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Top Six Recovery Methods for Athletes

By Joe Hashey


I’ll start off by putting it simply—you must train hard and recover hard! I work with a variety of athletes at Synergy Athletics. Keep in mind—these are mostly high school and college age athletes who are often at the mercy of their school schedules. Here are some healthy ways to recover your body and restore your muscles!

·        Food: It’s simple. When you’re done working out, you have to eat a protein source to build muscles. Muscles are made of proteins, and without consuming any protein quickly (in the first 45 minutes after a workout—the earlier the better), muscles won’t grow. It’s like trying to build a log cabin without wood. It just doesn’t make any sense.

On top of that, eating quality meals with a protein source, carbohydrate, and additional vegetable will help your body feel better after training. Ever eat fast food after a hard lifting session? Your muscles will be feeling it the next day. I’ve done it with pizza. Not pleasant. You’ve already done the hard work in the gym, so don’t sabotage yourself in the kitchen!

Healthy meals go a long way toward recovery.

This includes foam rolling, which I have posted about extensively, using a lax ball, Theracane, the Stick, or any other massage tool. When a muscle stretches near the point of injury, the Golgi tendon organ (GTO) tells the muscle spindles to relax. Foam rolling stimulates the muscle and works the GTO so the athlete can work in a more complete range of motion without the muscles shutting down. Also, ART techniques are helpful in fixing soft tissue adhesion and dissipating scar tissue build up. Foam rollers cost around $10–20, and a lax ball is around $1. 

Lacrosse ball, glute ART

·        Contrast showers and baths: For the first few times that you use contrast showers, it may be uncomfortable but still invigorating! I recall when John Frieser, a new trainer here at Synergy Athletics, was getting ready for the NFL combines. He had his full day scheduled including his time in the shower! There are different time sequences used, but I prefer one minute as cold as I can stand followed by two minutes as warm as possible. Also, you can isolate the contrasting to a body part such as the hands by using two buckets—one with hot water and one with icy cold water. Perform contrasting and you will feel great! Contrasting relaxes and excites the muscles, moves blood through, and shortens the restoration time.

Contrasting cuts recovery time

·        Warm up, stretch, and relax: Stretching has been a hot topic in the training world lately. Stretching post-workout and on rest days will help recovery. First, during a workout, muscles contract and shorten. Stretching them after the workout insures the muscles range of motion and length. Pre-workout you should be using (with a couple exceptions) a dynamic stretching routine. For recovery, I recommend increasing the body’s core temperature with some light exercises such as jogging or jumping jacks and then perform a static stretching routine.  

Stretching it out

·        Hydrate: Drinking water is crucial, but I don’t use strict guidelines such as “drink 8 oz every 13 1/6 minutes.” I just tell the athletes to drink. They bring water with them when they train, and they keep a bottle of water with them during the day. There are many recovery drinks out there, but to keep my demographic in mind, water is the most practical. Drinking on your rest days will help push toxins out and keep the muscles loose.

Always stay hydrated!

·        Relax (sleep): It’s not rocket science here! Recovery requires relaxing. I have some clients that want to stay up on their video games or Facebooking until 1:00 am, wake up at 6:30 am to go to school, and then come workout. That’s not how it works! You must relax and get your sleep. At their age, they should be getting around eight hours of sleep a night. More rest may be required after a strenuous competition or training. Nowadays, you can’t pay me to stay up after 11:00 pm. I wish I loved sleeping when I was younger as much as I do now!

This model of health and fitness knows the importance of sleep. Shouldn’t you?!

I apologize for the above picture, but because I had to look at it, I figure everyone should! Now to summarize, if you implement these recovery and restoration methods, you will feel better and more importantly you can train harder. Isn’t that the point? At Synergy Athletics, we like to “train hard and recover hard.” All of these methods take a little effort and a small portion of time. Athletes that don’t recover are cheating themselves in the gym!

Joe Hashey is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the NSCA and the owner of Synergy Athletics. After playing Division 1AA football at Colgate University, he dedicated his time and experience to helping the next generation of athletes. For more articles or to contact Joe, visit Videos of his training techniques can also be found at

Photo credits: Sleep photo via Malias on Flickr; shower photo via Genius Beauty; water photo via Earth News; and stretching photo via Corbis.

Elite Fitness Systems strives to be a recognized leader in the strength training industry by providing the highest quality strength training products and services while providing the highest level of customer service in the industry. For the best training equipment, information, and accessories, visit us at

Some thoughts on Squatting by Rickey Dale Crain :
weakness is not the problem...form is.....
Form, style and technique are everything. Only in the world of powerlifting, when one is asked how to improve one's lifts, are we encouraged to try this new routine, or asked, "What is your routine?” If I was a baseball player, I might ask what technique do you use to swing the bat, increase bat speed or shorten the distance the bat travels? I would not ask what routine you use to become a better hitter. If I was a football player, I might ask what technique should I use to throw the ball more accurate or faster/harder? Surely I would not ask what routine would I use to accomplish it.

