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Understanding Recovery

If the adequate stimulus is provided, recovery then comprises the single most important factor towards actualizing one¡¯s genetic potential to build a muscular powerful physique.

I wish I could tell you that there was a secret, holding a dumbbell from a certain angle while balancing on a ball and breathing using an eastern European technique would grant you the thickness you desire. But I¡¯d be lying the truth is as simple as this

– Work harder than you worked before (i.e. progression)

– Work briefly (thereby intensely)

– Work infrequently (to allow recovery)

What truly is recovery? Is it compensation? Overcompensation? Refilling the metaphoric 100 unit hole we¡¯ve dug in the gym with 120 units to get even bigger and stronger?

Simply put it is the biochemical adaptive processes of the human body which are called into play once an adequate stimulus has been provided to warrant such adaptation; i.e. if you¡¯re reaping what you sow.

Many would have you believe that recovery and growth are two separate processes. While that belief in recovery and growth is a simplistic explanation to keep HIT neophytes in line and away from the realms over mindless laborious fruitless overtraining. It seems unlikely that the body once stimulated to recover bigger and stronger would break it down into 2 phases ¨C building back up to previous capacity and then building on top that capacity i.e. getting bigger and stronger.

As much credit as we might give the mind, the body in itself is not sentient, nor does it think in those terms or think at all!

When the stimulus is provided, if it forces the body beyond its momentary limits, the adapt or die mechanism has been switched on. The body if allowed to rest immediately proceeds to rebuilt stronger and necessarily so!

If allowed to rest the body MUST rebuild stronger because it has already been given the message that current capacity is insufficient! There is no logical explanation or need for the body to rebuild to previous levels and only then build atop of them.

The muscle fibers and proteins are not a building with a construction crew contemplating what need be done. When the stimulus is given, and specifically the stimulus that undermines existing capacity the adaptive response therefore must necessarily be to INCREASE capacity.

It therefore follows that to allow for recovery is to allow for growth! Recovery for such stimulus is necessarily by the nature of adaption to grow bigger and stronger.

What practical implication does this have? Does this mean we can work out more frequently or does this now ban us from the gym for weeks on end with no weight lifting allowances?

Neither! What this means is as rational bodybuilders we should think about everything, from training to the nature of recovery rationally! We mustn¡¯t attribute (even I have made this mistake in my previous article) the body sentience and consider recovery and growth two distinct processes.

If the stimulus provided is high intensity to failure training the body¡¯s natural recovery mechanism will force the muscles to rebuild stronger to deal with such training in the future.

The implication this has on training is as follows:

If you suffer from DOMS or fatigue for a few days after your workout do not return to the gym. The day you awaken with all noticeable soreness and stiffness gone from the specific muscle group(s) trained is an indication the recovery process is well on its way to completion. At that stage allow for another 24 hours of rest. Is this last 24 hours the magic ¡°growth¡± phase? Not at all, the last 24 hours is no more a growth phase than the previous 4 days you took off from the gym.

I believe that having stimulated the body and all its various systems (muscular, vascular, biochemical, hormonal etc) into a state of shock and over drive – which the last day allows for complete homeostasis (i.e. re-accomplishing a balance within all those systems and sub-systems).

Of course it is entirely possible that even after that final 24 hours of ¡°homeostatic rest¡± you might awaken the next morning tired and uneager to train. DO NOT make the mistake of being over enthusiastic. Rather let your body have more time to reset itself. And wait till the next day, i.e. another 24 hours before you train.

While many of you might have already been implementing such logically thought out rest periods, it was my goal with this article to simply help clear the fog of confusion about the process of recovery without making it seem an excerpt from a science text book.

That being said the following is an excerpt from a paper that was once on www.mikementzer.com

During conventional weight lifting, muscle force production (strength) is diminished for at least 1 to 3 days after the damage has occurred. This loss of strength, which may take 7-14 days to recover, is most likely due to several factors including the disruption of muscle calcium balance and energy production, the poor recovery of muscle energy during this period, and the decrease in muscle protein content. In addition, this loss of strength can cause you to feel like a 90-lb weakling for several days after exercise. Stay away from the beach for 7-14 days.

Muscle swelling, as a result of fluid accumulation and immune cell delivery, occurs almost immediately after exercise. This swelling typically lasts 3-4 days but may take as many as 7 to subside. This swelling is associated with muscle stiffness, decreased range of motion, and an inability to comb your hair after arm day. This means bad hair days for 3-7 days.

Everyone¡äs favorite, delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), typically lasts from 2-4 days after exercise and is mostly gone within 5 days. This soreness may come as a result of both swelling and stiffness but some scientists now think that biochemical changes in the muscle may increase nerve sensitivity, leading to muscle pain. Sensitivity is one thing but crying is not allowed; in 5 days it will all be over.

As discussed above, while the muscle is healing, its ability to "refuel" with carbohydrate is decreased because of disruption of the muscle glucose transport mechanisms. This means that no matter how many carbohydrates you eat, you simply can¡ät get your muscle energy back up to normal for at least 48 hours after exercise. So don¡ät convince yourself that pigging out on pizza and beer will help you recover more quickly from your sore muscles.

So this is a pretty scary picture, huh? Well, although it looks nasty, ultimately (about a 7 -14 days later) the muscle damage stops, the immune system does it¡äs job, muscle energy is replenished, and the muscle fibers are built back up bigger and stronger than before.

All the best


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