Back in Action: A Reflection on Intensity and Recovery

Awww jeah… I’m starting to feel normal again. I can jump again, my grip strength is coming back, I can lift washing machines and driers again… weight training is good. Of course I still only weigh about 185 and I’m still pretty much weak compared to my previous peaks, but it’s coming back. So why is everything falling into place for me during my fourth week on Project Swole, even though I took it pretty easy for the first three weeks? There are three reasons that I can think of, and I want to explain each of them just briefly. The main reason for my quick recovery is muscle memory, which is assisted by my straight up intensity in the weight room, and I have helped everything along by starting slowly and working up to the higher weights and volume.

Muscle Memory

Since I have been weight training seriously since about 1995, my body remembers how to lift. My muscle fibers and neurons remember how to optimize themselves for power, strength, and performance. The rumor is that for the general athlete, you will lose strength in a quarter of the time that it took to gain it; and it will take twice as long as it took to lose it, to get it back. This basically means that you cut in half the time it takes to get back to your optimal performance level after a short layoff or injury.

Intensity

If you go into the weight room and train like a Sally, you will make about as much progress as a snail on fly paper. The general rule of thumb should be to treat the weights like you would your worst enemy. Those weights’ entire purpose for existence is to stop YOU from moving them. The weights don’t want to move, but if you don’t move them, the world will surely come to an end. This is how you must set your mind before each set. Just remember not to confuse intensity with forced reps, negatives, or overtraining with either too many training sessions or too many exercises. Training smart is the key to making progress.

To help build my intensity, I take a bit of inspiration from two of my favorite lifting songs, which I repeat to myself just before each max effort or heavy work set.

Mudvayne once said: “Dig!! Bury me! Underneath! Everything that I am!!”

Corey Taylor of Slipknot once said: “Get this or die! Get this or die!! Get this or DIE!!!”

I also snag a bit of psych from the great Ronnie Coleman who once said: “Yeah Buddy!! Light Weight!! Light Weight!!”

Easing into It

Whether you are just starting an exercise program, coming back from a layoff, or coming back from an injury, a HUGE facet of getting in shape again is to take it easy for the first 2-4 weeks. Don’t attempt any max efforts, don’t hit up forced reps and negatives on each exercise (actually don’t do this anyway), and don’t start lifting 5-6 workout sessions a week. All you will accomplish is to make yourself so sore that you can’t move around in everyday life. This week’s workouts have been really intense, and I have been paying for it since yesterday. Fortunately I am not too sore today, so I’ll be able to function in the weight room tonight when I try to pull (deadlift) a Project Swole PR.

If you do hit the iron too hard and end up with extreme soreness, you can do some of the following to assist in recovery:

  • Use a foam roller to massage and stimulate your muscle fibers.
  • Deep tissue massage to force blood into your injured tissue and release adhesions.
  • Alternating hot and cold showers.
  • Warm up your body and participate in vigorous stretching.
  • Find some weights, springs, bands, or use isometrics to do some exercises for the sore muscle groups with like 20% of your usual work weight, for 20 or so reps.
  • Don’t forget to eat and sleep properly.

With these tips and tricks, anyone can ease into a new workout program, or come back from an injury or layoff. Always remember to make it fun and be intense, but also remember not to mistake overtraining or unnecessary forced reps, for intense work sets. Lift w8 everyday.

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