4 Scientifically Proven Ways to Reduce Muscle Soreness and Improve Muscle Recovery
This article will explain why having too much muscle soreness is a bad thing and how to relieve it using evidence-based methods.
Everyone is probably familiar with the soreness that follows a workout (especially after a hard leg day).
The cause of this sensation, known as delayed onset muscle soreness, or “DOMS,” is thought to be microscopic tears in your muscle fibers. These tears can occur as a result of resistance training or simply being exposed to a novel stimulus in general.
Aside from being uncomfortable in general, particularly with leg soreness, too much soreness can have a negative impact on your training. This is especially true if it continues into your subsequent workouts. According to research, training a sore muscle while it is still sore can reduce activation of the desired muscle, reduce force capacity by up to 50%, and negatively interfere with the recovery process.
As a result, it’s critical that you take the necessary steps to reduce post-workout soreness and accelerate muscle recovery. This is especially true given that we already know that muscle soreness does not indicate muscle growth.
Stretching and ice baths?
Although taking ice baths or stretching after a workout are two common suggestions, neither is the best advice to follow. Although ice baths may help with muscle soreness, they have also been shown to inhibit muscle growth and strength by interfering with the recovery process.
In terms of static stretching after a workout, multiple studies published in the Journal of Sports Medicine have found that it does not help with muscle soreness. In fact, it may even impede the recovery process!
As a result, neither of these would be an ideal solution for those looking to increase their strength and muscle mass.
So, what are your options?
Aside from the general recommendations of getting enough sleep and eating enough protein, there are a few extra steps you can take, which I’ll go over possibly in a future video more in-depth but for now…
Tip #1: Perform self-myofascial release (Foam Rolling)
Self myofascial release, most commonly done through foam rolling, has grown in popularity in recent years. Aside from improving mobility, it appears to be an effective method of reducing muscle soreness.
Although more research is needed, three of the four available studies (Howe 2013, MacDonald 2014, Jay 2014, Pearcey 2015) that directly examined the effect of foam rolling on muscle soreness found that it reduced muscle soreness and improved muscle recovery.
This reduction in muscle soreness appeared to improve the subjects’ workout performance in their subsequent workouts.
So, how exactly can you put this to use?
So, after your workout, I’d recommend foam rolling for about 10 minutes. Stick to the muscles you worked on that day, especially the ones that are prone to soreness.
If it’s more convenient for you, you can also do the foam rolling a few hours after your workout.
I’ll save the topic of how to foam roll properly for another video or article in the future possibly. For the time being, just avoid going over a muscle too quickly. Maintain pressure on really tight areas until you feel them release.
Tip #2: Engage in Active Recovery
Active recovery is another thing you can do to reduce muscle soreness. This includes things like cool-downs and low-intensity exercise. Again, there haven’t been many studies on this, but the few that have (Sayers et al. (2000), Donnelly et al. (1992), Weber et al. (1994)) discovered that active recovery performed immediately after a workout or within the days following the workout reduced muscle soreness more than when no active recovery was used.
As a result, it appears to be a viable solution, and I can anecdotally state that it helps with muscle soreness.
However, for the best results, it is critical that you implement it correctly.
I’d recommend 5-10 minutes of active recovery or cool-down after your workout, especially if you’re doing leg workouts. If you’re going to do foam rolling after your workout, this is a good time to do it.
The most important aspect of active recovery, however, is to use a low-intensity exercise that involves the muscles you worked.
Low-intensity cycling, for example, would be ideal after a leg workout, whereas rowing or swimming would be ideal after an upper body or arm day.
Supplements are a good idea.
Although there are several supplements on the market that claim to improve muscle recovery and reduce muscle soreness, the truth is that research on this topic is relatively inconclusive.
However, the research on omega-3 fatty acids is promising. To begin, omega-3 fatty acids have recently been shown to improve anabolic signaling, which likely improves muscle repair and growth. Furthermore, multiple other studies have shown that supplementing with 1-3g of omega-3 fatty acids significantly reduces muscle soreness after resistance training exercise by reducing inflammation.
Taking a few high-quality omega-3 fish oil pills daily, as well as increasing your fish intake, can be another effective way to reduce muscle soreness and improve overall recovery.
