Would you ever purchase a Ferrari and never have the oil changed? Probably not because A. You most likely can’t afford one and B. You’re unreliable so you want a car to reflect that: a Ford. Actually the answer is no, because you’d want it to perform the way it’s designed to perform. It’s the same thing when it comes to recovering from training.
You spend around 80 or so bucks to register for the meet, maybe 200-300 for travel expenses, around 350 or so for 4 months of coaching for your prep, gym membership for 70 a month, nutrition coaching for 150 a month, and that’s assuming you have all the equipment you need for the meet (ie. federation approved belt, singlet, knee sleeves, suit, etc). That equates to around 1500 dollars on the high end. How much of that are you spending on recovery methods? If you are training as intensely as the above indicates, then you should be committed to recovering just as hard.
You can’t afford it? Then you can’t afford powerlifting seriously. This article is not for general pop clients, those who train for fun or health, or for those who are not serious. This is for those that are training to break records or be the best possible version of themselves in the sport.
Powerlifting is hard on the body. You are loading your body, muscles, joints, and tendons to the max with stress. Can you constantly have a high stressor in your life and make progress? No. You have to have some sort of de-stress or relief.
The majority of your increases in strength, or muscle mass will come from, you guessed it, recovery. So you say you can’t afford it because you already shelled out thousands towards programming, coaching, and nutritional coaching. I get that, and I’ve been there. But if you can budget for the meet and meet prep, you HAVE to budget for recovery methods too.
Here’s the deal, you can pour your thousands of dollars into training, but if you are not taking recuperation methods just as serious as training, you will not succeed come meet time. If you are training like a professional athlete, then you must recover like one.
Let’s dive in a bit more.
Cheap(sorta): Massage, Cupping, Chiropractic Care, Dry Needling, Acupuncture, Normatec Compression, Cryotherapy, etc.
Take a look at your expenses. What can you cut out? Going out to eat for lunch every day? Expensive dinners on weekends? Unnecessary clothes or amazon purchases of that super cool Danny Dorito shirt you had to have? If you are familiar with nutrition and how your weight fluctuations are maintained, and you don’t need to make a specific weight class, why not use that money for massage, cryotherapy, or other therapeutic remedies. If you saved 40 dollars a week, you could either do a 20 minute massage weekly or do a 1 hour massage every 3 weeks. This of course is dependent upon your chosen therapists prices but you get the picture. I’m not saying you have to cut out everything “fun” in your life. But there is usually some unnecessary purchases you can save for other, more important things. What’s important to you? That’s where you’ll see your top spending. And if training is important to you, then you should also invest in recovery methods.
I will also say that it is imperative that you choose a therapist with extensive knowledge of your sport. Do not just go to any Gould’s for a deep tissue massage. Research and ask the therapist questions. My massage therapist is very familiar with powerlifting and she is able to manipulate our session’s dependent upon my training. I suggest no deep tissue massage 1-2 weeks out from your meet as this may cause damage to your body and you will be too “loose”. Powerlifting is a catch 22. You need to be tight as an accountant named Mr. Falkwoitz with his money, but also mobile enough to accomplish the technique required (ie depth in squat or tucking elbows down under the bar). If you disrupt this tightness too close too your meet, it will cause issues come game time. So be careful with when you choose to implement the methods above.
Cheaper: Self Myofascial Release and Active Release Techniques
Maybe you cannot afford massages each week or other remedies frequently. That is totally fine, but it costs 10-20 dollars and maybe 10-20 minutes per day of your time to roll out on a foam roller. Heck you can even use a barbell, which will only take away time, nothing monetary. So what are we really talking about when it comes to the value of recovery? It’s not really in dollars, it’s in your time. Don’t be cheap with your time. Instead of watching Netflix for an hour at night cut it to 45 minutes and do 15 minutes of stretching or foam rolling. There are quite literally hundreds of articles on here with several methods of soft tissue work.
Foam rolling isn’t the end all be all. There are several other modalities you can use here: bands, lacrosse ball, bumpy ball, massage roller sticks, voodoo floss or compression bands, etc. And again, actually doing too much barbell rollouts or other techniques can negatively impact your training. Same as maxing out too frequently. You have to allocate the appropriate time and measures for recovery as well.
Cheapest: Contrast showers, Ice baths, Reflexive Performance Reset (RPR), Salt baths, Aerobic work, Sleep, Hydration, Stress Management
Okay so you have zero extra cash to spend on recovery. First, I don’t believe you. Second, you must be related to Mr. Falkwoitz. And third, no problem. These are the cheapest monetary ways to enhance recovery. This will only tax your time slightly. I’m not going to spend too much time covering every single one of these methods because there are several articles concerning each subject on Elitefts already. Instead, I will provide a brief description of some of these and place links to these articles if you want more detail. Contrast showers, ice baths, and salt baths help heal micro-tears in your muscles, caused by training, and help flush out metabolic waste, again, caused by training.
