Active recovery means using exercise to improve blood flow and healing without added strain.
Research suggests it can ease soreness and improve exercise performance.
Good active recovery strategies are walking, concentric work, and light weights, says an expert.
If soreness plagues your workouts, you may not be getting the most out of your rest days.
But don't turn to expensive massages or supplements first. The best ways to promote recovery are free, according to Stan Efferding, a world-record powerlifter, pro bodybuilder, and coach.
"Things that are done to you or for you are rarely as good as things you do for yourself," he told Insider.
Active recovery refers to exercises that relieve, rather than exacerbate, fatigue and soreness.
Research suggests it can help reduce soreness and stimulate muscle tissue repair more effectively than passive rest like sitting or lying down.
Done correctly, it can get you back in the gym quicker and prevent injury, particularly when combined with good sleep, proper nutrition, and other recovery work like stretching and foam rolling.
"Ideally, you want a little bit of everything," Efferding said.
Everyone can benefit from active recovery, but it's more important the longer you've been working out
Efferding said fitness is about more than just how much you lift. "General physical preparedness" refers to your body's overall capacity to perform tasks involving stamina, coordination, mobility, speed, strength, agility, and skill.
It also includes how quickly you can bounce back from exertion and how soon you're able to handle more work.
"General physical preparedness is a lot about active recovery," he said.
Beginner athletes shouldn't neglect recovery, since a lack of rest can stall gains. While gym newbies can make big gains with even small doses of exercise, they're limited in how much they're physically capable of performing. A novice lifter is likely to know right away if they've overworked because soreness and exhaustion will force them to stop.
But if you've been going to the gym for a while, your body is more conditioned to handle a lot of work, like more intense exercise, more days in the gym, and bigger sets. As a result, intermediate and advanced athletes need to prioritize active recovery even more Efferding said.
Low impact cardio like walking is ideal for active recovery
Active recovery can be as simple as taking your dog for a walk or strolling around the neighborhood.
The purpose of active recovery is to get moving and increase blood flow throughout your body, without causing more fatigue or muscle damage, experts previously told Insider's Rachel Hosie.
Light cardio activities like walking, jogging or swimming are ideal because they're gentle on the muscles.
Concentric exercises, like sled pushes or biking, stimulate blood flow
Concentric exercises are those that force a muscle to shorten in response to resistance — think curling a dumbbell, or pushing the floor away as you extend into a push-up.
Research suggests concentric exercises cause less stress on muscle tissues than eccentric, or lengthening, exercises.
Efferding said concentric movements are great for active recovery since they stimulate blood flow with less risk of excessive strain. A few of his favorites include pushing or pulling a weighted sled, biking, or medicine ball throws or slams.
Low weight, high volume sets can boost recovery from weight training
You can start your active recovery immediately after your workout, too.
Efferding recommends following a heavy lifting session with lighter weight sets of the same exercise, focusing on high reps with more speed. The lighter weight will boost blood flow in the target muscle groups to speed healing, without the added stress caused by heavy loads.
Whatever you choose, it shouldn't exhaust you. Activity recovery still counts as a rest day, and if it starts to feel like more work, it's time to dial it back.
Read the original article on Insider