Other Possible Supplements
In terms of other supplements, two recent studies have shown that taking caffeine before a workout significantly reduces post-workout muscle soreness.
However, there is a catch. Both studies used a caffeine dosage of around 400mg, which is roughly the equivalent of 4 cups of coffee or 5 red bulls.
Simply put, it is not feasible for someone to follow this protocol on a daily basis.
However, Taurine, L-citrulline, and L-glutamine are some other supplements that have generally shown a positive effect on muscle soreness and may be of interest to some of you keeners.
Tip #4: Begin Your Program Slowly!
The one thing you can do to reduce muscle soreness the most is ease yourself into a program.
If you’re a beginner, have been detrained, or are just starting a new exercise routine, the best thing you can do is take a few weeks to ease into it. That is, you should work at lower volumes and intensities than usual in order to avoid excessive soreness. When you feel comfortable, you can begin to increase the volume and/or intensity of your workouts.
So, to summarize the video in order to reduce muscle soreness and improve recovery:
• Foam roll for 10 minutes after your workout, focusing on the muscles you worked that day. • Perform active recovery after your foam rolling, as well as the day after your workout, again focusing on the muscles you worked. • Increase your omega-3 intake to 1-3g per day from high quality sources.
• Begin slowly by gradually increasing the volume and intensity of your workouts.
How Much Sleep Do You Need To Muscle Up? (nine studies)
If you want to learn how to optimize your sleep in order to build muscle and lose fat as quickly as possible… then read this article.
Sleep is undoubtedly the most underappreciated aspect of muscle building and fat loss.
According to a recent National Sleep Foundation poll, roughly 63 percent of Americans say they don’t get enough sleep during the week…but the impact on your gains is likely to be much worse than you think.
What Does Science Say About Sleep and Muscle Growth?
Sleep, believe it or not, may be the reason why others appear to progress much faster than you. Or why, despite putting in the effort, you aren’t seeing the results you were hoping for.
The results of a 2010 study by the American College of Physicians, for example, help put this into context.
The subjects were divided into two groups by the researchers:
• one that slept 8.5 hours per night (which is within the range recommended by most experts) • another that slept only 5.5 hours per night (which as noted earlier is pretty standard for many Americans nowadays)
Both groups were then placed on a calorie deficit for two weeks.
As a result,
As expected, both groups lost the same amount of weight when their calorie deficits were equalized.
But what’s interesting is the composition of the weight they lost……the sleep-deprived group lost 60% more muscle mass and 55% less fat than the group that got enough sleep.
As a result, sleep appears to have a powerful effect not only on muscle recovery, growth, and retention, but also on fat loss.
Although the researchers did not investigate why this was the case, other research does offer some insight.
Sleep’s Influence on Gains
- Sleep aids in the prevention of muscle breakdown and the promotion of fat loss.
As previously demonstrated, sleep appears to have a significant impact on preventing muscle breakdown and promoting fat loss.
Although the mechanisms underlying this are still unknown, a recent 2018 paper sheds some light on the subject. The effects of one night of no sleep on 15 young men were studied by researchers.
Here’s what happened to their bodies as a result of that one night:
• their muscles had already begun to show signs of increased protein breakdown
• Their fat tissue contained higher levels of proteins and metabolites involved in fat storage.
• After only one night! This may help to explain the earlier study’s findings.
• 2. Sleep has an effect on testosterone levels.
To make matters worse, sleep deprivation is well known to cause a decrease in anabolic hormones such as testosterone.
In fact, a 2015 study discovered that: • Day-to-day testosterone levels were significantly reduced by 10 to 15% in young men who underwent a one-week sleep restriction to 5 hours per night.
The results are depicted in the graph below:
•…given that testosterone is an anabolic hormone that is essential for muscle growth and fat loss, we can see how this becomes a problem.
- Sleep has an impact on your workout performance.
Sleep not only affects your body on a cellular/hormonal level, but it also has a significant impact on your workout performance.
In fact, studies have shown that when the body is sleep deprived, it tends to give up when it would otherwise be physically capable of pushing further.
