Post-workout Muscle Recovery: How to Let Your Muscles Heal and Why


If you’ve been training hard, you may have experienced Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) which numbs sore muscles in the days following a hard workout. While a fitness hangover can take a toll on your style, you don’t have to suffer if you’ve pushed yourself during your workouts.

Rest and recovery are an integral part of any training routine. Your post-exercise recovery routine has a big impact on your fitness gains and athletic performance and allows you to train much more efficiently. Unfortunately, most people don’t have an exercise recovery plan. Here are some tips for putting your post-workout plans into practice.

The Importance of Recovery

Recovery after exercise is essential for muscle and tissue repair and strength development. This is even more critical after a workout with heavy weights. For strength training routines, this means you should never train the same muscle groups two days in a row.

Rest and Recovery Let Your Muscles Heal and Make You Stronger

The damage that exercise causes trigger your body’s immune system to repair that damage. When your body’s tissues from your muscles and bones to heart and lungs recover, they become slightly fitter than they were before. That way, the next time you perform the same workout, you won’t suffer as much damage.

However, you must cause damage to your body for it to adapt. Repeated, this process of stress and recovery is what improves health and fitness.

Post-workout Muscle Recovery Helps Keeps You Safe and Injury-Free

Just don’t skimp on the rest and recovery part. Rest helps reenergize the body, so you have the stamina to give it your all during your next workout. You can’t push it to your maximum without giving your body time to recoup in between. That’s overtraining.

Overtraining can lead to overuse, which can lead to burnout and injury. Common overuse injuries include iliotibial band syndrome, stress fractures, patellofemoral syndrome, runner’s knee, and muscle strains.

Additionally, research suggests that inadequate rest and recovery can contribute to poor immune function, neurological changes, hormonal disorders, and depression.

More Ways to Recover Your Muscles

Workout recovery isn’t just about lying on the couch and putting your feet up. The best post-workout recovery is to use a variety of strategies to help your muscles heal. Here are some of those strategies:

  • Passive recovery is a complete cessation of exercise; passive recovery is synonymous with complete rest. You can lie on the sofa and put your feet up. The amount of passive recovery your body needs depends on several factors, including your current fitness level and the intensity of your workouts.
  • Active recovery means low-intensity, usually low-impact exercise that promotes blood circulation and tissue repair without further stressing the body. If you feel fatigued from strength training, take a low-intensity cardiovascular bike ride, or walk, which allows your body to circulate the waste products caused by intense activity. Even try a gentle yoga practice to stretch tired muscles. Think of active recovery as anything you can do without running out of breath or straining your muscles.
  • Cross training allows you to get the most out of your training. This means changing the activity you do from workout to work out, so that you tire different muscles in different workouts. For example, if you typically spend your workouts running, weightlifting, or boxing, even if done at high intensity, it will stress your body in several ways. By allowing certain muscle groups to repair while others are working, cross-training helps promote overall muscle health by minimizing the number of passive and active recovery days needed.
  • Myofascial release, sometimes called soft tissue therapy, includes massage and foam rolling. Performed immediately before and after exercise, it can help reduce the sensation of delayed onset muscle soreness while accelerating muscle recovery.
  • Nutritional recovery means that the foods you eat provide your body with the building blocks it needs to repair muscle and promote recovery. A whole-food diet rich in antioxidants, whole carbs, and lean protein can help trigger the right changes in your body between workouts, so your system will be in better shape come the next workout.

Sleep is an important part of the recovery equation. During sleep, the body produces most of its growth factors and hormones that aid in daily muscle repair and recovery. Getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep per night allows these growth factors to do their job.

Best Way to Help My Muscles Recover

Everyone has unique workout recovery needs. Factors such as current fitness level as well as exercise history, frequency, duration, intensity, and type of exercise affect the amount and type of rest a person needs.

Non-fitness stressors such as lack of sleep, relationship problems, and working overtime can also affect the amount of rest and type of recovery a person may need after a given workout.

For example, children, teens, and older adults may need more post-workout recovery than young and middle-aged adults. People who are out of shape or just starting to exercise may need more recovery, even passive recovery, to repair their muscles and rebuild their energy.

However, some fitter people may need more recovery because they regularly train at a higher intensity. the remaining two or three days of rest allow a good recovery.

Fitter people can use this strategy by alternating between high-intensity training, varied activities, and active recovery six or seven days a week without completely taking rest days.

The important thing to remember is that recovery looks different for everyone. For an elite marathoner, running 4 or 5 miles can be active recovery training. For someone who is new to running, a 20-minute cycling session would be more appropriate for recovery.

At the same time, no matter what your overall physical level is also important to pay attention to your individual needs. Even that elite marathon runner who can usually train seven days a week will likely need a bit more recovery after, for example, running a longer distance than usual, running a particularly hilly course that he is not used to or having completed a race while recovering from a cold. Therefore, it is essential to pay attention to both how you feel and how your body reacts to your workouts.

