Muscle Recovery: What to Do After a Workout

Are you experiencing sore muscles after a workout? Don’t worry—sore muscles are a great sign that you’re making progress towards your fitness goals, but adding a recovery routine to your fitness plan will help you feel better and ultimately keep you motivated. Dane, SCHEELS Fitness Expert, covers why our muscles become sore, the different types of recovery, and highlights the different tools like percussion massagers, foam rollers, and more to help relieve sore muscles.

Why Do Muscles Get Sore After Working Out?

a man lifting weight while working out

Muscle soreness occurs because muscle and connective tissue get damaged during exercise. This damage comes in the form of tiny microtears, which trigger inflammatory responses. This is needed for muscle growth because once damaged, the muscle will grow back stronger.

This process of repairing muscles leads to feeling sore 24 to 72 hours after your workout.

What Is Muscle Recovery?

Muscle recovery is the time between the end of a workout and when you feel recovered.

Types of Muscle Recovery

There are a three different types of muscle recovery including immediate, short-term, and recovery between workouts.

1. Immediate Recovery

This occurs between each repetition. For example, if you’re lifting weights, you may pause briefly between each repetition, take a breath, and then continue.

2. Short-Term Recovery

This type of recovery happens between each set. It’s the amount of time between starting and finishing each set. Short-term recovery needs to be built into your workout routine because it’s just as important as the sets themselves. The length of short-term recovery is determined by the amount of weight and number of reps.

  • Heavy Weight & Less Reps: This lifting may require more time to recover between each set.
  • Lighter Weight & More Reps: You may feel you don’t need as much recovery time between sets.

3. Recovery Between Workouts

This type of recovery is where you have the most potential. Whether you complete a cool down, massage your muscles, or spend time stretching, you’re promoting recovery between workouts.

How Do I Recover Between Workouts?

There are several different types of recovery you can do between workouts to help you stay focused on your fitness goals and avoid feeling too sore after intense workouts. Our Fitness Experts share insights and tools to use to help.

a woman stretching after running

Active Recovery

This is a low-intensity exercise that you do to help bring your heart rate down. For example, you could jog or walk on the treadmill for a few minutes before leaving the gym. This will help promote circulation to flush out any lactic acid buildup.

Muscle Massage

Whether you’re using a percussion massager, muscle hook, or foam roller, muscle massage helps to decrease muscle tension and increase blood flow to promote recovery.

A percussion massager uses rapid and repetitive pressure to help relieve muscles. Understanding the benefits of a percussion massager and how to use one is important before adding this to your routine.

A muscle hook is great for targeting trigger points in your shoulder blades.

Foam rollers come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and stiffness. Understanding how these different options influence your foam rolling experience is important so you can find the right foam roller for your needs.

Compression Therapy & Stretching

Using compression boots is a popular option with long-distance runners because they help push out fluid to promote recovery. Stretching is another form of active recovery that should be done to help keep you flexible and reduce injury.


Often overlooked, sleep is an important part of recovery too. If you’re not getting adequate rest, your body will get worn out and you’ll lack the energy for a solid workout. Make sure to get adequate sleep to keep you motivated to reach your fitness goals.

Incorporating a well-rounded recovery routine into your workout is essential for optimizing muscle recovery and achieving your fitness goals. By adding in active recovery, muscle massage, stretching, and other ways to recover, you’ll feel better and be more motivated to continue exercising. If you have additional questions about what to do after a workout, stop into your local SCHEELS and speak with a Fitness Expert.

Please Note: Before starting an exercise program, make sure to work with your healthcare provider.