There’s no other way to say it.
You get into the groove, push yourself to more reps and sets than you’d ever managed before.
You go to bed, eager to resume pushing when the time comes again, only to find yourself unable to get out of bed the next day!
It’s happened to everyone at some point, and by now you’ve certainly had your share of thinking, “there must be some way of making this easier” during a particularly unpleasant episode of muscle fatigue.
Well, there’s good news and bad.
Ways of accelerating one’s recovery do exist, but question is, are they worth the investment, monetary or time wise?
Today we will be going over some of the more popular recovery tools, the way some of them work, and why you might want (or not want) to get your hands on them. But before that, let’s get some facts out of the way.
Foam Roller- Whole Body
Compression Sleeve- Arm
Vibrating Foam Roller- Whole Body
Recovery Gear: How Does It Work?
There seems to be some inconsistency about the recovery tools’ very ability to accomplish what they were designed for.
Some swear by them, others call them a waste of money. There really is no right answer. What works for someone may not work for someone else, and vice versa.
But there is more to this than plain old “individual differences.”
The somewhat recent renaissance of fitness has resulted in a veritable shower of ideas, products, and knockoffs, all promising to help us “recover faster.”
So how does one filter out all this noise? Why, by understanding the process behind muscle fatigue and recovery.
The myth says that muscle soreness is caused by build-up of lactic acid. This has been proven as incorrect.
What causes the immense discomfort are instead the numerous micro-tears that you make in your muscles as you push them to their limit.
This is of course a necessary step toward getting stronger, but that knowledge doesn’t make the process any more enjoyable or bearable. Give it time, and the discomfort will go away on its own, leaving you better and stronger after the process ends.
Since you are here however, chances are that you’d like to able to accelerate this process.
Well, given that your muscles recover and grow the most while you sleep, your best bet would be try and induce a similar state.
The trick here is to take it easy, as too intense of a massage may actually trigger your body’s fight or flight response, slowing healing, recovery, and advancement even further.
Therefore, recovery tools should be used to further help you relax, not as another way of working out. Keep this in mind, and you’ll be likely to get the most out of these products.
The Various Kinds of Recovery Gear—and Our Pick of the Lot
There is a whole lot to choose from. Some may prove good at inducing the aforementioned recovery state, while others may simply feel good to use. Here are our thoughts and suggestions.
The idea behind foam rollers is that rolling them over the symptomatic surface will result in a decrease in both current tension and overall recovery time.
This can be both physiological and psychological, depending on the method used (soft and slow versus vigorous and hard).
For best results, you should roll slowly and carefully in order to reach the aforementioned state of deep relaxation.
All in all, foam rollers can be pretty good. If you want to invest in one, then we recommend the TriggerPoint GRID Foam Roller.
It isn’t flat but has a 3D-textured exterior, helping it reach deep without you having to press down or work it rigorously. The roller is durable and will last you a long time, while its relatively small size makes it easy to transport.
Stretching after a workout is always good, without any questions or caveats.
It helps ease pain and soreness, improves blood flow, and even helps boost muscle recovery and repair. In fact, there’s no reason not to stretch after any workout session.
Use of resistance bands can help you gain some additional mileage from your stretching by both making it easier and more thorough.
When it comes down to a particular model, you can’t go wrong with Fit Simplify Resistance Bands.
The package gets you five, each color-coded for the amount of resistance they will give you. The easiest one (green) is “worth” two pounds, the most difficult one (black) is worth twenty-five, with the others in-between.
In case it needs to be repeated, you’ll generally want to use the lighter ones, but feel free to experiment.For additional plusses, these bands come with a lifetime warranty, and are quite easy to pack up and take with you.
Compression Garments (Socks, sleeves, tights, and the like)
Compression garments (most notably compression socks) have proven effective at alleviating muscle soreness and inflammation, or at least the athletes’ perception of those factors.
The theory is sound: increased blood flow leads to quicker muscle rebuild and recovery.
And given that most of these garments sport a sleek, elegant look, the only other factor to consider would be the price.
When it comes to socks, we recommend these. Not only are they cheap, but the customer testimonials all but confirm their quality.Compression sleeves are similar, and you can find them in leg and arm variants. There are also tights.
Reusable Ice/Cold Packs
Ice has always had a good rep when it comes to relieving irritation and inflammation—some well-earned, some due to the cold’s numbing effects.
Now while applying an ice pack will certainly help with reducing swelling or helping you minimize damage after an injury, it will do next to nothing to accelerate muscle repair and growth.
If you think you might need one, the PAINCAKES Cold Pack is a solid purchase that can be reused up to 100 times. It sticks well and has proven rather sturdy.
Massage Ball Rollers
These can get rough, meaning that we can’t exactly recommend them. But if you really want one, you can’t go wrong with the Addaday Junior.
This model stands out from most of its kind by being soft and easy to use, so the chance of misuse remains minimal. We also recommend that you avoid the harsher models like the Rumble Roller Beastie unless you really, really know what you’re doing.
Vibrating Foam Rollers
Popular as of late, these are the more expensive variants of the tried and true foam rollers.
Are they easier to use? Certainly. Are they better? Not necessarily, as you can over-tune the vibration and end up actually extending your recovery time.
But if you know what you are doing (as you should by now), a vibrating foam roller will do about as much as a regular one, while being easier and less of a hassle to use.
If you want one, get a Hyperice VYPER 2.0 High-Intensity Vibrating Fitness Roller. It’s a bit on the expensive side, but if you wish to invest in such a piece of hardware, better get one of the best.
Compression Recovery Systems
These are essentially your compression garments but on steroids—and much, MUCH more expensive.
They are very user friendly: you put your limb (normally a leg or legs) into the compression sleeve, turn the thing on, you’ll get a couple of seconds of strong compression, followed by its absence.
This alternation between the compressed and relaxed states will increase the blood flow, and will help further nudge your muscles toward recovery.
As for our choice, we think that the Rapid Reboot Recovery System stands out.
At almost a thousand bucks, it costs much more than most would be willing to spend on something that merely does the job of another piece of recovery gear—but maybe better.But if you want it, the option is there.
Chris is an experienced Calisthenics practitioner focused on isometric exercises and street workout. He founded thehybridathlete.com in 2017, which was subsequently acquired by theyhybridathlete.com
He is based in Portland and has been working out using solely his own body weight and bars for the past 6 years.