PhotoAn athlete’s performance on the field is only as good as the work they put in off the field. Exercise and training regimens are essential in order to achieve peak performance, but that’s not all there is to it; how an athlete rests and regenerates is equally important.

With this in mind, researchers from Ruhr-Universitaet-Bochum in Germany set out to see which effective regeneration strategies work the best for athletes undergoing strenuous training and competition. Participating athletes included weightlifters, the German national volleyball team, and a variety of Olympic-caliber competitors.

The findings of the study indicate that the majority athletes, especially those who compete in different sports, require recovery strategies that cater to their specific needs.

No universal strategy

Participants were asked to undergo a variety of different tests that measured their performance and regenerative capacities. These tests usually involved sessions of intensive training followed by a recovery phase in which researchers tested different regenerative strategies.

Additionally, researchers administered blood tests after training to measure levels of certain enzymes in the body. One enzyme in particular, called creatine kinase, indicates the possibility of delayed muscle soreness – a common ailment in athletes that takes several days to heal.

The recovery strategies that were tested included ice baths, massage therapy, and active recovery activities – such as cooldown exercises or light rowing exercises. After testing the merits of each approach, the researchers found that no one strategy stood out from the others. Instead, different athletes responded to different approaches depending on their personal needs.

“Regeneration is a highly individual process,” concluded Dr. Michael Kellmann, one of the leaders of the study. He and his colleagues hope that the lack of a universally recommended recovery strategy will open up trainers, coaches, and athletes to different recovery methods that they can use in practice. 

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