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A Guide to Active Recovery Workouts: 5 Types of Active Recovery Exercises

Recovery is an essential part of your workout routine. Whether you run, cycle or lift weights, your body appreciates regular down-time to help your muscles relax and rebuild themselves after strenuous use.


How you spend your rest periods can help contribute to improved recovery rates and increased athletic performance. Active recovery is a type of rest that incorporates gentle movement to maintain blood flow, encourage muscle repair and reduce the severity and duration of muscle soreness.


Learn more about how you can add active recovery exercises to your workout routine.

Active Recovery Definition: What is Active Recovery?

Active recovery is a form of low-intensity exercise meant to encourage physical restoration. Compared to inactivity, active recovery offers specific benefits that help you build muscle and strength after strenuous exercise.


There are three ways to incorporate active recovery exercises into your workout regime:


  1. Between sets 一 While strength or interval training, perform active recovery exercises between each set or new exercise.
  2. After strenuous workouts 一 When you’re done your main workout, spend 10 minutes in an active recovery cool-down.
  3. On rest days 一 On days when you don’t have a strenuous workout planned, remain active with light or gentle exercise.


With active recovery, you can keep your heart rate up rather than sitting or remaining completely sedentary. Active recovery allows you to strike a balance between overtraining and remaining too inactive.

Benefits of Active Recovery

The primary benefit of remaining active is that it promotes continuous blood flow through the affected muscle groups. Improved circulation increases the number of nutrients and amount of oxygen the strained muscles receive, leading to faster healing and recovery.


As you incorporate more movement into your rest periods, you might notice active recovery benefits like:


  • Reduced severity of DOMS: Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is a tight, sore or aching feeling you experience in the days following an intense workout on a particular muscle group. By maintaining high blood flow following a workout, you may experience reduced DOMS symptoms.
  • Reduced lactic acid buildup: Lactic acid is a byproduct the body makes during intense exercise, and too much of it can lead to muscle fatigue. Continued low-intensity exercise can help eliminate lactic acid and other toxins.
  • Improved flexibility and mobility: Going from intense activity to complete inactivity can lead to muscle stiffness and mobility issues. Certain active recovery exercises, like stretching and foam rolling, help encourage flexibility and improved mobility. 
  • Better adherence to exercise routine: Many people struggle to maintain their momentum when they take a rest day of inactivity. By keeping active on rest days, you may feel more motivated to stick to your workout goals.


Because active recovery helps improve muscle repair and mobility, it may also be beneficial in preventing workout-related injuries.

Active Recovery Exercises

Active recovery can take a variety of forms. How you incorporate active recovery exercises into your workout routine may also depend on when you perform them一during and after workouts or on rest days.


Below are some of the recommended ways to stay active while recovering from physical activity.

Low-Impact Exercise

Whether you’re warming up, cooling down or taking a day off, you can stay active with some low-impact forms of physical activity.


These active recovery day exercises will help keep your blood pumping and heart rate pounding without straining your healing muscles:


  • Walking at a leisurely pace 
  • Swimming slow and gentle laps 
  • Cycling slowly on a stationary bike or outdoors


Low-impact exercises don’t put pressure on the joints or add any load to the muscles. You can do these gentle activities for 30-45 minutes of rest days or 10-15 minutes after intense workouts.

Active Recovery Yoga

Yoga is a mindfulness practice, but it’s also an active recovery exercise. With benefits for reducing stress and inflammation, increasing oxygen and blood flow and soothing sore muscles, yoga is an ideal active recovery practice for rest days or post-workout. Certain styles of yoga, like restorative yin yoga, are especially beneficial after strenuous activity. Yin yoga poses help to target tight muscle groups and improve flexibility.


Tai chi is another form of mindful and active movement to do during active recovery. By practicing tai chi, you can reduce stress and increase mobility. Tai chi also allows you to work on your balance and coordination while getting in some light cardio exercise.


Stretching is one of the most important exercises to include in your workout regime. You can stretch affected muscle groups between sets when interval training, or you can do a stretch routine as part of your post-workout cool-down.


