Smart and safe lifting programs include a plan for recovery. Watch to learn how to set that up!
We say lifting weights makes us stronger.
But what we’re doing when we lift is tearing little muscle fibers – on purpose.
When those fibers heal they are denser and stronger. It’s more accurate to say recovering from
lifting makes us stronger.
Recovery needs to be planned just like workouts.
Let’s go over how to set up your recovery program.
Muscles need rest days before they can be trained again.
Best practices for recovery are general and they may vary from person to person.
If you’re a new lifter, a body part might be fully recovered in one or two days.
This can depend on the body part. Your arms might recover faster than your legs.
If you’re not fully recovered and train again too soon, you’ll feel weaker than expected.
You might still have some soreness from DOMS, which is Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, but it’s not necessary to wait if it’s not too bad. Getting blood pumped back into those muscles will help you recover from DOM’s.
It’s also normal to not be sore after a workout. It’s not necessary to feel sore to make progress.
If you’re using progressive overload – which is adding more reps or sets or weight over time – you’re getting stronger even if you weren’t sore after every workout.
An intermediate lifter, someone who has been training consistently for at least a year, might need 2 to 3 days to recover. Over time, you’ll learn how your body is responding and how long it takes for each of your body parts to recover.
As the weeks go by, we have unresolved fatigue that builds up. You’ll start to feel beat up.
That’s why it’s smart to program in a deload week.
Think of it as an active recovery week.
I’ve used the loads for years so I want to tell you how to incorporate this into your program.
During a deload week, you’ll still do your planned workouts but you’ll bring the volume and intensity down. Volume is the number of reps and sets you do. Intensity is the weight you are using.
A deload approach uses the same exercises to pump blood into the muscles to deliver those nutrients
it needs for recovery. But you won’t be taxing the muscle.
Here is one way to do deload.
For all exercises during the deload week:
- reduce the weight by approximately 10%
- drop your reps to the lower end of your rep range
- reduce your sets by one
For example, if last week you did a leg press with 100 pounds and you are using an 8 to 12 rep ra3nge. So let’s say you did 3 sets of 12 reps with 100 pounds – this week on a deload week – for that same leg press you’ll do two sets of eight reps with 90 pounds.
The week after a deload, bring your reps, sets, and loads back up to what you were doing the week before.
Continue to use the progression plan I described in the video, How Heavy Should Beginner’s Lift
to add reps, sets, or weight safely until your next the load week comes up.
The second or third week after the deload, you might notice that you’re stronger.
A deload week is also a great time to do a little more foam rolling, stretching, and easy to moderate cardio.
Avoid high intensity cardio during this time. If you’re using it, HIIT cardio takes a similar toll on the body as lifting, so you’ll be working against your recovery if you keep it in during a deload.
Schedule a deload every 4 to 6 weeks.
To make sure you’re using the right lifting program, check out this video now.
Know you need to change, but aren't sure where to start? I created this free training to answer the most common questions women have asked me over the years.
- What to eat?
- Why lift?
- How to stick with it?
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Hi! I'm Tammy! I was a busy, stressed, and unhealthy teacher until I decided to take control of my health. I did not become an athlete until I was in my 50's!
I earned personal training and fitness nutrition certifications, then retired from teaching to dedicate my work life to fitness education for other busy women over 40.
My results are obviously not typical because most people don't train to compete as a bodybuilder.
But I believe everyone can make positive changes with healthy habits! Each of us has a unique combination of strengths and challenges that need to be considered to customize a program that will work for us. Science-based principles, flexibility, and consistency make all the difference.