As you can see, sleep has a significant impact on your gains. However, how much sleep should you get in order to best support your muscle growth and fat loss efforts?
How Much Sleep Do You Need To Muscle Up?
Although this will vary depending on the individual, I recommend following the advice of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. They recommend that you aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. Individuals who are more active will need to be closer to the upper end of this range, if not slightly above it.
So, if you haven’t been sleeping enough, I strongly advise you to make an effort to do so for the reasons stated previously.
What About Napping?
Although research suggests that daytime naps may be beneficial for increasing total sleep duration when insufficient sleep is unavoidable…they should not be used as a regular substitute for nighttime sleep because they do not provide the same effects.
The next best thing you can do is improve the quality of your sleep and shorten the time it takes you to fall asleep. This is beneficial regardless of whether or not you can get enough sleep.
And there are a couple of things that research suggests are optimal in order to do this:
Improving Sleep Quality and Length of Sleep
- Enhance Your Sleep Hygiene
Improving your sleep hygiene comes out on top. Several studies (one, two, three) have shown that this reduces the time required to fall asleep and improves sleep quality.
Some recommended strategies include: • refraining from using electronics for at least 30 minutes before bed; • reserving your bedroom solely for sleeping (this is where the magic happens); and • adhering to a consistent sleep/wake schedule every day.
- Avoid Caffeine within 6 hours of going to bed.
Next, avoid consuming caffeine within two hours of going to bed.
According to one 2013 study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, moderate caffeine consumption 6 hours before sleep reduced total sleep time by 41 minutes. And moderate caffeine ingestion just 3 hours before sleep reduced total sleep time by 63 minutes….which means that if you’re working out later in the evening, you should probably avoid taking pre-workout or anything with a relatively high caffeine content.
Overall, the most important takeaway from all of these studies is that nothing beats making sure your head is on your pillow for the appropriate number of hours each night.
o While you may be able to get by on less-than-ideal sleep, you’re likely undermining your hard-earned gains in the gym.
Summary To summarize everything, here are the key points to remember:
Sleep is just one of many factors (along with training and nutrition) that you’ll want to optimize if you want to gain muscle and lose fat as quickly as possible.
And if you’re looking for a workout and nutrition plan that does all of this for you by combining research and some various other fun content mixed together into a step-by-step program… so you can transform your body as efficiently as possible while also maximizing your efforts in the gym… Check out the Unorthodox Training Membership (It’s only a one-time fee that is very reasonable in comparison to most fitness programs!)
What’s the Deal With Your Elbow Pain? (And How To Fix It)
Do you have elbow pain? Then don’t miss out on this article. In this article, I discuss the causes of elbow pain and how to treat it.
We don’t realize it, but every set and rep we do adds to the stress we put on our bodies, and it’s not just the muscles that suffer. Our joints absorb a lot of that stress as well, and they frequently become sore. And one of the most common locations for this discomfort and pain is the elbow.
Why? It all comes down to how complicated this joint is. As a result, how frequently it appears in our exercises. Elbow pain can appear in two ways:
• On the inside of the elbow OR • Outside of the elbow (more common)
Personally, I’ve had elbow pain in the past. And I know it’s not pleasant. It impedes our training, reduces our performance, and simply hurts.
So, today I’d like to discuss:
• 3 likely causes of pain in your elbow (both outside and inside) AND • What you need to do to relieve the pain and prevent it from returning… So you can begin lifting without pain as soon as possible. Not to mention, keep this joint safe for the rest of your life.
Causes of Elbow Pain
1) Imbalances/weaknesses in the forearm
The first culprit is an imbalance in your forearm strength, as well as a general lack of grip strength. According to study after study, the main cause of elbow pain is weak extensor muscles in the forearm. According to research, “repetitive gripping” is what causes your pain.
What Role Do Forearm Extensor Muscles Play in Elbow Pain?
What causes these extensor muscles on the outside of our forearms to be more prone to overuse and discomfort? It all comes down to their active participation during gripping. Because whenever we go to grab something, our flexor muscles on the inside of our forearm will first help flex the hand to grip it. However, in order to prevent our wrist from over-flexing, our extensor muscles kick in and stay on. In fact, EMG studies have clearly shown that during gripping movements, every extensor muscle in the forearm fires. Also, our flexors tend to fire more than our extensors.
