effect cold water immersion is not fully elucidated, nonetheless it seems to provide a beneficial effect on creatine kinase clearance, accelerate plasma lactate removal, neuromuscular performance and delayed onset of muscle soreness. Moreover, because of the vasoconstriction effect of cold water, it reduces cellular, lymphatic, and capillary permeability which is thought to reduce the inflammatory response of damaged muscle, edema, and pain perception. Then again, cold water immersion has been shown to reduce cell necrosis, neutrophil migration, as well as slow cell metabolism and nerve conduction velocity, which in turn reduce secondary damage.       

Cold water immersion is recommended for sports where players experience contact acute injuries and high speed muscular contraction such as changes in direction and deceleration resulting in delayed-onset muscle damage.  In short, cold water immersion decreases muscular soreness and rate of perceived exertion which in turn, produces a feeling of freshness.

However, caution should be taken with the excessive use of cold water immersion. In the long term, regular cold water immersion appears to be detrimental to developing muscle strength and hypertrophy as it attenuates the acute changes in satellite cell numbers and activity of kinases that regulate muscle hypertrophy, which may be detrimental for long term gains in muscle strength and hypertrophy. Periodic use of cold water immersion may be advantageous when the need for quick recovery between training sessions or competitive events where readiness and freshness is more important than increases in muscle size.


Contrast Water Therapy  

Contrast water therapy, is a method of recovery where the individual alternate between hot and cold water by immersion or showers. Because of the vasoconstriction and vasodilation effect, it creates a pumping action mobilizing blood in and out of the muscle reducing edema. This pumping mechanism is likely to reduce muscle spasm, overflow the superficial blood vessels, reduced inflammation, and improved range of motion. It is also beneficial after exhausting exercise as it decreases lactate levels. In addition, contrast water therapy was associated faster restauration of strength levels, quick recover of delay onset muscle soreness and improvements on the perception of freshness when compared to passive recover.

Temperatures for contrast water therapy generally range from 10 to 15 °C for cold water and 35 to 38 °C for warm water. Alternate 1 min of hot with 30 s of cold water, repeating three times.


Exercise on the water

Deep water running is another option that is joint friendly, has a therapeutic effect on the joints as it minimises stress in the joints, decreases physiological effort and reduces muscle effort. This recovery modality combined with hydrostatic pressure performed with light intensity exercises has minimal impact, stress and load bearing resulting in a significant reduction in subjective soreness.

These sessions are typically applied to reduce muscle soreness and stiffness and therefore are considered to be effective in sports that involve eccentric muscle damage or contact. Sessions often include walking and stretching in the pool and occasionally some swimming.


Sample of Pool Recovery Session


·       Walk couple min in waist-high water

·       Walk with full high knee action in shoulder-high water

·       Walk laterally few laps

·       Walking forward lunges

·       Lateral lunge walking

·       Light swimming few laps alternating backstroke, front crawl, and backstroke.

·       Head above water and perform a few torso rotations.

·       Jogging in deep water

·       5 minutes of static stretching



Massage has the potential to reduce neuromuscular excitability which helps to reduce cramps and stiffness. It also helps to relieve pain associated with training, increase blood and promotes a feeling of well-being and positive psychic-emotional response. However, it does not help to eliminate bio products of muscular contractions such as metabolites and does not appear to increase range of motion. Ideally, massage should be used in combination with other active recovery techniques in order to maximise recover.



Stretching is a technique to increase muscle length, range of motion and reduce stiffness. Yet, this topic still a very controversial subject as it might have a few negative aspects. For instance, stretching after eccentric exercise may even hinder the outcome of the recovery process as it is thought to decrease in concentric and eccentric strength. On the other hand, static stretching still heavily utilised for athletes aspiring to improve range of motion, decrement of musculotendinous stiffness, prevent injury and promoting recovery. Ideally, stretching for recovery should be administrated with dynamic movements and pain free.


Compression garments

Compression garments is thought to increase blood flow by applying vest like pressure type on the upper or lower extremities. The idea is to increase the pressure on the lower extremities such as the ankle and to decrease it on the mid-thigh in order to improve the venous return and thus reduce venous stasis in the lower extremities.

Compression garments have the ability to help with post-exercise removal of metabolites, enhanced creatine kinase clearance more than passive recovery. Two large studies reported that compression garment appear to have a moderate effect reducing the symptoms of delay onset muscle soreness, swelling and power, strength are improved during recovery with compression garments. Also, compression garments appear to be effective after eccentric training when disruption to muscle architecture and swelling is more apparent, as the utilisation of compression garments has shown to accelerate inflammatory and repair.

Influences on Recovery

  • ↓ in post-exercise oedema
  • ↑ removal of waste products
  • ↑ local blood flow
  • ↓ perception of delayed onset of muscle soreness (DMOS)
  • ↓ concentrations of creatine kinase
  • ↓ in muscle oscillations (muscle vibration)

Influences on Performance

  • ↑ joint awareness
  • ↑ in perfusion
  • ↑ muscle oxygenation
  • ↑ skin temperatures
  • ↓ perception of fatigue

Compression garments may provide an easy-to-use recovery strategy and it can be useful during long air flights reducing the risk deep vein thrombosis. Ideally, select compression garments with a minimum pressure of 18 mmHg at the ankle and 8 mmHg at the level of the mid-thigh. High pressure compression garments appear to be the most beneficial for the recovery of muscle soreness.

A word of caution; as compression garments may be uncomfortable to wear during the night and are associated with an increase in body temperature, thereby disturbing sleep quality.



Sleep has important biological functions regarding physiological processes, learning, memory, and cognition. Restricting sleep to less than 6 h per night for 4 or more consecutive nights has been shown to impair cognitive performance and mood, glucose metabolism, appetite regulation, and immune function. According to scientific evidence, it has been suggested it is recommended for adults to obtain 8 h of sleep per night to prevent neurobehavioral deficits.

Lack of sleep could have a tremendous detrimental effect on recovery. For example, individuals sleeping less than 5 to 6 hrs per night have four time more risk to developing cold comparing to those that sleep >7hrs night. Plus, adolescent athletes who sleep less than 8hrs per night are 1.4 times more likely to have had an injury.

Sleeping tips for recover

·       Quiet environment

·       Maintain room temperature 18c

·       Ensure that bedding clothing does not cause an environment that is too hot

·       Sleep routine, consistent time each night for falling sleep. Keep a regular schedule.

·       Avoid caffeine and food fluid ingestion leading up to sleep

·       Avoid the use of electronics: TV, phone r computer.

·       Napping not later than mid-afternoon

·       At least 7 hrs sleep at night

·       Ensure dark room with no light source present

Mix Method

All recovery methods have limitation. Ideally, the combination two or three of the above-mentioned recovery techniques will elicit a better recovery when compared with one method alone.

Example of recovery session:





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