Olympic Weightlifting Recovery | The Complete Guide
Updated: Jan 26
Olympic weightlifting can be brutal on your body. Heavy loads and huge nervous system recruitment in awkward positions are the name of the game. To help you with that, this article provides a complete guide on recovery for olympic weightlifting.
Why Does Recovery Matter?
If you know anything about physical performance then you know that it’s not your work in the gym that makes you stronger. What makes your body stronger is the process of recovery it goes through after being stimulated by your workout. This means that...
The better your body recovers the better results you’ll get from individual weightlifting training sessions
Plus, if you can recover faster you can train more often, effectively allowing you to go through more recovery cycles each week.
At the top level, competitive olympic weightlifters train anything from 6 to 12 times per week. That often means 2+ sessions per day. Without good recovery systems in place, this would be impossible.
1. Sleep More to Recovery from Weightlifting Training Sessions
Sleep, more than anything else is your body’s biggest and best source of physical and mental recovery. Whilst asleep your body enters its prime ‘anabolic’ state, and focuses on repairing muscles, recharging your nervous system and rebuilding your body. You need to aim for AT LEAST 8 hours each night. Ideally 9+ hours on training days.
Some tips to sleep better include:
No mobile phones or TV in the 30 minutes before bed.
Sleep in as dark a room as possible.
10 minutes of meditation before you sleep.
Keeping a consistent sleep cycle, making sure to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.
2. Eat More Food (And Better Food) to Repair Tissues Faster
Your body needs food to rebuild itself, and tonnes of junk isn’t going to cut it. You need to be eating moderate to large amounts of carbs, proteins and fats from good quality sources. You also need to make sure that you’re eating enough calories to fit your goal. For example, if you’re looking to get bigger and/or stronger as fast as possible you’ll need to be eating MORE calories per day than it takes to maintain your current size.
To really optimise recovery I recommend eating 500kcal more per day than you need for maintenance. You should also make sure to get enough protein for muscle repair and growth, ideally about 1g per lb of bodyweight.
These protein recommendations also work for people trying to maintain or lose weight. Carbohydrate wise, optimal recovery and performance is achieved by ensuring a high intake of carbs, especially before, during and after your training sessions. This helps to refill glycogen stores, as well as provide signalling that increases protein synthesis and prevents muscle breakdown.
So, sorry to break your heart if you're a keto (low carb) enthusiast, but optimal recovery or sports performance is highly unlikely without carbohydrates.
3. Drink More Water to Recover Faster and Improve Joint Health
Your body relies on water for a huge variety of functions and yet it’s estimated that more than 60% of British and American citizens regularly go without proper hydration. Aim to drink 5-8 big glasses of water per day, and even more if you’re training (especially during hot weather)
Water is also essential for joint health. You'll find a lot of low-level niggles disappear when you increase your daily water intake.
And yes, this means water, not sodas, fruit juices, teas and coffees. You can absolutely still drink those things, just drink them as extras, rather than instead of.
4. Get Compassionately Touched to Boost Weightlifting Recovery
Yep, you did just read that right. Human contact, of pretty much any kind, is proven to speed up and enhance the recovery process. This includes everything from a hug through to sports massages and even a night in with your significant other ;)
Things That Might Help You Feel Better But Probably Won't Speed Up Recovery
Stretching and extra mobility work for Recovery?
Personally, I love to perform a few hip stretches on my rest days, but I do this to keep my posture in check and stay mobile, not because I think it aids my recovery.
Ice baths/showers for Recovery?
Weightlifters and other athletes tend to use ice-based therapy to reduce inflammation during periods of intense training or competition. However, since inflammation is one our body's main recovery and adaption signals, using ice baths too often can actually reduce your body's ability to adapt to the training.
Supplements for Recovery?
When it comes to training and recovery, if it isn't protein, creatine or a basic multivitamin don't expect it to do that much. There are no (legal) miracle recovery supplements, so don't buy into the ridiculous claims. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of 'soviet sports supplements' that can massively improve your recovery, but we're keeping this conversation strictly legal and WADA approved since weightlifting is, at least theoretically, a clean sport.
Olympic Weightlifting Recovery Frequently Asked Questions
Why do I recover so quickly after working out?
Well, you might not be training hard enough, or, you're just a very lucky person with great recovery resources. If that's you, experiment with doing extra training, and seeing if your results improve.
What are signs of overtraining?
Fatigue, mood issues, lack of desire to train, and performance declines across multiple exercises. For more information, see this article.
Powerlifting recovery and strongman recovery: Are they similar?
Yep, the exact same rules apply to those strength sports as well.
Weightlifting Recovery TLDR:
Get Compassionately Touched
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'Til Next Time
Alex Parry, MSc, BA
Alex is the Head content writer and Coach at Character Strength & Conditioning, as well as an Assistant Lecturer and PhD Researcher at the University of Hull.
His experience includes 7+ years within professional strength and conditioning, as well as working as a tutor & educator for British Weightlifting.