And the greater the stress placed on the extensors and the tendon that connects them to the outside of the elbow, the harder or longer you grip something or the heavier the object you’re gripping.
That is, if your extensors are weak as a result of a lack of forearm and/or grip training, they will be much more prone to fatigue. This can lead to an overuse injury as a result of all of your gripping during your workouts. The result of this overuse injury is pain on the outside of the elbow. That’s right in the tendon that connects the extensor and flexor muscles.
So, the key to developing bullet-proof elbows is to strengthen your forearms, particularly your extensors, as well as to increase your overall grip strength. In fact, studies have consistently shown that this is an effective method of relieving elbow pain.
How to Build Forearm Strength
And the simplest way to get started is to perform standard wrist extensions on a regular basis. This will help to strengthen and increase the endurance of your weaker wrist extensors. Use a lighter weight and shoot for a few sets of 10 reps. Then gradually increase the weight. That is, as long as you can do so without increasing your pain.
Take note that if your pain is on the inside of your elbow rather than the outside, your approach will need to change. In this case, wrist curls would be preferable to wrist extensions. Because you have the opposite imbalance, doing so will help you build the endurance of your wrist flexors.
Then, if you can do so without increasing pain, you can progress to more functional movements. The single-arm suitcase carry is a good example. This exercise’s neutral wrist position makes it easier for your elbow to tolerate. It can also help you gradually improve your overall grip strength and endurance.
Once a day, do a few sets of these exercises. However, I would recommend experimenting with the volume and frequency to avoid exacerbating the pain. As your forearm and grip strength improves, you should notice a gradual reduction in elbow pain.
2) Inadequate Shoulder and Scapular Stability
So we’ve taken care of a problem below the elbow. But now we need to look above the elbow for any other potential issues. The most common cause is a weakness in the muscles that stabilize the shoulder and scapula. Because a lack of stability here forces the muscles that surround your elbow joint to compensate. Because of the lack of stability during our pushing and pulling exercises, they will have to work harder. This, in turn, leads to elbow pain as a result of overuse and reliance on these forearm muscles.
A case study conducted by Bhatt and colleagues demonstrated how severe this can be. A patient with elbow pain in one arm was found to be weak in the middle and lower traps in this case study. As a result of this weakness, one of their shoulder blades was positioned incorrectly. What do you think? This misaligned shoulder blade happened to be on the same side as their aching elbow!
The shoulder blade sat back in the correct position after completing a strengthening program that focused solely on these muscles. And the elbow pain was gone for good. Several other studies have yielded similar results. To put it another way, there is a strong link between shoulder and scapular instability and elbow pain.
Recognize the significance of these frequently overlooked muscles, especially when it comes to treating and preventing elbow pain.
How to Deal with Weak Shoulder and Scapular Stability
And I’ve written some articles about these muscles in the past. However, some of the best exercises for elbow pain to begin with are:
• Scapular pull-ups to strengthen the traps, followed by
• Perform simple external rotation exercises to help strengthen your rotator cuff.
Again, do these moves on a daily basis or at least a few times per week. The increased stability will help reduce the demands placed on your elbow over time. And assist in relieving any pain you may be feeling.
3) Excessive Use/Pushing Through
The final cause of elbow pain, or worsening of existing elbow pain, is frequently simply trying to “push through the pain.” We MUST pay attention to our bodies. If you experience joint pain, don’t ignore it. The problem with overuse injuries is that by the time you feel pain, you’ve already overused it. And continuing to train will only make matters worse. Not to mention the possibility of causing more serious issues!
You Are Not Required To Stop Training.
The good news is that as long as the pain is minimal, we don’t need to stop training completely. Instead, we should choose less strenuous variations of our exercises to give those tendons a rest.
As a result, dumbbells will quickly become your best friend. They enable you to manipulate your hand position into virtually any position that feels natural to you. Essentially, we want to remove our hands from a supinated or pronated position. And, instead, as much as possible, into a neutral grip.
