Improve your Workout Recovery - List of Effective Slump-Busters

Workout Recovery

Progress in the Gym requires Optimal Rest and Recovery at Home

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You've probably been there before, or maybe you're there flow: You just aren't into your training. The weights feel heavy you don't get a pump the way you used to, you can't seem to focus on your workout and do more talking than training. You might even start asking yourself why the heck you keep pumping iron. These symptoms could mean you're in a slump, signaling an imbalance in either your training, daily life or both.

A performance slump can be particularly frustrating; this seemingly unexplainable drop in performance-related variables lasts for an extended period. In nearly every case, though, a source can be found. Slumps are often traced to a lack of recovery from stressful situations, and improving your recovery mechanisms could be the difference between muscle hugedom and training burnout.

Before we introduce the primary recovery mechanisms, let's discuss a couple of key concepts. First, recovery need not be a passive event. It can be an active process requiring mental, physical and emotional involvement. Second, sitting still isn't recovery; sit long enough and it becomes a form of stress. Movement, then, provides relief. The point to remember is that in most cases, you can have too much of a good thing, including bodybuilding. If you work at it too hard and for too long, you'll be in dire need of recovery. That's what usually leads to performance slumps.

In his book, Stress for Success, sport psychologist Jim Loehr, edD, outlines several mechanisms of recovery that we believe can help you avoid bodybuilding slumps.

Rest: Active & Passive

When we say rest, we don't mean lying on the couch watching television. Even too much of that can end up being a source of negative stress.

Active rest refers to recovery methods that involve movement. For example, walking, fishing, stretching (you can never get enough of this), yoga, golf and more are all types of active rest that can help you recharge your batteries. If you simply can't stay out of the gym, at least incorporate a significant period of low-key training. You'll be amazed how you'll grow once you resume more intense training habits.

Examples of passive rest include prayer, meditation, napping, sitting in a park, talking quietly reading and listening to music. Passive rest is particularly useful right after an intense workout or if you're frustrated for some reason.


Understanding how food and liquids affect your body and serve as recovery mechanisms is critical to pursuing your passion for bodybuilding. Many experts in sport and exercise science believe nutrition is the single most important factor in successful training.

In his most recent book, The Anti-Diet Book, Jack Groppel, PhD, also offers some suggestions that we believe apply to bodybuilding:

» Eat your meals at consistent times throughout the day. Create rituals that protect these times. This is especially important in terms of supplementation.

» Eat light and often. Consuming small meals every 2-3 hours raises your metabolic rate and stabilizes blood sugar and energy levels.

» Unless you have a specific training purpose for skipping it, always eat breakfast, even a light one. Your body needs fuel after having no food for eight hours or more.

» Keep a nutrition log to ensure that you're getting enough of the foods and liquids you need.

» Drink water, water and more water. Most athletes don't drink enough to stay hydrated.


The dedication necessary to excel at bodybuilding is substantial, and it requires tremendous focus and intensity. When you're in a slump, you're often frustrated and negative about your drop in performance. A good laugh, though, is a powerful biochemical event. Physiological changes associated with positive emotions occur that directly oppose the chemicals that accompany negativity and frustration.

Look for opportunities to laugh throughout the day. Listening to a humorous cassette or watching a videotape for just five minutes can sometimes do the trick, helping to trigger the biochemical response associated with fun. Resist negative humor, however; laughing at another's expense reflects your own insecurity or insensitivity.


Because it's often written specifically to cause an emotional reaction, music is a fantastic form of recovery. If you want to feel a certain way before a workout or performance, listen to your favorite songs that create those feelings. Music can lighten a frustrating workout or help you focus when your mind is racing. The key is to have the right type of music available at the right time.

We often create Ideal Performance State (IPS) tapes for our clients to use in performance situations, combining music that stimulates positive energy, excitement and the feeling of challenge with music that summons feelings of confidence, calmness and peace. This forms a cycle or wave of stress and recovery that mirrors everyday life and is necessary for effective recovery.

Music from motion-picture soundtracks, designed to elicit emotion on cue, can be ideal for this purpose. Try making a relaxation or "chill-out" tape in addition to an IPS tape. They can be powerful weapons in your fight against performance slumps.


A good night's rest is by far the most natural and essential recovery activity. In his book, Sleep Thieves, psychologist Stanley Coreo, PhD, likens depriving yourself of sleep to depriving yourself of food. In fact, a sleep debt of as little as three hours has been shown to significantly reduce physical strength in weightlifters. Sound familiar?

Any athlete should get a consistent amount of sleep each night with as few interruptions as possible. How much sleep you need is highly individual and depends on a variety of factors such as age, activity level and current life circumstances. Pay attention to the days when you feel the best. Determine how long and under what conditions you slept, then try to recreate those variables.

We also recommend that you develop specific rituals to prepare yourself to sleep, particularly during stressful times. Keep your bedroom cool, well-ventilated and as dark as possible. Avoid working out right before bedtime; the chemicals produced in the brain during exercise cause feelings of arousal.

As you can see, quality recovery doesn't happen automatically it takes planning and effort. Remember, recovery in your training and everyday life is just as important as the stress in your workouts and at your job. In fact, the better you become at recovery, the more easily you'll he able to withstand daily challenges, including performance slumps. So get serious and have some fun!

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