While the biceps and the abs get most of the attention from the opposite sex, anyone in the fitness world knows that leg day is where the real effort and the real gains come into play. After squatting 300 pounds, your body goes through a period of intense soreness the next day as you rebuild the mass of your biggest muscles. When you pushed yourself to the limit, here’s how to mitigate sore thighs and calves on your rest day.
When Leg Day Got You Like, “Woah”:
Stretch It Out, Man
There’s a fierce debate in the sporting world about stretching: traditionalists say that it’s great for limbering up before a workout or game, while some say that too much stretching actually puts your muscles at risk. Whatever your opinion, it appears that stretching after a workout is more beneficial than stretching before. Stretching can provide immediate results when you feel like you can’t so much as climb a staircase by loosening your muscle groups and improving your elasticity.
Ice, Ice Baby
Applying a bag of frozen peas to sore legs doesn’t just feel good but also has a number of awesome benefits. Ice reduces the inflammation that occurs when white blood cells swarm an affected area, believing that there is a disease or infection that they have to tackle. With less inflammation comes less chance of muscle pain. Ice also reduces swelling that occurs after lifting hard. Best of all, it numbs the soreness and pain so that you feel better when you’ve pushed yourself to the limit. Just be careful not to apply ice for too long! It minimizes the blood flow that delivers the oxygen and nutrients needed for new muscle growth.
Massage (Yeah, Here’s Your Excuse to Go Get One)
Some gym rats say that the best part of the workout is heading to the massage table afterward. Whether you have a regular masseuse or just a very helpful workout partner, a massage can be the solution to nearly every problem that pops up after leg day. Massage opens up the blood vessels attached to muscles, leading to more oxygenation of the affected area and an immediate reduction of swelling and soreness. You can use a foam roller if you’ve only got your two hands to work with and use your body weight to roll the affected areas over the mat.
Medication — In Moderation
So many athletes use ibuprofen that they call it Vitamin I. There’s a lot to be said for this little wonder pill when the soreness won’t go away, but be careful not to overdo it. Ibuprofen in high doses can break down muscle mass, so only use it when it’s too painful to get about on your daily routine after squatting, lunging, or leg pressing.