Recovery strategies: Build on the basics


Recovery in sport is a vital consideration for athletes, players and coaches. By controlling the variables of recovery, it causes a decreased recovery time in the training process which means an increase in the level of super-compensation or adaption, which is  vital to reaching athletic potential. Image

Recovery however, is not only of physical benefit, it can also have a mental effect (Tessitore & Meeusen & Cortis 2007) therefor it is important to monitor fatigue in the short and long term. A method of monitoring fatigue and consequently recovery from performance is to ask the player how they are feeling and using the RPE (rate of perceived exerction) scale to do so. This can be done after training sessions or throughout the season. This can allows for coaches to recognize how different sessions affect a player’s continual physical condition. At the elite level of performance with access to expensive technology, monitoring recovery can be taken further. Twist & Highton (2013) show by drawing fluids from the body through blood and/or saliva it can allow coaches to monitor how well the player has recovered or if the player needs more time to do so.


Recovery after performance has multiple levels of application, regardless of an athlete or player’s participation level. The key aspects of nutrition, stretching and sleep are vital. Furthermore, there are more advanced methods such as of cold-water immersion and the increasingly popular use of compression garments.


Those involved in all areas of sport need to give consideration to the basics of recovery strategies. No matter what level athletes can control their diet, rehydration and sleep (Tessitore & Meeusen & Cortis 2007). Nedlec et al, (2013) show that 1.2 g carbohydrate every hour post exercise for up to 5 hours (Jentjens & Jeukendrup, 2003) and 9 grams of (Beelen, Burke, Gibala et al, 2010) protein consumption after a match are effective recovery strategies for replenishing the body and repairing the muscles. Carbohydrates allow for the replenishment of glycolytic stores in the body, where for those sports lasting longer than 30-90 minutes are vital. Protein allows for the muscles to reduce soreness through muscle synthesis after previous muscle fiber breakdown. Remaining hydrated before, during and after performance is vital as cognitive and physical ability both suffer as a consequence.


So a recommendation to aid recovery, is to reach a form of hyper-hydration ‘post exercise’ as to never get in a dehydrated state. This would be 200% of the total body weight lost during activity, so it requires a pre and post game screening by people weighing themselves to determine these numbers.


Sleep is vital to the recovery process and vital for optimal performance. Despite sleep being one of key aspects of sleep Walters (2002) outlines athletes often neglect this aspect and in some circumstances sleep less than those who do not exercise, which can therefore lead to a decrease in performance (Davenne, 2009). . Bompa and Haff (2009) suggest 9-10 hours of sleep for those over the age of 18. This can include naps during the day and the recommended 8 hours of sleep during the night, which would make up 80-90% of this. By having sufficient sleep it allows the body to rest, recover and repair the body’s systems to be prepared for the next training session or game.


The use of stretching is rife in sport with Dabedo et al (2004) showing that English football clubs use 40% of their total training time doing so with a major focus on static stretching, with over 50% of French football teams using it as a method for recovery (Nedlec et al, 2013), even though there is no scientific evidence to prove this. Lund, et al, (1998), Show that it actually causes a reduction in physical performance, especially when combined with eccentric loading such as slowing down or sports which involve High intensity changes of direction. Due to the other methods of recovery mentioned in this blog, which can speed up the recovery process but maintain physical ability, using static stretching after exercise is ineffective.

Is it a lack of knowledge at the elite level or is It an unwillingness to change as that’s what always been done? For athletes to be at their optimal levels they need to be at the top of their game and stretching will not provide that.

Compression Garments

Frequently, we see players in multiple sports wearing Nike, Under Armour or Adidas compression garments under their standard playing kit, with (Nedlec, et al 2013) showing 22% of French professional football teams using them. Compression garments in sport come in such forms as under shirts, and short and long pants.

The benefits of wearing compression garments in sports with sprinting and agility characteristics have been shown to have no significant benefits on the physical attributes of players (Nedlec, et al 2013). However, there may be a perceived mental boost in wearing such items, which can be called the placebo effect, as players believe themselves to be better with them even though there are minimal benefits. Bernhardt and Anderson (2005) show that while wearing compression shorts 93% of participants in their study felt they had performed better while wearing them.


Compression garments were originally used medically, to reduce swelling and inflammation (Kraemer, et al, 2001) in those with blood flow issues as to increase oxygenation to those damaged areas, so the leap to help recovery from sports performance was granted. By increasing Oxygenation to the damaged muscles it allows for the increased rate of flushing of waste products from the muscles and so repairing them at a faster rate. Nedlec et al (2013) suggest they have particular benefits for highly trained athletes with Kraemer et al (2001) shows there is a lower perceived muscled soreness after wearing them post exercise. So consequently, despite the lack of evidence for the physiological benefits of wearing compression garments, the perception that they do increase recovery, or the placebo effect shows their potential benefit for recovery .

Cold Water immersion

In a recent blog post on pre-cooling, cold-water immersion was shown to have benefits for cardiovascular performance. It can also have further benefits on athletic performance.


Nedlec et al (2013) shows that Cold-water immersion, specifically water of 9–10 °C used immediately post exercise for 10-20 minutes can have dramatic effects on anaerobic performance and perceived muscle soreness (Bailey, Erith & Griffin, 2007). Vaile, O’Hagan, Stefanovic et al (2011) suggest a whole-body immersion approach as to bring heat away from the skin to the core to allow for increased blood flow to the muscles for repair.

Despite this evidence, consistent use of cold-water immersion can have a negative impact on the long term adaptions caused by exercise, specifically in elite athletes. However, when athletes have a congested period of events, over a few days, Cold-water immersion can be a key tool. Used in the short-term process it can allow for a fast recovery process, specifically in the higher intensity sports such as football.

Key points for recovery

To perform optimally all athletes need to control their diet, hydration and sleep. This will allow for a higher level of training volume or rest when needed. Once the basics of recovery are consistent then it is time to use further recovery methods such as the effect of compression garments on muscle damage. When in a congested period of exercise, use Cold-water immersion to raise the level of fitness quickly to be nearer those optimal levels of performance.


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Bernhardt T, &Anderson GS (2005). Influence of moderate prophy- lactic compression on sport performance. Journal of Strength Conditioning Res. 2005;19:292–297.

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Kraemer, WJ et al. (2001). “Influence of compression therapy on symptoms following soft tissue injury from maximal eccentric exercise”. The Journal of orthopaedic and sports physical therapy 31 (6): 282–90

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Nedlec, M et al . (2013). Recovery in soccer: Part 2 – Recovery strategies. Sports Med. 43 (.), 9-22

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Twist, C & Highton, J. (2013). Monitoring fatigue and recovery in rugby league players. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance. 8, 467-474.

Vaile J, O’Hagan C, Stefanovic B, et al (2011). Effect of cold-water immersion on repeated cycling performance and limb blood flow. Br J Sports Med.;45(10):825–9.

WALTERS, P.H. (2002). Sleep, the athlete, and performance. National Strength & Conditioning Association, 24(2): 17-24.

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2 Responses to Recovery strategies: Build on the basics

  1. Pingback: Altitude Training | Coaching For Competition

  2. Pingback: Complex training: Key training tool or Detrimental to performance? | Coaching For Competition

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