Recovery Techniques


While it would be great to have a hydro-pool, plunge pools and masseurs on tap, many programs do not have these resources and in most cases you will be on the road. We present a small ‘snap shot’ of ideas and the rationale behind these techniques. In most all cases these processes are cost efficient. The four areas covered (warm-down, hydration, fuel replenishment & Water Immersion Therapy) have ideas that could be used throughout the recovery process (24-48 hours). There are some areas covered; however, that have small ‘windows of opportunity’ and need to be used early in the recovery process.

We call this a two stage recovery system (Stage 1 & Stage 2). As I believe the pre-game preparation of players is well established by most teams.


  1. To optimise the opportunities for players to recover between games during weekend tournaments with 6 to 9 matches over three days of play.
  2.  To educate the players in the processes of recovery
  3. To engage a coaching staff to provide players opportunities to recover from games


  • Playing ‘double headers’ without maximising athletes recovery time between games
  • The need to address recovery and warm-down strategies after games
  • The need to maximise the opportunities that exist between games to increase the bodies potential to recover

Critical Times

Period 1: The immediate time following the game (30-60 minutes)

Period 2: The morning following the game

Period 3: Prior to the next game

Stage 1 Physical/Fluid/Fuel

  • Warm-down (physical process)
  • Hydration – fluid replacement
  • Fuel – carbohydrate and protein replenishment
  • Hot and cold water immersion therapy

Stage 2 Physical

  • Stretch sessions (individual, partner stretching), therabands)
  • Massage (self, ball, tennis ball, specialist)
  • Low intensity exercise (non-load bearing-bike)
  • Pool recovery/water immersion (+ hydration)

Stage 3 Physical/Psychological

  • Pre-game techniques
  • Mental Preparation


Active recovery or ‘low intensity’ exercise is seen as an advantageous after an exercise, bout, or game. Through lowintensity exercise you are able to assist in the removal of lactic acid build up in the muscles. Indications are that low intensity exercise of approximately 30% of your maximum is seen as the most effective.

  • It is important that athletes take part in a disciplined process of first warming down the body through low intensity jogging/walking, but also rehydrate during this process.
  • Alternatively the use of exercise bikes where the body is not subject to as much ‘impact pressure’ should be considered. This process should take between 10-15 minutes to allow the larger muscles of the legs to continue in the process of lactic acid removal
  • The use of thera-bands to allow athletes to take body parts through low intensity ‘full range of movement’ should also be considered an option in this process.
  • Athletes should be educated in the process of ‘static stretching’. This will also assist in the injury prevention process.
  •  Stretches are seen as a common and effective method of injury prevention, as well as recovery. This partner style stretching also reinforces the ‘team processes of recovery’.  There does; however, need to be an education of the players in the correct techniques.
  • The morning following the game should be considered as an important ‘window of opportunity’ to continue in the physical process of recovery. The use of stretching and low intensity exercise should be used and modified according to individual and team needs.
  • Massaging is also considered an integral part of the recovery process. Athletes can select between self-massage, tennis balls, volleyball massage, as well as using the services of teammates or a masseur. Once again this should be seen as an opportunity for ‘team processes’ to be addressed.


There is a need for athletes to ensure that they continue to hydrate during the game in order to optimize performance. It is therefore important to introduce the players to a drinking plan. Issues that need to be considered when devising this plan for ‘in-game’ hydration are:

  • Athletes need to individualize their drinking plan
  • Hydration plans are best calculated during training. However, there needs to be some consideration to the contrast in work rate and intensity between training and games. This also needs to be based on the amount of playing time the athlete has during the game (often different to training). This should be taken into consideration and modified accordingly to prevent adverse effects of ‘over drinking’
  • Athletes should be consuming a ‘sports drink’ with a carbohydrate concentration of less than 10 % (Gatorade, Powerade etc) and a sodium concentration of 10-20 mmol/L.
  • The possibilities of using a mixed drink of water/sports drink to improve uptake of sports drink could be considered. This is important for athletes who have difficulty ingesting sports drinks.
  • Periodic monitoring should be conducted to ensure that athletes are meeting their fluid requirements during training.


Athletes should weigh themselves before and after training in order to ascertain fluid loss during an intense period of exercise.  Each kg lost during the exercise period is approximately equivalent to 1 litre of lost fluid. If the athlete has consumed 1 litre of fluid during session that equates to 2 litres of fluid lost. (intake 1 litre + loss 1 litre)

Fuel Replacement

High priority should be given to the replacement of food fuels. Particularly in the first 3 hours after exercise. Continued replenishment should occur up to 24 hours after exercise. Importance should be placed on addressing depleted glycogen (muscle/liver) levels, as well as protein and electrolyte balance.

  • Address glycogen levels by consuming carbohydrate foods or carbohydrate drinks in the time period immediately following exercise. The first 24 hours after exercise is seen as the ‘critical energizing window’. The first 2 hours is seen as a time period where the body is at its highest peak to replenish glycogen.
  • Protein should also constitute part of the fuel replacement cycle. The body’s ability to repair itself, particularly muscle tissue, will be aided by the consumption of protein. It therefore forms a critical part of this process. It is also important for the rebuilding of amino acids.  Consideration must be given to ensuring that the athlete takes in ‘complete proteins’ or essential amino acids.
  • During the exercise process the body will lose a considerable amount of sodium through perspiration. Sodium is important in the process of rehydration. Sports drinks usually have a lower level of sodium than is needed (50-80mm/L) and foods containing sodium should be considered.
  • Consideration also needs to be given to what resources are available to address this fuel replacement. Protein uptake is generally more effective if balanced with carbohydrate replacement.  The use of carbohydrate-protein food is therefore seen as the best alternative. Often some athletes may not be conditioned to consuming foods straight after exercise. Athletes are quite often ‘not hungry’.  Alternatively energy drinks are quite often seen as an easily digested method of fuel replacement.
  • Most athletes that are being dealt with have lean body mass and high energy demands. Careful consideration needs to be given to the makeup of the athlete’s diet during the recovery process. The balance between carbohydrate, protein and fat should be measured.

Water Immersion Therapy

WIT is well documented as an effective process to enhance recovery. This is an effective method of increasing blood flow as well stimulating the central vervous system. The methods used will possibly affect the type of stimulation that will occur. Low level of stimulation will generally only stimulate surface blood flow and not deep muscle blood flow. This is also important for injury recovery as it helps stop inflammation. Depending on the resources and time frame there are a number of methods to consider.

Hot/Cold Showers

–30 sec cold –60 sec hot, 60 sec cold – 60 sec hot, 60 sec- 2 min hot, 60 se- 3 min hot

Ice Bath

–        Shower before, 1 minute plunge, 2 min out x 4-5.

This can easily be done back at hotel rooms that have a bath. This can be filled up with cold water and ice and athletes can sit in the bath. At a minimum, athletes should immerse their lower body. Athletes should not submerge above their heads. Athletes who have open wounds, gastric problems, colds etc should not participate in this activity.


Coaches can help educate athletes to understand, plan and use recovery strategies to manage this for themselves. Effective monitoring and recovery management will enable both the coach and athlete to train hard, perform better and more consistently, to reduce training injuries and illnesses, and to develop sound self-management strategies.

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