Will Training the Upper Body A Day After Legs Reduce Muscle Recovery?

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Muscle soreness is a part of everyday life of most lifters.  Many lifters when extremely sore after a grueling workout will take the day off or do recovery techniques.  Some specific recovery strategies such as cold-water immersion, massage, nutrition and sleep are useful to accelerate performance recovery and to decrease muscle soreness. Hormones such as Insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), growth hormone and testosterone are known to stimulate satellite cell activation (i.e. dormant muscle cells activated in response to tissue damage) and protein synthesis. Everyone knows that after your train legs, you should rest your legs the next day, but what about training your upper body?  Will training your upper body after a grueling leg workout impede or accelerate your recovery.  This is exactly what researchers set out to discover. In a randomized crossover design, researchers had subjects perform muscle damaging leg exercise consisting of 5 sets of 15 eccentric contractions of the hamstrings.  In a randomized cross-over design, the subjects completed either:

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-An upper body workout comprised of 5 exercises for three sets to failure with 70% of 1RM or a control session (15 minutes of passive rest) 24 hours after an exercise-induced muscle damage session. The active recovery session corresponded to a strength training session made up of 5 upper limbs exercises in the following order: bench press, lat pulldown, seated cable rows, biceps curl, triceps pushdown.

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-During the passive recovery session, subjects were seated in a room for 15 minutes.

Immediately post and at 20, 24 and 48 hours after the muscle damage session, creatine kinase, single leg jump and perceived hamstring soreness was measured.

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At the end of the study, the researchers found that the upper-body workout performed the day following muscle damaging lower body exercise accelerated the recovery of the lower body. The researchers were quoted as saying, “It could be suggested that performing a strength session such as the one completed in the present study the day after an eccentric exercise maintains the muscles in an anabolic condition that accelerates the rate of muscle regeneration and consequently recovery kinetics. One of the hypotheses that may explain these results is that the secretion of hormones induced by the strength training session led to a regeneration process.”  The upper-body strength session, following muscle damaging exercise, accelerated the recovery of slow concentric force but did not affect the recovery kinetics for the other outcomes. Upper body strength training may be performed after an intense lower body exercise protocol.

Key points: After an intense lower body muscle damaging protocol, it’s “OK” to train the upper body the next day, as it may speed the recovery of the lower body.

Abaïdia, A. E., Delecroix, B., Leduc, C., Lamblin, J., McCall, A., Baquet, G., & Dupont, G. (2016). Effects of a strength training session after an exercise inducing muscle damage on recovery kinetics. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. In Press.

 

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