Using a neutral grip:
• Puts the least strain on our forearm muscles AND eliminates our proclivity to overly flex and extend our wrists while performing our exercises
Exercises such as hammer curls, dumbbell rows, and neutral grip chest presses are all excellent choices. These exercises assist in removing our grip from a pronated or supinated position.
In addition, when performing exercises, keep your wrists in a neutral position. Avoid overly flexing or extending your wrists during exercises such as chin-ups, curls, and even pushdowns. Excessive flexing and extending places a significant amount of strain on the forearm muscles and tendons. Instead, as you perform these movements, keep your wrists neutral and in line with your forearms.
And if that doesn’t work, try something else. Alternatively, consider lowering the weight and aiming for higher reps instead. There are numerous ways to work around elbow pain in order to continue stimulating your muscles and getting good workouts in while allowing the overworked muscles in your forearms to recover.
Takeaways for Treating Elbow Pain
To summarize the article, here’s what you should do:
To begin, devote more time to forearm and grip training.
Wrist extensions: 3 sets of 10 reps for pain on the outside of the elbow
Wrist curls: 3 sets of 10 reps = pain on the inside of the elbow
Suitcase carries: three sets of thirty steps on each side
Then, work on any shoulder and scapular stabilizer muscle weaknesses.
3 sets of 10 reps of scapular pull-ups
3 sets of 5-10 reps for external rotation exercise
Finally, to avoid exacerbating the pain, modify your exercises and be mindful of your wrist positioning.
Increase the number of neutral grip exercises you do: Hammer curls, neutral grip presses, neutral grip rows, and other exercises
Overall, you should be aware that if you’re experiencing stress in specific joints, it’s often the result of imbalances or weaknesses elsewhere in the body. And if you interested check out the Unorthodox Training Membership Program as it is packed with information, tools, and resources to help people on their health and fitness journey!
The WORST Back Pain Stretches (And What To Do Instead)
Always searching for “how to relieve lower back pain?” In this article, I’ll show you the stretches you should do instead to get rid of back pain.
Lower back stretches are one of the first solutions people seeking relief from back pain seek, in addition to lower back exercises. But here’s the reality. Many of these stretches are only temporary. They actually cause more harm than good. And are the polar opposite of what people should be doing to get rid of their back pain for good.
Stretch reflexes are triggered by common stretches such as toe touches, pulling your knees to your chest, and other similar stretches. This is a neurological phenomenon that reduces pain sensitivity temporarily. That is, after performing these stretches, you should feel pain relief for about 15-20 minutes.
Obviously, many people would consider this effect to be beneficial. However, there is a problem with this. And the reason for this is that you’re flexing our spine. As a result, you end up aggravating your discs again. Worse, once you’ve found temporary relief, the pain will return – often worse than before. This creates a vicious cycle of believing that these stretches are beneficial and the only solution to pain relief when, in fact, they are exacerbating the problem.
The key is to break free from this cycle. You wouldn’t be reading this if those stretches had cured you. Stop concentrating your efforts on stretches that cause the spine to bend. Instead, concentrate your efforts on movements and stretches for other parts of the body that will actually help you on your way to pain-freedom rather than exacerbating it. And in this article, I’ll discuss four such moves that can help you do just that.
The Cat Camel is the first move.
The cat camel exercise has been found to be the least stressful way to incorporate some movement into the spine without aggravating it, according to the findings of renowned back pain researcher Dr. Stuart McGill and his lab. It’s a beneficial and healthy way to: • Maintain normal spinal movement AND • Reduce any movement restrictions or friction in your spine.
Get on all fours for these. Slowly alternate between a downward spinal curve and a cat’s head looking up.
Then, like a camel, move into a rounded spine with the head looking down.
Each cycle should last between three and four seconds. Keep in mind that you should always stay within your pain-free range of motion. Also, try not to push the limits of each range. Keep in mind that this is not a stretch. It’s the simple movement of the spine that counts.
Dr. Stuart McGill has now measured the spine stress of patients performing this movement. In addition, he discovered that only 7-8 cycles were required to help reduce spine friction and resistance. In fact, he discovered that additional cycles could even negate the value of the exercise. So follow that advice and try not to overdo it.
