Active Recovery Workout Ideas

Have you ever been so sore that it hurts to walk? Or sit down? Or stand up? Or cough? (For me, the answer to all of the above is yes, especially when I’ve recently done these leg hypertrophy workouts.)

 

As a serious lifter who works out a lot, this may be a typical midweek feeling for you. Lucky for you, we are going to uncover what exactly active recovery is, the differences between active recovery vs rest days, and share three active recovery workouts to keep you moving towards your goals.

 

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andre crews active recovery 150 bar crossfit.png

*Here’s a great friend of mine, Andre Crews, crushing some steady state cardio. Look at that smile!

What is Active Recovery?

An active recovery workout is a workout that has a planned reduction in intensity (level of difficulty) and periods of less volume than usual, often between 30 and 50 percent less. The purpose of this workout is to increase blood flow and help to restore proper movement patterns and muscle function (often hindered from muscle soreness, stiffness, etc.) It is important to note that the active recovery training workout should NOT increase a lifter’s fatigue, so the perceived effort and overall demands should be kept low.

 

[Build total body strength, athletic power, and lean muscle mass with my 9-Week Strength + Hypertrophy Cycle.]

 

Active Recovery vs. Rest Day

The first thing you must learn, which is often difficult for ambitious lifters, is that an active recovery day is not the same as a rest day. An active recovery workout is one that is a planned session with the purpose of movement and recovery, without adding additional fatigue.

 

A rest day involves no planned workout session, however can include light stretching and/or physical activity in daily life, such as a light walk or time outdoors (with the exception of a tough, strenuous hike, which then may count as an active recovery workout or perhaps even a full-blown workout).

 

3 Active Recovery Training Workouts

Below are three (3) active recovery training workouts you can do to help increase blood flow, instill range of movement of muscles, tissues, and joints, and set yourself up for a solid week of hard workouts. I find it best to do at least one active recovery workout per week, assuming you train at least 4 days per week. I also recommend that you take at least one rest day per week regardless of fitness level or goal.

 

Steady State Cardio and Flexibility Session (45-60 minutes)

The goal of this session is to increase blood flow and help restore movement for the week ahead. I recommend you perform a light, cardiovascular exercise where the heart rate can be sustained at between 50 and 70 percent of your resting heart rate max. Note, that the exercise (incline walking, jogging, swimming, biking, rowing, etc.) should be one that is low impact and something you do on a regular basis. For example, if you are not a swimmer, yet decide to swim for active recovery purposes, you will actually add high amounts of fatigue to the triceps, back, and legs due to the new stimulus on your body.

 

  • Foam Roll: 5-10 minutes

  • Light, Dynamic Warm-up: 5 minutes

  • Light, Cardiovascular Exercise (Steady State): 20-30 minutes at a slow, comfortable pace (50-70% heart rate max)

  • Static Stretching: 10-15 minutes

 

Mike’s Muscle + Movement Flow Session (30-40 minutes)

This video (see below) is a great way to incorporate stretching, mobility training, and some functional movement into an active recovery day (or post workout session). This is my rendition of yoga/pilates/stretching, and can be done after workouts or at home, with teammates or by yourself. If you are to do this after a workout session, just go into the movement video workout. If not however, follow the instructions below.

  • Foam Roll: 5-10 minutes

  • Light, Dynamic Warm-up: 10-15 minutes

  • Mike’s Muscle + Movement Flow: 15 minutes

 

“Active Recovery Workout of the Week” (30 minutes)

Every week, I build active recovery workouts into my own personal workout program (typically on Wednesdays or Thursdays). I find they help me build in the necessary recovery work yet still give me the good vibes that only physical exercise can offer. Below is one sample workout of mine; be sure to follow me on Instagram @mikejdewar for weekly active recovery workout ideas!

 

A post shared by Mike Dewar (@mikejdewar) on

  • Foam Roll: 5-10 minutes
  • Light, Dynamic Warm-up: 5 minutes

  • Incline Walk/Slow Jog: 2:30 minutes on, 0:30 minutes off, for 5 minutes

  • Rest: 1 minute

  • Skierg: 2:30 minutes on, 0:30 minutes off, for 5 minutes

  • Rest 1 minute

  • Row: 2:30 minutes on, 0:30 minutes off, for 5 minutes

  • Rest: 1 minute

  • Sled/Treadmill Push: 2:30 minutes on, 0:30 minutes off, for 5 minutes

 

*If you lack the variety of cardiovascular equipment, make due with what you have and do 8 total sets of 2:30 minutes on, followed by 30 seconds of rest, for a grand total of 20 minutes.

One Last Thing...

Being proactive about your recovery is step one in how to recover better. Utilizing some of the active recovery workouts offered above can really increase your fitness and decrease aches and pains. Be sure to comment below with questions or suggestions for any other aspects of recovery you want to learn more about. I will get back to you (or maybe even write an article about your question)!

 

PS, if you liked this article, AND want to politely let your friend know they recovery poorly, send this their way by sharing on Facebook, Reddit, Twitter or Instagram :)