By Nico de Villiers
Posted: Updated:

In recent years the term recovery has been the buzz word in the conditioning world with a lot of research done on various methods and protocols to help athletes recover. Recovery has been used in the context of adaptation from training stimulus or tapering for match day or rejuvenating after a game. It is a very broad term that is used very loosely.

In this article, I am going to discuss some recovery strategies, when and where we should use certain methods and some innovation that is being used.

To give you a bit of a background of what the research say about various forms of recovery, you can read my article on review on recovery methods part 1 and review on recovery methods part 2 for some background info.


Training causes stress to the body, and it is this stress that acts as a signal to the body to adapt. Artificially reduces stress in the form of recovery modalities like compression garments, ice bathing and soft tissue work like foam rolling, could reduce this stress and hinder the signal to adapt.

Let’s take a look at the research on ice baths. Several studies suggested that cold water immersion inhibits the heat induced response needed for anabolic stimulus for hypertrophy and inhibits blood flow required for muscle protein synthesis and training adaptation to occur. What this means is that while you are attempting to recover from a session by jumping into the ice, you could actually be inhibiting your adaptation response. Other interesting research has revealed that the inflammatory response is not stopped when you jump in the ice, it just slows it down. This delayed effect of the body’s natural response to stress could actually slow down our recovery as appose to speeding it up.

Research on compression leggings reported that these garments have been proposed to assist in improving sporting performance, clearing metabolic by-products, and recovery from high-intensity exercise. Additionally, compression garments have been reported to alter the inflammatory response to muscle damage). As mentioned before, dampening the inflammatory response will decrease protein synthesis and does not allow for the natural recovery process and its adaptation advantages to fully transpire. The training outcome of the preparation phase is to adequately stress the body to have certain physiological adaptations to prepare players for the upcoming season. This has led to the question of the appropriate use of recovery intervention during this part of the season so that it does not interfere with the adaptations process.

The outcome of training during the preparation phase and the competition phase will differ, with the preparation phase mainly focusing on training-induced physical adaptation, while during the competition phase, optimal performance will be the focus. Beside the different training outcome during the season, different stressors (exercise type, loads, duration, and intensity) will be used in each phase to stimulate the desired result.

So what does this mean for my recovery strategy during the year? First of all, you must have a look at what methods you use during the preparation phase vs. the competition phase. During the preparation phase, your goal is to adapt to training, so it would make sense that you cut the methods that hinder this goal. Ice baths, anti-inflammatory, and compression garments are all methods that could delay the inflammatory response; I would cut during this part of the season. I would rather focus on good nutrition, quality of sleep and cutting all unnecessary stress from your life. The preparation phase is a time to change the composition of your body and the effectiveness of your energy and neuromuscular systems. This is and should be a highly stressful time for your body and even your mind. Cutting unnecessary stress and making an effort to relax will go a long way in getting the results you want from this phase of training

My suggestion for preparation phase recovery:

  • Sleep: Get 9 hour in, even if you have to take naps during the day.
  • Eat: What you breakdown and burn need to be replace
  • Get in the pool: Hydrostatic pressure helps restore muscle homeostasis and moving in the water will assist with ROM in a time when your body might get a bit stiff
  • Low impact active recovery: light jogging, cycling or swimming or even a light circuit base gym session will do. This will help to flush out some muscle waste product caused by any inflammation. It stands to reason to wait until the end stage of the acute inflammation before doing this (24-72hour).
  • Relax: Make the effort. Learning relaxation methods could be one of the most effective tools to naturally bring your body back to a resting state. Getting the parasympathetic nervous system back in control is important. There are various relaxing methods that you can use and it’s worthwhile learning them.
    • Foam rolling
    • Massaging
    • Meditation
    • Breathing exercises
    • Yoga or Tai Chi
    • Playing with children or pets
    • Get out into nature- go for swim in the sea or walk in the mountains



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