If I was a shot-putter, I would surely ask what form and style do you use to throw the shot 50-60 foot or more, not what routine did you use to accomplish the feat. So why in powerlifting is the first thing asked and the first thing offered is a routine? We don’t ask how do we accomplish the lift the best way possible. The strongest do not always win. Instead, the best prepared and the ones who perform the lifts flawlessly are the ones who win. It is a goal orientated and a performance orientated sport like all others, so form, style and technique should be the first thing on the athlete’s mind, as well as the first thing on his agenda when trying to improve his lifts, i.e. his max single.

I believe the reason we do not focus on form is that we have been influenced by our brother sport, bodybuilding, and its results orientated status. It has a big influence because of its popularity in magazines and books aimed at bodybuilders. It is, however, a different sport and has different goals and needs. We should not confuse the two, and allow it to get in the way of our goal as a powerlifter. Our goal is to become not only stronger, but in how to display that strength in the most productive way, i.e. a big single max lift.

As we look into this phenomenon, let us describe what we are trying to accomplish. To describe this phenomenon, we need to understand some very simple terminology. Therefore, we shall agree on the following definitions:

Form: The shape or appearance of a thing that makes it identifiable, and/or the nature, structure, or essence of a thing, considered apart from its content, color, texture, or composition. It is visible, distinct, or discernible.

Style: A way of doing something; especially a way regarded as expressing a particular attitude or typifying a particular period (i.e. old style/school). A self-confident willingness in exhibiting skill or quality.

Technique: The procedure, skill, or art used in a particular task. The way in which the basics of something are done. Skill or expertise in handling the technique of something. Special ability or knack.

All three are separate and distinct, but all come into play and overlap in any sport when trying to achieve that maximum result.

There are many areas of each lift: the squat, the bench press and the deadlift, that are effected by form, style and techniques.

Feet: in, out, straight, flat, raised
Hips: going back, staying where they are, raised
Hands: in, out, open, closed, palmed, on the bar, on the plates, on the collar, tilted in, out, straight
Head: up, down, straight
Arms: down, up, tilted in, out
Breathing: how much you breathe, when you breathe

These all affect each other and in turn make up your form, style and technique, in conjunction with your body type and style and the length of your limbs, etc. These are just some of what is needed to be looked at to insure the best outcome of the lift.

Your stroke (distance traveled) on the lifts, you can alter the distance traveled dramatically on the bench press and deadlift, but not so dramatically on the squat as to effect the increased or decreased leverage. So, as we begin to look at these always keep in mind: form, style and technique is everything.

The squat and bench press seems to be more brute strength, but to excel at the deadlift, I always had to learn to finesse it up.

I know for a fact that when lifting, through all the hundreds of state, regional, national, and world records I broke I was not the strongest on the platform. Instead, I was the smartest, the best prepared, and had the best form, style and technique.

Powerlifting became an official sport in 1963, thanks to Bob Hoffman and York barbell. The three powerlifts: the squat, the bench press, the deadlift are a true measure of strength and power. All are used, with success to train for almost all other sports in the world. When that contest time rolls around, however, the one who is the strongest does not always necessarily win. Rather, it is the one who displays the best combination of strength and power and is able to produce the big numbers coupled with form, style and technique. As in any sport these components are important and will usually be the difference in winning and losing. Better form not only yields more weight lifted, but also lessens the chance of injury and down time in training. Staying free of injury is as important as anything else, as longevity in this sport is determined by your health. The longer into your training career you go, the higher the numbers will be.>

Let us look at each individual lift and break down all the parts that will affect what weight is lifted successfully, and how to perform them to your best advantage.>

The Squat, the King of all lifts:

Everybody's body structure can and does dictate different form and style, but some things are the same or very similar (or should be to be successful) for the vast majority of lifters. Let us take a look at these:

-Hand placement on the bar and bar placement on the back
-Arms and elbows
-Walk out and set up
-Feet placement and hips
-Head placement and eyes
-Breathing and flexing of certain muscles
-Thinking and concentrating through the lift from beginning to end

Before you approach the bar, all your equipment should be fitted and fitting properly. All your psyching up and mental preparation should be pretty much done. It is time to perform.>

Hand placement on the bar and bar placement on the back:

A person’s structure, limb lengths and size have a lot to do with hand placement on the bar. The main rule of thumb is the closer the better. It will keep the bar tighter on your back, and no chance for the bar to roll. The lighter lifter usually has no problem with this, but the bigger and heavier lifter, usually through inflexibility, wants put his hands out wide. Thus, he decreases his leverage by the fact the bar will have to be placed higher on the neck to keep it from falling. "I will say this once, and I am sure I will take some hits on it, but it is the absolute truth. The vast majority of bigger/heavier lifters have very poor form, for many reasons, but inflexibility and the refusal to practice good form is the main reason. They pretty much try to rely on their size to muscle up a lot of weight. That is one reason why the smaller lifter is so much superior pound for pound at all the lifts."

The weight should be supported by not only the back of the deltoids where the bar sits, but some should be supported by the arms, forearms, elbows, wrists, hands. This dictates as narrow a hand placement as possible. Smaller frame people will have narrower grips than bigger frame people, i.e. my grip is considerably narrower than Bill Kazmaier's.

