How to recover between sets of high intensity exercise

Why is recovery important?

In all types of training, the amount of time you leave yourself to recover between bouts of exercise and sets is extremely important and is often a controlled variable by the athlete or coach. When looking specifically at high intensity training such as sports specific training, strength and conditioning or your general fitness class types; it is essential that your body recovers effectively as it is pointless training in whilst your body is still fatigued as your performance could drop. However, if you are specifically training your body in a fatigue state or looking to increase your recovery rate, then it’s fine to cut your recovery time down. If you are trying to perform at your best then it’s essential that you recover effectively between sets.


Different ways to recover

Low heart rate recovery

There are many different ways to recover between high intensity sets, I will focus the on various heart rate recovery methods. This relates to how you move and what you do to get as much blood as you can to the muscles that needs it between sets. BLOOD CONTAIN OXYGEN & GLYCOGEN – THESE HELP TO RECOVERY MUSCLES. If you want your muscles to recover properly before the next bout of exercise, you should NOT sit down and no nothing; this is because doing this will not encourage blood into your muscles for repair, it will just allow the lactic acid that you have accumulated to stay in the muscle, this is not what you want as it could cause impairment in muscular contraction and movement.

High heart rate

Moving at a really high intensity to recover (HR 70% of Max +) is also NOT a good idea. The reason for this is that if you keep your heart rate to high then it is putting too much of a demand on the body, so instead of replenishing the muscles and buffering lactic acid, the body is focused on using the energy to keep you moving. This will stop the body from being able to perform effectively and quickly, this can also be linked to not resting enough between sets.

Moderate heart rate recovery

The best way to recover between sets is to keep a moderate heart rate, the ideal range is around 50-60% (110-130 bpm) of maximum heart rate. You can do this by going for a light walk, jog or cycle. An even better way of doing this is performing light exercises with the muscles which are fatigued the most. For example if you quads (front legs muscles) are fatigued then you could perform some body weight squats at a low intensity; this will direct the blood flow of fresh rich oxygenated blood to the muscles which needs it, but won’t allow the heart rate to go too high that it exerts the body further.


Lets rap this up!

In conclusion recovery between sets is essential in performance. Don’t just sit there and do nothing, but also don’t exert yourself. The best thing to do is to find a nice steady low/moderate intensity exercise to do which ideally targets the fatigued muscles so that the lactic acid contained in the blood in these muscles can be buffered out by glycogen and oxygen that is contained in the fresh blood. This is why when your coach says to you ‘don’t lay down, keep moving’ after a bout of work, listen to them!

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