How To Optimize Your Recovery For MMA 🥊💆♂️🏆
Many people have the “No Days Off” mentality when it comes to training for any type of sport. MMA is one sport where the training can already be pretty rigorous. This can cause a lot of damage to the body, which is what causes you to adapt and grow stronger. However, there is one principle that you must have first.
Without proper recovery, it is near impossible to get better at the given sport. Many athletes and even coaches miss this, however. Recovery is sometimes put on the back burner for more work. When in reality training is pointless without recovery. A good one to think of this is, “skipping recovery for more training is like stepping over quarters to pick up pennies.” This isn’t a very effective strategy.
An individual may need to train hard, but they need to recover harder.
How Do We Recover?
There are many ways to recover from training. After doing damage to the muscle you are going to need rest. You can rest by simply not working out. This will allow time for the muscles to get everything back together. Once it has built back, you can tear it down again and repeat.
Sleep. Sleep is crucial. Sleep is probably one of the MOST important components of recovery. During sleep is when our muscles go through the bulk of repair. Therefore, if we aren’t sleeping enough or neglecting it then we skip out on a lot of recovery.
For most athletes, AT LEAST eight or more hours of sleep will provide the right amount of recovery. It is common for most to only get six or less. A plethora of gains is left on the table by missing out on good sleep.
Sleep quality is also important (Related article). You may be getting up to eight hours, but that doesn’t mean it is quality. To ensure that you are getting the quality sleep you can practice good sleep hygiene. This means decreasing exposure to blue light devices before bed, keeping the room cool, and making the room as dark as possible.
When considering sleep as a recovery tool, many studies have been done to confirm this. In one study, there were multiple methods of sleep intervention done. The most effective was sleep extension or sleeping for a longer period. A larger increase in performance and recovery was shown for those athletes tested (Source).
Blood flow is a large part of how we recover as well. The more oxygen and nutrients that get transported across the damaged tissue; the faster things recover. This can easily be done by performing what is called active recovery. Active recovery can be described as a lower intensity activity that will increase blood flow, but not does any more damage. Many people use outdoor activities as forms of active recovery.
This could come in the form of walking, hiking, or biking. Some will go to the gym and just do some casual activity instead of trying to get a full workout. Stretching provides a good amount of blood flow as well and can be done as part of a yoga routine. Many high performing athletes utilize yoga as a form of active recovery.
The muscle tissue can be manipulated to improve recovery as well. This can be done via manual therapy such as massage, physiotherapy, or manual therapy tools. Within the muscle are layers of tissue called “fascia”. These fasciae can be manipulated to relax, allowing better blood flow and recovery. The muscles may also get tight giving the feeling of having a “knot”. Massage is a great way to get the muscles to loosen up.
Physiotherapy may involve tools such as dry needling or cupping. These methods help muscles to relax and also allow for better blood flow to the muscle. While they may not fix problems, they can provide some relief to allow for recovery. Manual therapy tools are also becoming more popular because they allow for self-use. A popular one is the HyperVolt Massage Gun.
The Hypervolt can be rather expensive but you can check out the cheaper alternatives on Amazon here.
The gun resembles power and delivers a powerful self-massage. It is quiet and can be taken anywhere for use, so it’s a perfect addition to your gym bag. The HyperVolt can help to reduce soreness, improve blood flow, and improve recovery. Alongside the HyperVolt, the “scraping’ method has risen in popularity due to its ability to improve blood flow to any damaged tissues.
Regarding the manual therapy option, many of the benefits are not direct. Manual therapy has been suggested to decrease pain and increase recovery. However, this may be due to the therapy affecting other systems such as neuromuscular or vascular systems. Creating reactions here may provide the desired effect of recovery (Source).
Nutrition may be one of the most important pieces of recovery in addition to sleep. The body needs nutrients to grow and recover, and if it isn’t getting what it needs then it just won’t (Source). One of the most important components of your nutrition is your protein intake. Protein contains amino acids, which are the building blocks of many tissues in the body, muscles being included.
When training intensely, you need to match that training with proper protein intake. A good start is 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight (Related article). That amount should suffice for you when looking to ensure proper recovery from training.
One on the rise method for recovery is cold-water immersion. You may have seen many athletes hop into an ice bath after a training session. The idea behind this is that the cold temperatures of the water constrict the blood vessels.
This constriction causes the vessels to flush out some of the lactic acids that build up from exercise. By doing so, recovery is increased, and soreness is reduced. More research needs to be done on this method; however, some studies have shown benefits for recovery via this process (Source).
Delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS, is the phenomenon that occurs after a workout. The soreness is not going to be present the day of, it typically is noticeable the day after or even longer. This occurs due to the build of lactic acid that working out produces.