Grip the bar tight. The tighter the grip, the less pressure will be on the wrists and elbows and shoulders, and the bar will have less of a chance or almost no chance of moving or rolling.

Arms and elbows:

If your elbows, wrists or shoulders hurt, try tilting your elbows up as you get under the bar, and/or rotate your hands a bit inward. If you still have a lot of problems, you may need to move the grip out a bit, but work on flexibility constantly so as to keep them in as close as possible. The wider the grip the more the hands will probably tilt inward. I disagree with false grips. They are dangerous because you do not have the bar under full control, and it makes you place the bar higher on the neck, hurting your leverage. Also, some federations allow holding the collars. This practice is very dangerous and really cuts down the leverage.

The key is to not only feel tight but also be tight and have everything under control. The lower the bar, the better your leverage is and the more the hips will be utilized. And the hips are where the power comes from. You should not squat totally upright utilizing the legs only.

Only a few people are so big they cannot grip the bar fully and squeeze into a position inside the collars. Many big guys could work on flexibility and be able to achieve this.

Walk out and set up:

Walk under the bar, elbows high, squeezing the bar tight and pull yourself under the bar. With the bar about 1-2 inches or so below the deltoid or shoulder, there is a groove for every person that will be evident and sit comfortably. You may have to experiment to find it or it may come naturally. If you are having trouble finding it, ask an experienced lifter. After the bar is sitting tight on your back, set your feet side by side but with one foot just ahead of the other, i.e. heel to toe. Make sure your back is chalked up good to help keep the bar from slipping down your back.

Take a very deep breath, squeeze your hands, shoulders, abs, (i.e. everything) and swing the hips forward. Push up and come back out of the rack. The momentum of the bar and plates, while under control will help you to come out of the rack much easier. Walk out with a minimum of steps, 2-3 at the most. Practice your walk out with an empty bar and while warming up. Practice does make perfect, and learn to do it right every time.

Feet placement and hips:

After walking out and setting up, make sure your feet are the proper distance apart. What is that you might ask? Hopefully you have some idea what is comfortable, and best suited to your body structure, age and strengths. In case you have not a clue as to what planet we are now on, here a few helpful suggestions:

-Shorter people usually are narrower
-Taller people further apart
-Short back and long legged people (i.e. Lamar Gant) can use either form of foot placement

Look at this chart to summarize stances:

Short Back Medium Back Long Backs
Short Legs: Med/Wide Medium/Wide Short/Medium
Medium Legs: Med/Wide Med/Wide Short/Medium
Long Legs: Narrow/Med/Wide Medium Short/Medium

This is fairly accurate and there are reasons for the above. It would take a few pages and 20 minutes to put it down on paper to give it a fair discussion. If you really want to know call or e-mail and we will talk.

Hip, leg, and back strength also dictate to a point where your stance might be at the present...but not where it should be. See the chart below to help with this area:

Strength comes from: Hips Legs Back
Stance: Wide Wide/Med Med/Narrow

Head placement and eyes:

After walking out and setting up, look out (not up too far), but never down! Now your head can be in 1 of 4 places:

1. Looking way up - for people with wider stances, and the bar higher on their back (and checking out for aliens and space ships in the sky).
2. Looking out - for the average lifter, and the most correct way.
3. Looking down - for the closer stance squatter with the bar really low on the back (and also allows you to check to see if you tied your shoes).
4. Looking at the mat, with a flat face, showing you screwed up and haven't listened to anything I've said to you.

Breathing and flexing of certain muscles:

You should still be holding that deep breath from the set up and walk out. Make sure as you get ready to descend (that means go down for some of you), you are flexing everything: abs, face, hands, neck, and all upper body parts. As you go down, push your knees out, hard. As you cock your hips and shoot them back (as if sitting on a chair), get your chest out, shoulders back, and have a small arch in the back. At the bottom, your shins should be vertical or almost vertical and never past your feet. Michael Bridges made this popular by giving it a name: The Bridges Flair. It has been part of my form, however, for 30 plus years.

As you approach the bottom of the lift, where the imaginary line from the top of the knee to your hip joint breaks parallel, you pull yourself through the point with a slight bounce. Then drive upward with your upper body, hands, arms, legs, hips, back, or otherwise with everything you own. Sometimes the imaginary line is more imaginary at times than others depending on how much you paid the referee or whether you are dating his sister or daughter.

As you stand up (or get scraped up, whatever the case may be) and as you complete the lift, go ahead and walk forward and rack the bar. Hopefully the spotter/loaders are not taking a lunch break and will help you a bit, hopefully a lot. Stop, walk, rack, and breathe. Finally it is over.

Thinking and concentrating through the lift from beginning to end:

Remember: Squat slow and under control.
Form is everything.
Always squeeze the bar.
Always squeeze your abs (or ab, whatever the case may be).
Always squeeze everything.
Practice makes almost always perfect.

And remember, form and style is in essence more important than the workout itself. Age dictates style and form. The older you get, the more your form will need to be altered or adjusted. Sex (male or female, not the action) will dictate form changes. Experience in lifting, etc. will also be a factor.


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