Post-Training Stretching & Mobility
Stretching after your workout may not appear at first to help towards muscle growth, but it actually helps in more ways than one.
Firstly, ensuring that you set aside no less than 10 minutes after your workout to stretch and make use of a range of apparatus such as massage balls, foam rollers, and resistance bands, will help flush out toxins from your muscles that will have built up as a byproduct of anaerobic activity from the muscles as they are pushed to their limits against resistance. Improving blood flow to all the numerous capillaries within the muscles trained will go a long way towards helping them flush out toxins, and bring about nutrient-rich blood to start the repair process sooner than later.
The second benefit of this is that it will help alleviate muscle soreness in the following days. Specifically D.O.M.S (delayed onset muscle soreness), which can often cause the muscles trained to feel sensitive and sore. By maintaining and a good stretch and mobility program following your workout you’ll be setting your muscles up for an efficient recovery period as well as reducing the soreness often felt over the following days.
Keep an eye on Cardio
Whilst cardio certainly has its benefits, it’s also important to be aware that performing too much cardio can hinder your potential for muscle growth. After all, if you’re performing a lot of cardio each week, you’ll not only be using up excess calories (needed for the repair and rebuilding of muscle fibers), but you're also instructing your muscles to become efficient at performing endurance work. Remember that your body likes to be efficient and will adapt to its environment to be able to perform the same task with the least amount of energy.
I recommend performing cardio 2-3 times a week, at no more than 30 minutes each session. I would also try to find time to do this separately from the weight training so as not to switch between two different energy systems. If this isn’t possible, then include 20-30 minutes of light cardio (brisk walk on the treadmill, or on the bike at a medium internal level) immediately after your weight training session. Don’t worry about needing to get a protein shake in between your lift and the cardio. Contrary to popular belief, the body isn’t going to start wasting away muscle immediately after your workout, so long as you provide adequate nutrition throughout the day.
Most cardio should be performed at a low impact, consistent state, whereby the heart rate should be no higher than around 70% of it’s maximum. I have always told my clients that the perceived level at which they should work out should be one that may cause them to start to perspire but not high enough where they are unable to maintain a conversation throughout.
Perhaps every 7-10 days I might switch out the treadmill or bike for 10 minutes of interval training, such as sprints on the rower, spin bike, or incline treadmill. By performing 7-10 sets of 30-second all-out sprints (at full capacity), followed by a 30-45 seconds recovery phase, it will produce a metabolic reaction that increases the body’s needs for calories (only by a few %), which can help the body from becoming too stagnated in its training and energy requirements. After all, you need to be keeping the body on its toes, as anything performed the same for too long, the body will become more efficient at it and no longer need to adapt, which is where the results come from.