Un-Sore Yourself

I haven’t been this sore in a while.  In fact, I’ve tried to avoid it.  Between exercise selection, rest and recovery, and nutrition, I’ve avoided feeling like I’ve been repeatedly smacked with a rubber hammer.   Maybe this time I needed it.

See, I had a realization the other day, and I may be slacking somewhat when it comes to my workout.  Sure, I’m seeing progress with what I’m doing, but it’s slightly slow, and since I haven’t been focusing on bigger goals, these tiny PR’s haven’t necessarily been adding up to anything.  What am I getting at?  Well, I need to start picking up more heavy shit, and overall increase the intensity of my workouts.

In the past week I’ve certainly done that, and I can count higher rep chin-ups, a few sets of kettlebell swings, and flat-benching for the first time in a long time as more taxing than I expected.  I’m sore.  This is good, because I know how to help reduce this soreness.  If you don’t, get ready to learn.

Why are you sore?  Well, there is some microtrauma in your muscles, and they’re not very happy with you.  Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS, can be caused by any time of muscle action, but we forcibly lengthening a muscle against tension does the trick.  This eccentric action causes the most amount of muscle damage, and is usually what makes you sore in the first place.  this can happen if you’re learning a new exercise, relearning an old exercise, or increasing the volume/intensity of what you’re already doing.  In my case, the bench press/kettlebell swing were old exercises that I hadn’t done in a while, and the chin-ups were an old favorite that I love but went overboard with.  To help recover for upcoming workouts, I’m going to tie in movement, massage, a contrast shower, and proper nutrition as a four prong approach to un-sore myself.

Drink more water.  This is a no-brainer, and it shouldn’t require an explanation.  Drinking water is great for you, and it’ll help you feel better.  Plus, it’s plain ol’ healthy.  Drink more water.

Move more.  Movement is healing, and revisiting the same motions that contribute to your soreness can help reduce your pain.  Increasing blood flow to the area can encourage recovery and tissue healing.  Moving through a full range of motion can help prevent the tightness that we usually develop after soreness.  Avoiding or minimizing eccentric movement can  help you utilize sore muscles without creating undue stress on them.  Today, I’m going to include a variety of Prowler marches, presses, and rows, to help increase blood flow and create a conditioning effect without an eccentric action.  You can see the rows and presses I did in the video below.

I also included some EQI’s which I was turned on to by strength coach Ben Bruno.  EQI stands for Eccentric Quasi Isometric, and the title sounds a lot cooler than the actual exercise.  Basically, you lower yourself into an end-range position (eccentric) and then activate the antagonist muscles to facilitate a deeper stretch.  Don’t worry, it’s not that confusing.  During this push-up EQI hold, I’m squeezing my upper back and lats as hard as I can to improve the quality of the stretch on my pecs and anterior shoulder.  In the second video of the split squat EQI,  I’m squeezing my glutes and abs as hard as I can to stretch out my hip flexor.  I’ve added that overhead reach as a little thoracic extension drill, and it feels terrible amazing.  If you like to slouch around in a chair or desk all day, this would be a great drill for you to try it out.

Now, before and after my workout, I plan on foam rolling any inch of my body that feels sore.   (That’s basically my whole body.)  Massage is great for recovery, because it helps flush out tissues, increase blood flow to the area, and address trigger points and sore spots.  Ideally, a hands on massage would be great, but a $10 foam roller, $2 lacrosse ball, and $30 dollar stick work nearly as well.  If you don’t have a foam roller, I’d seriously recommend picking one up.  It’s a one-time investment, you can get a massage whenever you want, and you’ll feel a hell of a lot better.  I’ll foam roll once or twice on Saturday, and then sometime on Sunday before I workout.  It’s simple, it’s effective, and it’s inexpensive.  If you’re sore, foam rolling is going to feel great.

My girlfriend loves the foam roller. Seriously!

We normally think of showers as being relaxing, and they are, but they also work well for recovery.  If you have the heart to turn off the hot water while you’re soaping up, try taking a contrast shower.  Alternating periods of hot and cold water will leave you feeling invigorated and energetic, and you’ll be less sore later in the day.  Try alternating a minute or 2 of hot water with a minute of cold water.  If you’re a fan of the steamy hot shower, go as cold as you can; over time just make it colder.  Personally, I think that ending with 30 seconds to a minute of cold water is better than any energy drink you can have, and you’ll have plenty of energy regardless of how hard your workout was.

This last tip was saved for last because it’s probably the easiest thing you can do to aid in your recovery.  It’s also extremely effective, but I want you to consider the other methods first.  In terms of nutrition, I think that fish oil and BCAA’s are two great supplements to help you recover.  We constantly hear about the heart healthy benefits of fish oil because they help reduce inflammation.  This isn’t limited to your arteries though!  I’ve found that fish oil helps my joints and muscles feel better; I tend to think of it as WD-40 for your body.  When it comes to BCAA’s, they’re commonly marketed as a body building supplement to help pack on the pounds.  By increasing protein synthesis, this is an effect of BCAA’s when you’re eating a ton of food.  I like them for the same reason; because they increase protein synthesis.  Your body is going to repair itself at a faster rate, meaning you won’t be sore for as long.  It’s great!  Invest a few dollars in both supplements, you’ll feel better and be healthier.  All it takes is 5 seconds and it works very well.

If you’re working out hard enough, you’re going to get sore every once in a while.  That’s okay; it’s part of your body’s way of saying “Please don’t do this again tomorrow.”  As you accustom to new exercises and progressively get stronger, you won’t get sore as much, but it will still happen every on occasion.  When it does, be ready for it.  With some simple recovery practices, you’ll be pain-free and ready to go in no time.  Give them a try, and keep working hard!

4 Replies to “Un-Sore Yourself”

  1. Great post!

    Quick question on drinking more water to aid recovery: Is it conventional wisdom that leads us to believe drinking more water aids in recovery, or is there research that substantiates these claims?

    1. David, I spent a few days searching online for detailed research, and unfortunately I couldn’t find any. It’s the first time that PubMed has failed me! While it’s generally conventional wisdom, and I think that people naturally increase their water intake without thinking about it, we know that water plays a huge role in metabolic function. If we’re hydrated, we’ll be able to repair a little quicker. I wish I could find a research study discussing it, because I hate to say ‘Well it just works’. Instead, I’m going to try to think of cases when drinking extra water is going to bed bad for you…I can’t think of very many!

  2. Pingback: Protein

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