Most exercisers are diligent enough with their workouts to incorporate at least one, if not two, rest days into their workouts in order to maximum their gains. Rest days are important because they provide the much needed time for the muscles to recover from being constantly used and allow growth and regeneration to occur.
Active recovery is another type of recovery period where you perform low intensity exercise such as walking, light gardening, or mopping the floor instead of being sedentary. Research is beginning to uncover benefits of active recovery that may actually surpass that of rest in terms of strengthening your muscles.
One of the reasons that active recovery is a great alternative means of recovery is that it helps reduce lactic acid buildup in the muscles faster than normal rest would, when performed directly after an exercise. This allows you to achieve a higher power output for the duration of your workout and will lead to additional gains in strength.
Active recovery will not affect the physical recovery period the way overtraining will, when your muscles stop adapting due to overuse of specific exercises. It actually helps by having positive effects on physiological recovery as well as assisting in circulation of blood throughout the body. This helps pumps out lactic acid and bring in additional oxygen, vitamins, and minerals while decreasing recovery time.
Active recovery can come in the form of low intensity aerobic exercise or you can take it a step further using an advanced technique. A great bodybuilding tip for active recovery is to lower the weights and increase the repetitions that you normal use to help stimulate increasing amounts of growth in the muscle. For our example, we will examine the chest press. On day one, you perform the chest press with your maximum weight capacity. Let’s say you can do 3 sets of 10 reps at 100 lbs. Now, on day two, you obviously wouldn’t be able to perform the same workout because your muscles will be extremely fatigued. We could perform active recovery by increasing the reps and lowering the weight, for example performing 3 sets of 15 reps at 60 lbs.
You will be effectively targeting both your slow and fast- twitch fibers which not only helps with recovery but can mean that you will making gains in a faster amount of time than you thought was possible. Try it yourself by adding active recovery days into your workouts and see if you don’t start progressing faster than before.