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How to maximise recovery between training sessions

Following on from my last blog about the physiological effects of taking inadequate rest between training sessions, I am going to discuss what recovery interventions provide the most benefit in the recovery process.

There are various schools of thought in what speeds up the recovery process so you can get back to training feeling recovered, but what does the evidence say? There are a wide range of interventions to recover and these include compressive techniques such as massage, compressive garments or water immersion. Other interventions include electrostimulation, stretching, anti-inflammatory interventions relying on cold exposure such as cryotherapy or cold water immersion, and active recovery. These interventions are dependent on timing and context and can either impact central or peripheral mechanisms, Most of the above allows decreases in exercise-induced muscle damage and inflammation. The physiology behind this involves creating a reduction in the space available for swelling and oedema formation, thereby limiting fluid diffusion into the interstitial space and facilitating the transport of metabolites from the muscle to the blood.

In a research study, the impacts of a single session of different kinds of recovery techniques after physical exercise on delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), perceived fatigue, inflammation, C-reactive proteins, and muscle damage was observed. Overall, MASSAGE was found to be the most powerful intervention that induced significant benefits across all areas tested. The use of compressive garments and immersion had a similar positive impact on the same variables but to a lesser degree. Active recovery, contrast water therapy and cryotherapy had a positive impact on DOMS only, whereas massage combined with stretching also created benefit in perceived fatigue.

Dupuy, O. et al. (2018). An evidence-based approach for choosing post-exercise recovery techniques to reduce markers of muscle damage, soreness, fatigue, and inflammation: A systematic review with meta-analysis. Sec. Exercise Physiology. 00403.


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