There are two primary ways to stretch:


  • Static stretching: Hold each stretch for 30 seconds to one minute. Static stretching is best reserved for after your workout when you can spend more time stretching each muscle group.
  • Dynamic stretching: Move quickly through a series of stretches. Dynamic stretching can help keep your body warm between sets when interval training, potentially reducing your risk of injury.


Active recovery stretching is also a way to increase your body awareness by paying attention to areas with more tension or new pain.

Foam Rolling

Foam rolling is a way to target trigger points using the self-myofascial release technique. Using a foam roller, you can apply pressure to muscle knots to help relieve built-up tension. Incorporating foam rolling into active recovery can help reduce muscle soreness and increase mobility. It can also help boost blood and oxygen flow to constricted areas, such as the quads, hips and glutes.


Here are some tips to get the most out of foam rolling:


  • Roll slowly back-and-forth over each target area 10-20 times
  • Start with a low-density foam and increase to higher-density foam over time
  • Don’t roll over an injury or any place that’s particularly painful


Foam rolling can be done between sets during interval training to loosen and activate the target muscle groups. You also take time to foam roll after a strenuous workout or on rest days to help keep muscles active.


Whether it’s a professional massage or a self-massage, therapeutic touch is a beneficial active recovery solution for relieving muscle soreness and stiffness. Massage therapy, like foam rolling, targets affected muscles and can release trigger points. Manipulating muscle and fascia tissue can help increase circulation, leading to better recovery and repair after intense workouts.


For athletes or those who do regular, intense exercise, massage may help improve mobility and physical performance. Taking time for self-massage after each workout or on recovery days can help you optimize your workout routine so you can make healthy fitness progress. 

Top Active Recovery Products to Optimize Your Workout

Achieve better active recovery results with the right physical therapy tools. Fitness and therapy products from Relax The Back can help you increase your physical performance by encouraging healthier muscle repair and recovery. 


Below are some of the top muscle recovery tools to help you maximize your workout routine.

Theratouch Pro Massager With Heat By Relaxus

Treat your sore and tired muscles to a soothing heated massage with the Hypervolt 2 Bluetooth Massage Gun. As a handheld self-massage device, the Hypervolt 2 Bluetooth Massager is the perfect post-workout recovery tool to help you relieve tension in affected muscle groups. 


Withthree different massage modes and five interchangeable heads, you can customize the perfect thermal massage for your needs. Focus on upper-back and neck tension or target tight glutes and hamstrings to help promote faster healing and repair.

CoreStretch By Medi-Dyne

If you tend to experience low back pain in the hours or days following strenuous exercise, try the CoreStretch by Medi-Dyne. The CoreStretch is an at-home physical therapy product designed to give you spinal traction relief by decompressing lower back discs. In addition to relieving pressure points, the CoreStretch also releases tight tissues and muscles surrounding the spine to promote further pain relief and mobility.


Use the adjustable CoreStretch after each workout or on rest days as part of your regular stretch routine. With eight different resistance levels, the CoreStretch allows you to increase your low back range of motion and flexibility over time to help with physical performance.

Fitspine XC5 Inversion Table By Teeter

Recover from strenuous activity, sports injuries and back pain faster with the Fitspine XC5 Inversion Table by Teeter. Inversion tables are designed to relieve stress on the musculoskeletal system by reversing the compressing effects of gravity on the spine. Relaxing on the Fitspine XC5 inversion table can help relieve common exercise-related symptoms like sciatica, low-back pain and muscle inflammation.


The Fitspine XC5 is a safe and adjustable inversion table you can use at home. Use the accompanying Teeter Move app for guided stretches and exercises that will help enhance recovery and maximize the effectiveness of inversion therapy for active recovery.

Shop Relax The Back for Active Recovery Solutions

Make healthy progress in your exercise regime by incorporating active recovery exercises and products. Active recovery promotes faster healing and repair, helping you stick to your workouts and prevent injury. Find relief from sore muscles and experience greater mobility and flexibility with active recovery routines like stretching, foam rolling and self-massage.


Shop Relax The Back for more fitness and therapy products, including inversion tables and handheld massagers. Explore our complete collection of wellness solutions online or visit a retail location near you to work with one of our product specialists.




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