The response can be worsened if it is a more intense workout or it is something your body is not accustomed to. Simply walking a few miles won’t make you as sore when compared to three sets of ten reps on the back squat.
All of the aforementioned recovery methods will help to reduce the occurrence or severity of DOMS. For the best benefit, it is suggested that you utilize all of these approaches for the best effect. DOMS can prevent you from working out or training to the best of your ability because it hurts, so to maximize your results optimize your recovery.
Natural Anabolic Response
There is a strong anabolic response when you train or workout (Source). Anabolism is the building up of tissue in the body and occurs as a by-product of training or working out. A flush of hormones is released in the systems which starts a cascade of processes.
This is how muscles are built. However, like everything else in this article you must take recovery seriously. For example, when you sleep, you get a huge release of hormones. Without this, your recovery will lack, and you won’t have as strong of an anabolic response.
Sample Recovery Routines
Most athletes will create a recovery routine. This routine could be an all-day ordeal, or it may just be a pre and post-workout thing. Regardless, this helps them to always include it. It is one thing to attempt optimizing recovery, and it is another to follow through. Recovery isn’t always the most fun part of the training, but it is the most important.
Wake up early and perform yoga or mobility exercises to get the blood flowing.
Proper warm-up before to minimize injury
Post work out, perform low intensity cool down exercises such as a walk or slow ride on a stationary bike.
Immediately following the session by stretching worked muscles.
Consume proper nutrition to hit protein goals
Put away blue light devices (phone, tablet, tv) 2 hours before bedtime.
Get bedroom cool and dark
Sleep for up to 8 hours
A routine similar to this would add recovery to your entire day. Implementing this would create a great environment for you to recover from training and workouts. It can be molded to any schedule with some tweaks here and there.
Example pre and post-workout routine:
5 minutes of low-intensity cardio
Dynamic stretches (jumping squats, high knees, butt kickers, Cossack squat)
Butterfly stretch, pigeon pose, world’s greatest stretch
Protein shake consumed
Taking the time before and after your workouts to ensure optimal recovery is important. 5-10 minutes of intentional warm-up and cool-down will be sufficient to aid in some of your recovery.
You can set yourself up for success and proper recovery by following similar routines. The biggest take away is that recovery is more important than how hard your workout or training is. When it comes to recovery, it far outweighs a hard training session.
Putting It All Together
To wrap this up, you must remember one thing: recovery is key. Without proper recovery, you won’t benefit as much from your exercise or training.
If you are training for an intense sport such as MMA or any other combat sport, then proper recovery is a must. Using the provided tips and methods for recovery you can optimize your recovery for MMA sports.
Some modalities of recovery are more effective than others, but they are most effective when used in conjunction with each other. It would be an effective strategy to create a recovery routine similar to the ones listed. This will afford you the luxury of it being part of your day. Again, recovery isn’t always fun, but it is effective.
You have options including sleep, active recovery, manual therapy, nutrition, and cold immersion. All of which do a great job setting your up for success.
To recap, the two most important methods are going to be sleep and nutrition. When attempting to optimize recovery these two are the staples. They need to be in check before you start trying to implement any of the others. For example, if you are getting massages, but not sleeping more than four hours a night you aren’t getting anywhere.
One of the entire reasons for utilizing recovery is to avoid delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS. If you’ve ever done a hard workout and been sore not the day of, but the day after then you’ve experienced this. The severity of DOMS can be mitigated if proper recovery techniques are implemented.
Recovery is also extremely important for any anabolic response. The majority of hormone cascades happen during sleep and rest, especially after tough training sessions. So, if you are looking to get the best response and results from your training, then optimizing your recovery routine will help you.
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Bonnar D, e. (2019). Sleep Interventions Designed to Improve Athletic Performance and Recovery: A Systematic Review of Current Approaches.
(2). Bialosky, J. E., Bishop, M. D., Price, D. D., Robinson, M. E. and George, S. Z.
Bialosky, J., Bishop, M., Price, D., Robinson, M., & George, S. (2009). The mechanisms of manual therapy in the treatment of musculoskeletal pain: A comprehensive model. Manual Therapy, 14(5), 531-538. doi:10.1016/j.math.2008.09.001
(3). Sousa M, E. A.
Sousa M, e. (2019). Dietary strategies to recover from exercise-induced muscle damage.
(4). Versey NG, E. A.
Versey NG, e. (2019). Water immersion recovery for athletes: effect on exercise performance and practical recommendations.
(5). Kraemer WJ, E. A.
Kraemer WJ, e. (2019). Recovery responses of testosterone, growth hormone, and IGF-1 after resistance exercise.