If you have not spent much time thinking about recovery you need to start thinking about how this impacts your performance and training gains. Whether you are an athlete or not this is of great importance if you value your time. I discussed earlier the idea of overload and adaptation and the need to obtain greater and greater overloads with appropriate rest to illicit a positive training response. This is the idea of supercompensation. If the body has adequate time for recovery from overloads it will adapt and become stronger. (Bompa, T. Periodization: Theory and Methodology of Training. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics (2001))

Much of the adaptation takes place when you are not exercising and recovering from the stress that exercise puts on the body. This stress is not just physical, but psychological. Many athletes today have very busy lives outside of their sport and do not take into account the toll that mental stress has on the performance and recovery of the body. Make sure you keep this in mind when looking at your own recovery strategy. There are a number of areas of recovery that must be thought about. When people think of recovery the first thing that usually comes to mind is the time between training sessions. Next people think about the rest between particular sets of exercises. For example someone does 10 squats and then rests before performing more repetitions of the same exercise. The area that many people spend no time thinking about is the time between repetitions within a set. At Sirens and Titans we have spent a lot of time focusing on this recovery period to maximize our training overloads. This is what much of the book I am writing on Maximum Overload is all about.

All of these are areas of recovery need to be addressed to allow the maximum overloads and the quickest adaptations from the overloads. The area that must also be considered is the competition stress and recovery. In many cases the physical stress may not exceed what is experienced in training, but the mental stress of game time environments must be taken into account when recovery time is being considered. The objective behind the tactics and strategy of recovery are to allow the individual to adapt and improve from training and competition.

Below is a table that outlines some of the different methods of recovery between workouts and what are some of the pros and cons. At Sirens and Titans we have had great success with active recovery for our athletes. Active recovery also helps the athlete relaxing from mental stress as well as physical. The idea of just going easy is great for an athlete when training and competition become intense. It is a great relief when a coach tells an athlete to go easy.

Recovery pros and cons

Strategy , Pros,  Cons

  • Passive rest, Requires minimal effort, Not effective for quick Recovery

  • Compression garments; Requires minimal effort, good for travel; Expensive, requires correct fitting, inconclusive data

  • Contrast water therapy; Works well, quick ; Requires facilities, difficult for large squads

  • Active recovery; Free, easy to do, effective; Bad weather and team talks can distract or delay

  • Cold water immersion; Passive, effective; Can shock the player and actually be stressful, requires facilities


*Table from Peak Performance Newsletter, June 2010

The strategy of rest between sets and rest between reps is something that needs to be addressed. This is a subject that I will have to address at length in another entry because it is an important component in getting the greatest value from every workout. Utilizing the appropriate time between these efforts allows the athlete to maximize the training overload within individual workouts.

I will go into more detail on this subject in a future post, but if you are reaching plateaus in your training start adjusting and experimenting with the rest between exercises and repetitions. Small changes here can result in big gains in your performance. I have found that most of the time there is inadequate rest in these areas, especially as athletes become fit.


Jacques DeVore, CSCS