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Use These Recovery Methods To Boost Your Performance!
Football is an intense game that stresses the body. Players need to have exceptional strength and endurance to withstand the forces experienced on the pitch whilst being able maintain high intensity effort. For a player to be a successful football athlete, how they recover from these intense games and training sessions is imperative. There are many popular post-activity exercises in use today that are thought to help speed up recovery.
There are two broad categories covering recovery activities: active recovery and passive recovery.
Active Recovery Activities
Active recovery activities are thought to enhance recovery in players between games or training sessions. There are several activities that are widely used by football players that fall under active recovery. Some of the most popular methods are stretching (I always recommend yoga), muscle relaxation techniques (shake downs) and low intensity/ impact activity such as swimming or cycling.
Activities such as yoga which cover a range of stretches and holds enhance mobility and help to prevent future injury whilst aiding in recovery. “Shake downs” are a popular method of muscle relaxation and are performed with a partner, with players shaking each other’s limbs to promote muscle relaxation. It is widely thought that this activity boosts regenerating muscle and diminishes fatigue. These exercises more likely have a neurological, rather than physical benefit, but nevertheless, seem to help players recover.
Completing a low intensity post-match cool down will help to decrease lactic acid levels in the bloodstream faster, and are believed to lessen the effects of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). Furthermore, cool downs aid in the regulation of one’s core temperature at a steadier pace rather than the sudden drop seen in players who skip these cool down activities, consequently leading to higher levels of post activity muscle pain.
Passive Recovery Methods
Passive recovery involves activities which don’t require much physical exertion. Cold/hot water immersion, massage, whole body vibration, and electrical stimulation are all ways to aid recovery.
Cold water immersion is one of the most commonly used recovery methods in football and has been shown to limit the buildup of lactic acid in the muscles by constricting flow in the blood vessels. Players are immersed in water that is colder than 15 degrees for a period of between 10-20 minutes, although many players rarely last this long.
For uninjured players (will increase swelling) hot water immersion is an alternative method which works in the opposite way. Blood vessels are dilated which increases the flow into and out of the muscles, helping to flush lactic acid through – players are more likely to sit in hot water for a longer period – although if the same time is completed then cold water immersion has been shown to be more effective.
The use of whole-body vibration is increasing among players. Thought to be similar to massage, and providing the same benefits as massage, whole-body vibration has been suggested to improve blood flow and reduce muscle stiffness and soreness.
Neuromuscular stimulation has long been used be medical professionals to promote healing and pain relief in their patients. This electrical stimulation is now being used to help players in their recovery process. It is suggested that electrical stimulation using low-frequency electric impulses can help increase blood flow, reduce lactic acid, and increase the rate of tissue repair.
Players should experiment with the above recovery methods to discover which one’s work best for them – but certainly consistently implementing post training/match cool downs as well as active recovery days will ensure players are feeling fresher post-match, are ready to go again sooner and will able to perform to a higher level throughout the season.