You should have reduced some friction in the spine after completing the cat camel. That means we’re now ready to move on to mobilization drills for other problematic areas of the body that could be causing your back pain.
The Psoas Stretch is the second move.
The first drill will target the psoas, one of our major hip flexor muscles.
Because of prolonged sitting, this muscle is already quite tight in most people, as the activity places it in a shortened position. To make matters worse, much of Dr. McGill’s EMG research revealed that back pain actually tightens this muscle even more. Because the psoas connects to the lumbar spine, this is a problem. When this muscle tightens, it can actually pull your pelvis forward and down, causing it to be anteriorly tilted. This, in turn, can increase the compressive force on your lower back, exacerbating any pain you may be feeling.
Stretching this muscle and releasing it from the shortened position it has been in all day can help relieve lower back tension. However, according to Dr. Stuart Mcgill’s research, your typical hip flexor stretch will not access this muscle due to its unique anatomy.
Instead, there is a unique move we can do that helps to stretch this muscle specifically. To put it into action:
• Begin in a lunge with one leg in front. • Raise your opposite arm overhead as you descend into the lunge. • Then, bend your torso slightly to the side away from your back leg and drop your shoulder back to further target and stretch the psoas. • You should feel a deep stretch in the psoas located in front of the hip of your back leg.
• Take a step forward to switch your front leg and raised arm in order to repeat the sequence.
The goal is to take six strides at once.
Hip Airplanes are the third move.
Next, we’ll do a drill that will help us: • further mobilize and open up the hips WHILE
• Strengthening some of our most important hip muscles, which are often weak and inhibited in people who suffer from back pain.
Dr. McGill’s research has shown that stiff and weak hips cause more motion to be transferred to the spine whenever we move or exercise. As a result, the back pain you’re experiencing may worsen.
We’ll use hip airplanes, a mobilization drill, to help with this. For these, see:
• Take a single-leg stance, brace your core, and grip the floor with your planted foot. • Next, place your hands on your hips and rotate your torso forward over your planted leg while kicking your back leg behind you. • Keep your back leg completely straight and your planted leg knee slightly bent (hip external rotation)
Consider simply moving your belly button towards your planted leg and then away to the side as a cue. You want the movement to come from your hips rather than your upper body.
With this movement, aim for three sets of three reps.
To become more familiar with the movement, you can hold onto something for balance if necessary. However, the ultimate goal is to progress to full hip airplanes, with the arms spread out straight to the sides like an airplane. This adds another level of difficulty to the movement.
Spine Hygiene is the fourth move.
The final move will aid in the daily maintenance of your back. Most of us spend a significant amount of time sitting throughout the day. And all of this sitting, especially when done incorrectly, puts a lot of strain on the discs in our back. Dr. Stuart McGill created this corrective drill to help combat the stress of sitting, which can often aggravate our back pain. • Simply stand with your arms overhead and count to ten. • Then reach higher and farther back for another count of ten.
• Deeply inhale in this position and work your way into an upright and stress-free standing posture.
• By interspersing this drill every 20-30 minutes of prolonged sitting, you can prevent an excessive buildup of stress on your lower back. And you’ll be able to better prepare your back for each sitting session.
Guidelines for Lower Back Pain Stretching
To summarize, if you have back pain, try to replace the “bad” stretches that do more harm than good with these moves instead, and do them on a regular basis.
7-8 cycles for the cat camel
6 strides for the psoas stretch
Hip Airplanes: three sets of three reps on each side.
Stretch for Spine Hygiene: After long periods of sitting, perform
Ideally, you should do these daily, if not multiple times a day, to break up your sitting if you’re sedentary most of the day. If this relieves your pain and discomfort, it’s a sign that you’re on the right track and that you should keep doing these stretches.
At the same time, keep in mind that your back pain is unique to you and your situation. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Fortunately, Dr. Stuart McGgill has written Back Mechanic, a book that walks you through a self-assessment and then teaches you a solution tailored to your specific pain. I’ve read it and would recommend it wholeheartedly. He also has other books that can help you focus more on performance once you’re out of pain. If you’re interested, here’s a link to his books.