Practical recovery methods for sport and exercise

Our resident Ambassador and powerlifting supremo Michael Ferguson gives us the theory behind the perfect recovery.

Whether you’re a casual gym-goer or you aspire to get to a high level within your chosen sport, recovering from the relentless self-inflicted beatings of training sessions and competitions should rank highly in your list of priorities. In this article I hope to discuss quite simply how to better your recovery and in turn, your potential for progress and greater performance. If you can dedicate time to get better in the gym, dedicate some time to get better outwith it too (where it matters most) and you’ll have little to lose.

Utilisation of Recovery Methods =

Better Recovery  –  Better Adaptation/ Supercompensation  – More Intense/More Frequent Training  – Better Success/Progress in Endeavour

It may always not follow this idealistic model. But for me, recovery methods definitely save prolonged immobility after heavy training. For you, it might ensure you are mentally ready and composed for your next work out, as you will know you have ensured the adaptation your body needs to get better (see figure 1 below).


Recovery & Methods

Perhaps recovery is best explained in reference to Figure 1 (below).

Supercompensation and Adaptation Theory
Figure 1: ‘Supercompensation and Adaptation Theory’ (Peak Performance)

Within Figure 1 (above), the theory of adaptation from stimuli is illustrated. Key points to note are points A, B and C. Point A, where the new stimulus is applied too early could arguably indicate a drop in performance caused by over-reaching or the increased likelihood of overtraining if applied continuously. Point B denotes stimulus applied on time, which in my opinion is more flexible than one may think – not just one optimum hour or day, for example. Finally, Point C indicates that a new stimulus is applied too late and could also indicate a drop in performance or slight stagnation (perhaps indicating under-reaching or undertraining in a wider context) (Siff 2009).

Fortunately, recovery methods can help with finding this sweet spot of being able to apply stimulus on time and effectively. Specific methods I have personally used to enhance recovery, outwith actual ‘survival staples’ of eating, sleeping (& resting), are:

·         Self-myofascial release (foam rolling, hockey/golf ball rolling, self massage with tiger balm/deep heat or equivalent)

·         NSAID’s (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) such as Ibuprofen etc.

·         Contrast showers

·         Epsom salt/Ice baths

·         Ice cups/heat packs

·         Physio assistance if I cannot seem to deal with any issues myself.

In addition to the above, to enhance my nutritional intake and further aid recovery, I currently take the ‘Powerlifting Stack’ from Deluxe – DN 100% Protein, DN Mass Gainer, DN Joint Extreme, DN BCAA Powder and DN Creatine Ethyl Ester.

The above should give you an understanding of the different recovery methods that are straightforward to utilise at any level of training or in any sport. The methods themselves don’t have to be flashy or complicated; they simply should just be applied consistently and when required.

The Recovery Pyramid
Figure2: ‘The Recovery Pyramid’ (Lee 2009)


Figure 2 (above) illustrates a largely more thorough view of recovery in tiers of importance – Level 1 at the base being the most significant leading up to Level 4 at the top. I recommend looking up any of the techniques that you might be unsure of. Some recovery strategies are also more suited depending on the type of fatigue you may have, whether it be:

  • Metabolic
  • Tissue damage
  • Neurological (Peripheral Nervous System)
  • Environmental
  • Psychological (Central Nervous System and Emotional Fatigue)

So, if it’s evident which type of fatigue you may have (there are methods for figuring this out if not clear) then the suitable techniques should be applied. Regardless, you should use a mix of recovery strategies whenever you can find the time. It should be noted that in this article I am simply discussing recovery from training and competition, not from injuries or niggles. Although some of the aforementioned techniques will help to promote recovery from more serious issues, please seek further assistance for these.


One should be aware that the efficacy of some recovery techniques is ambiguous. It is argued that certain recovery methods mess with the bodies natural recovery mechanisms offering short term benefits at the expense of long term adaptation (Sullivan 2012). It is often also disputed that many recovery methods simply cause a ‘placebo effect’, nothing more. However, even if a large percentage of certain techniques are ‘mental’ (that it makes you feel better), who cares?! After all, the mental aspect is half the battle and often the body will follow the head. If it’s reiterated in the mind that the body needs to recover, it will if all the variables are in place. Importantly, the basis of evidence in favour of the utilisation of recovery methods greatly outweighs the evidence against (Siff 2009, Yessis 2008 & others). Moreover, in my experience this holds true too.

Finally, a good rule is to focus hard on the basics (level 1 – see above) and if you find recovery is not sufficient with these, dabble with the more modern/advanced recovery methods (level 2 and above – see above) or intensify the basics. With this, you will ensure most of your bases are covered. As usual in the fitness industry, it is all too easy to get caught up in flashy contemporary methods so stick with the tried and tested methods, if in doubt!

Michael Ferguson – Deluxe Sponsored Powerlifter



-Lee, S. 2009. “The Recovery Pyramid”. Moji.

-Peak Performance. “Supercompensation Theory”

-Siff, M. 2009.“Supertraining – 6th Edition – Expanded Version”. Verkhoshanksy.

-Sullivan, J. 2012. “Stop the spread of misinflammation”. Starting Strength.

-Yessis, M. 2008. “Russian Sports Restoration and Massage”. Ultimate Athlete Concepts.

Share article

Blog Categories