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5 Sure-Fire Ways to Recover from a CrossFit Workout and Get Stronger in the Process

CrossFit workout complete

You may have done 5 rounds of 20 reps of wall ball shots, lifted 4 sets of your 12- rep max for bar bell thrusts, swung the kettlebell 4 set of 15 reps, box jumped your butt off, climbed the rope to heaven and back and done everything else on the workout of the day (WOD) whiteboard, but you know what? You haven't gained an ounce of muscle from your CrossFit hell...yet.

Muscle growth can only happen AFTER you've stopped the workout and that makes your recovery strategy critical. As pointed out by, "Muscles don't grow in the gym; they grow after. When you lift heavy, muscles suffer micro-tears and are actually broken down via a process called catabolism. Immediately after you lift, your body begins repairs, but it needs your help." 


#1 Avoid Utter Exhaustion

For those athletes who have heard the phrase "no pain, no gain" since they first started a fitness program, this first workout recovery tip seems counter-intuitive if not downright blasphemy! While it is important to push oneself beyond that which is comfortable, it is not necessary to push past exhaustion EVERY time they open the box.

The best advice is to push yourself past what you did in the previous workout. Pushing the muscles just to the point where they can be repaired with rest and recovery is the optimal approach. Most (good) CrossFit trainer can help you determine this workout calculus. 

#2 Proper Pre and Post Nutrition Can Speed Recovery

Most CrossFit athletes understand the importance of post-workout nutrition – that's why there are so many people walking around, drenched in sweat and drinking a protein shake! However, the food consumed before the workout can also play an important role in post-workout recovery. As noted in a recent article, "Digestion is a lengthy process; proteins and carbs that you ingest prior to the workout will still be circulating in the body afterward. For this reason, choose your foods wisely. Make sure you get high-quality, lean protein along with some complex carbohydrates, especially if you plan on an intense workout. I recommend consuming your meals roughly two hours prior to your workout to avoid digestive issues or cramps." The potassium found in bananas is also an excellent recovery fuel. 

Stay hydrated after CrossFit

Post-workout protein, especially whey, is vital if you haven't eaten anything for hours. Aim for 20-50 grams of protein after each workout depending on your bodyweight. Most women will do fine with 20 grams, while men should aim for the upper range.

#3 Post-Workout Stretching is Necessary for Muscle Repair

This is an often overlooked tip for workout recovery, since many CrossFitters view stretching as a monumental waste of time. However, fitness experts and body builders know that proper stretching of exhausted muscles not only jump-start the recovery process but also build flexibility that allows for more muscle gain in most compound lifts.

#4 Take A Hot Bath, Get Some Sleep and Hydrate!

Speeding up muscle recovery does not have to be complicated. According to trainer, Dan DeLisle, "A hot bath is another great way to foster a faster recovery. This will increase blood circulation to the muscle tissue, which then means greater oxygen and nutrient delivery – two things that your tissues need for repair. A hot bath before bed can also lull you to sleep easier, and sleep is another very vital part of the recovery equation. 

Sleeping post CrossFit

"If you aren’t getting at least 8 hours of sleep per night, it could be one reason you aren’t seeing the recovery you hope you would.  Stay away from the alcohol and caffeine several hours before bedtime, but drink plenty of water." 

#5 Take 2 or 3 Days Off Every Week

Muscles that have been torn down by extensive work need a few days every week to repair themselves. DeListle notes, "The professional athlete standard of no days or only one day off per week will likely not be enough for those of us doing intense CrossFit training sessions. Instead, aim for two or three days off per week from all intense exercise.

"Do some leisure exercise if you wish, schedule mobility or yoga classes as mentioned previously, but most importantly, re-energize yourself for the week ahead."

Do you have a post-workout tip for helping tired, sore muscles recover quicker? Contact us and we will share with our readers.

Post-Workout Stretching: You May be Missing an Opportunity to Supercharge Your Strength Gain

Many dedicated fitness fanatics believe the traditional warm-up regimen of stretching is a complete waste of time. As it turns out, they may be right.

According to many strength-training books and websites, including JMAX Fitness, “The main problem with conventional stretching programs is they often work against your body’s physiology rather than with it. If you take a tight, cold muscle and expose it to prolonged standard stretching, you could incur scar tissue and micro-tearing, which could then lead to muscle weakness, inflexibility, and injury.

“Furthermore, many professionals have prescribed stretching before exercise as a form of warm up. This is wrong. A study published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research concluded if you stretch before you lift weights, you could find yourself weaker and “off balanced” in your workouts.

Not something we want when hoisting hundreds of pounds of metal.”

Does this mean that CrossFit athletes should avoid stretching altogether? No.  It means that this activity should occur AFTER the workout. Post-workout stretching has been shown to supercharge results.

Here’s why and how.

Kick-Starting the Recovery Process

CrossFit trainer working out

Many strength training experts, including those who train CrossFit athletes, note that post-workout stretching can help kick-start the recovery process, loosen up the joints and muscles and lead to better flexibility.  This process should be seen as the continuation of the workout.

Nerd Fitness notes that “When you lift a weight your muscles contract. And after the workout the muscles remain contracted for some time. The following restoration of the muscles’ length is what recovery is. Until the muscle has restored its length, it has not recovered. Hence he who does not stretch his muscles slows down the recuperation process and retards his gains. Besides, tension and relaxation are the two sides of the same coin, if the muscle forgets how to lengthen, it will contract more poorly. And that is stagnation of strength.

When you go through a great stretch routine after a heavy weight lifting day, your muscles are already starting to recover and expand, which will allow to you get back to ‘normal’ more quickly than if you didn’t stretch.” Plus, as we age, regaining flexibility becomes more and more difficult.

A Simple Stretching Routine

The type of post-workout stretching routine depends on several factors. These include; your level of fitness, your level of flexibility, how hard you worked out and which muscles were strained. Here is a simple stretching routine that most beginners can benefit from.

A More Advanced Stretching Routine

Combining yoga, stretching, tai-chi, and Pilates the folks at Nerd Fitness have put together a more advanced stretching video. Their suggestion is to stretch as far as possible, hold it for a few seconds without bouncing and then repeat the process.

Anabolic Stretching

Many serious body builders use a post-workout stretching program that uses weights for resistance while stretching. This is called anabolic stretching and it has some controversy surrounding it.

This post-workout stretching exercise uses hyperplasia which is the growth of muscles not through the increase in size of the fibers (hypertrophy) but through the increase in number. According to JMAX Fitness, “Aggressively stretching a fully-pumped muscle is the perfect mechanism for growth. You increase overall muscular tension while also maximizing the cell swelling response for maximal muscle damage.

The article notes, “Anabolic stretching challenges your body to build both flexibility and strength in the positions you need it most. By anabolic stretching in the proper manner, you will be able to build strength into your flexibility. Stretching the sheaths or layers that encapsulate the muscle bundles will elicit another anabolic effect. In protective response to this unstable change, the stretched muscle sheets trigger an increase in protein splitting, muscle cell division, and collagen breakdown and repair. The result is, again, hypertrophy for survival.”

This anabolic stretching program demands precise technique and should only be pursued with proper instruction from a trained strength or CrossFit trainer.

What types of post-workout stretching do you use? Let us know by making a comment below or contacting us here.