Exercise levels when you can’t push yourself harder, mental fatigue, feelings of exhaustion and extreme muscle soreness that lasts longer than three or four days are all signs you need to increase your recovery training. Listen to your body and remember that your ideal training recovery strategy comes and goes over weeks, months, and years.

There are as many recovery methods as there are athletes. Here are some of the most recommended by experts.

Replacing Lost Fluids

You lose a lot of fluids during exercise and ideally you should replace them during exercise but replenishing after exercise is an easy way to speed up your recovery.

Water supports all metabolic and nutrient transfer functions in the body and having plenty of water will enhance all bodily functions. Adequate fluid exchange is even more important for endurance athletes who lose large amounts of water during hours of sweating.

Eat Healthy Recovery Foods

Once you’ve depleted your energy stores with exercise, you need to refuel if you expect your body to recover, repair tissue, get stronger, and be ready for the next challenge. This is even more important if you do resistance exercises day in and day out or are trying to build muscle.

Ideally, you should aim to eat within 60 minutes of finishing your workout and make sure to include high-quality protein and carbohydrates.

Rest and Relax

Time is one of the best ways to recover or heal from illness or injury, and it works even after hard training. Your body has an incredible ability to take care of itself if you give it time.

Resting after an intense workout allows the repair and recovery process to take place at a natural pace. It’s not the only thing you can or should do to aid recovery, but sometimes doing nothing is the easiest thing to do.


After a hard workout, consider stretching gently. It’s a quick and easy way to help your muscles recover.

Perform Active Recovery

Gentle, easy movements like brisk walking or cycling improve circulation, which helps transport nutrients and waste products throughout the body. In theory, this helps muscles repair and refuel faster.

Get a Massage

Massage gives you a feeling of well-being and improves circulation, allowing you to relax completely. You can also try self-massage exercises and foam rollers to relieve tight muscles and avoid the high price tag of sports massage.

Take an Ice Bath

Some athletes swear by ice baths, icy massages or contrast hydrotherapy that alternates hot and cold showers to recover faster, reduce muscle soreness and prevent injury.

The theory behind this method is that by repeatedly narrowing and dilating the blood vessels, it helps remove or eliminate waste products in the tissues.

Sleep a Little More

As you sleep, amazing things are happening in your body. Optimal sleep is essential for anyone who exercises regularly. During sleep, your body produces the growth hormone GH, which is largely responsible for tissue growth and repair.

Try Visualization Exercises

Adding mental practice to your training routine can be a boon for any athlete. Spending time practicing mental rehearsals or following a mindfulness meditation program can help develop a calm, clear demeanour, and reduce anxiety and reactivity.

Getting to know how your mind works, how thoughts can bounce around, and how you don’t have to get attached to any of them, is a wonderful way for an athlete to recover both mentally and physically.

Additionally, practicing positive self-talk can help change the dialogue going on in your head. Consider using both types of mental practice on your recovery days.

Avoid Overtraining

An easy way to recover faster is to start by designing a smart workout routine. Excessive exercise, intense training in every session, or lack of rest days will limit your fitness gains through exercise and undermine your recovery efforts.

Massages Can Be Great

An effective way to reduce delayed onset muscle soreness is massage. This increases blood flow which speeds up the recovery process. The increase in circulation also helps to reduce the feeling of fatigue that follows a tough workout. Intense muscle soreness can be reduced (no matter what type of workout you’ve done) with the help of massage. This is true for a wide range of physical activity from running to bodybuilding. Apply what you’ve learned by putting these tips to work for you, you can provide your body with the tools it needs to recover. The sooner you recover, the sooner you can continue to achieve your fitness goals.

Don’t Skip Rest Days

There are times when you just need to rest. Sleeping early and sleeping well can help speed up the muscle repair process and leave you feeling refreshed the next day.

With any strenuous physical activity, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) recommends that you schedule at least one full day of rest every 7-10 days to allow your body to recover and adjust to work done on active days. previous exercise.

Listen to Your Body

Sometimes after a workout, one side of your body may feel tighter than the other. These imbalances can arise due to your lifestyle and habits. For example, if you are right-handed or left-handed, one side will usually be stronger than the other. The weaker side may tighten when you exercise.

Take a moment after your workout to breathe and focus on how your body feels. This way you can tailor your cooling to your body’s needs that day. You could spend extra time extending an area that is tight and pay attention to the way you feel during your next workout.

Listening to your body also means knowing when to rest or back off from your workouts. While technology to monitor performance and fatigue can be very useful, you shouldn’t neglect the basics of self-monitoring not just how fatigued you feel, but also your enthusiasm for training

Make sure to monitor for symptoms of overtraining if you are feeling extremely sore after a workout, have poor sleep, fatigue, and a lowered immune system.


Saravavan Nadarajan (Vanan)

Vanan, fitness expert and leader at EzFit Singapore, specializes in holistic training—home-based, boot camps, and corporate fitness—with over a decade of industry experience.