Contrast showers and aerobic work help promote blood flow, thus allowing nutrients to move into your body’s tissues and taking carbon dioxide and waste products away from tissues. Reflexive Performance Reset is an excellent tool I learned from Dr. Tyrel Detweiler that I use for warm ups. Why did I mention something for warm ups? Because it is a form of prehabilitation that will reduce injury and allows for optimal performance (if done correctly). Basically RPR is a method you can utilize on yourself that takes maybe 10ish minutes to complete. It is a manual self “massage” to awaken the nervous system to activate specific muscle groups. That is MY definition and take on RPR. You can read further about it here: https://www.elitefts.com/education/rpr-wake-up-your-true-performance-potential/
Sleep and solid nutrition/hydration are no brainers when it comes to recovery. Sleep is a natural restorative method that allows your body to repair memory, release hormones, conserve energy, enhances tissue repair, allows for protein synthesis, restores cognitive function, and much more. I’m not going to tell you how many hours you need because you should know that by now. Make sure you are getting adequate sleep to improve performance. Again is this a TIME cost, nothing more. Adequate nutrition/hydration can also effect recovery. Would you put unleaded gas in a diesel truck? Not unless you’re dumb and don’t want your truck to run. Same thing with nutrition and the body. Are you getting the right nutrients and the right amounts? Are you getting enough electrolytes and water? You know if your diet is bullshit: made up of mostly pizza, twix bars, cokes, and donuts. I love those things too but that doesn’t make up the majority of my food choices. So start making the right ones.
Let’s get into the main recovery method that I wanted to touch base on as I feel it is often the one that is lacking in most athletes. We’ve already determined that training is stress on the body. The recovery methods mentioned are all stress management techniques. All of these are referring to stress in the physical sense. Well what about your mental restorative techniques? Is outside stress at work, home, or even the stress of performance effecting you? Recognize it and do something about it. A lot of my high outside stressors come from several time sensitive demands I need to accomplish. How do I handle this? I make a list. I prioritize what needs to be handled first, and go from there. This allows me to no longer “think” about what I have to do as my list is doing that for me. I can now focus on the first task and only that task. You can do the same thing in powerlifting. When it comes time to train, you focus on training. When you leave the gym, you leave it at the gym. Yes there are times to prepare for training outside of the gym, but you need to recognize when that may be becoming too much of a stressor for you. Write your goals down, what you need to accomplish for that day in training, and then leave it there. This will help you focus on the task at hand.
I’d also suggest hikes or walks outside. I never really enjoyed that before as I’m usually wanting to do something more high energy or an extreme type activity. But now that I am older this has become a great mental recovery for me. Not to mention the aerobic benefit (remember blood flow). I can utilize the time outside to not only benefit my physical body, but also to take time to think on my own about a certain subject, clear my mind, or just not think about anything at all. I also knock out two birds with one stone by taking my dog along (*ahem* talk about effective time management).
Everyone talks about being 100% focused all of the time to accomplish a goal. I don’t necessarily believe that. I think everything you do should allow for 100% effort, but some of that effort should be to relax and restore. You need time away from certain things to be able to think more clear about the subject. How many times in movies have you seen people say to their significant others “I just need time”. Ok maybe that’s a bad reference because usually someone cheated and they don’t get back together. But if you’ve ever done this, you know that escaping that situation, and getting away allows you to think and process more clearly. I believe it is the same when it comes to training.
All of these methods are nothing new. In fact, there are many more that I did not mention or go into great detail with. However, maybe this made you think about the importance of recovery or realize how much of your time and money is spent, dedicated to other things. As you get older, recovery will be needed even more, again a time issue. Do not go into debt getting weekly massages/cryotherapy. But, if you can budget your time and money for training, you can do the same for recovery.
Here are some examples of some recovery training. I suggest you do this 2-3x per week. You can split this up and modify it to make it work for your schedule.
*20- 30 minutes light aerobic work
Weighted vest walk outside or on treadmill
Slight incline walk on treadmill
*5-10 minute stretches:
Hip Flexor MOB
Pec/Shoulder flexibility and Lat activation
*Foam roll major muscle groups: hamstrings, glutes, quads, lats: 8-10 passes or 30 seconds to 1 minute each muscle group.
*Bumpy Ball smaller muscles and harder to reach: pecs, rear delts, biceps, triceps, calves, I also roll glutes again with the bumpy ball. Again, 8-10 passes or 30 seconds to 1 minute for each muscle.
*Followed by a contrast shower at home or at the gym: always start with hot and end with cold. Do 3 rounds to start and increase either the time under the water or the rounds completed.
1 minute as hot as you can stand it
30 seconds cold. Repeat 3-5 times. Others who have higher tolerance of suffering can start with 2 minutes hot AF, 1 minute ice cold x 3-5.
Links to Recovery Methods in detail:https://www.elitefts.com/education/watch-table-talk-prehabilitation-and-rehabilitation-techniques/