Low Intensity Aerobics For Relief of Workout Soreness
by Mark Reifkind (1983)
Most bodybuilders are very familiar with the deep ache and pain that results from intense, heavy workouts. Consistent visits to the "pain zone" can definitely result in gains in size, strength and density. Yet, for the more advanced lifter who is on a split routine these daily visits to the pain parlor can have him alternately stiff and extremely sore in different parts of the body. This can become quite tedious and put a damper on one's motivation and enthusiasm for training. Combine this with a restricted diet and disaster could be right around the corner.
There is a way, however, to drastically reduce the levels of soreness while also losing fat, gaining endurance and generally improving your health, definition and conditioning. But before explaining the soreness reducing exercises the cause of the soreness must be examined.
When a muscle contracts the fuel for that contraction can come from various sources depending on the intensity of the contraction and the total duration of the contraction. A simple yet relevant example would be a set of curls for no more than 10 repetitions. For maximal, short bursts of energy (as in bodybuilding) the primary fuel is glucose (muscle sugar). As the muscle contracts, requiring glucose, the by-product is lactic acid. This process is called anaerobic (or without oxygen) breakdown. The harder and more often the muscle contracts, the greater the production of lactic acid. When lactic acid concentrations are built up to a certain level muscle contraction becomes impossible. This (lactic acid) is the cause of the "burn" in bodybuilding, as well as the soreness that results the next day. The presence of lactic acid (in the form of soreness) the next day also may be an indication that the muscle is not recovered from the workout. By strictly monitoring lactic acid concentrations in the blood, sophisticated track coaches have been able to drive their runners as hard as possible when fully recovered (lactic acid levels down), and ease up when not fully recovered (levels up), thus ensuring total intensity and full recovery.
This idea of hard-easy does not entail passive rest on the easy day as is often imagined. In aerobic (with oxygen) exercise of low intensity (pulse 120-130) which lasts 30 minutes or longer the primary source of fuel is fat! Muscle sugar is almost entirely spared, if the intensity is low enough.
But the important factor for the bodybuilder, full of lactic acid from his intense training, is that in the aerobic breakdown of fat for energy, lactic acid is not a by-product, but a FUEL!
By exercising aerobically, following high intensity lifting (either directly after, or better, the next day) lactic acid levels can be reduced very quickly. This type of program also has the benefits of providing cardiovascular and aerobic fitness, loss of fat (better definition and physical efficiency) and the euphoria that follows long term exercise (the runner's high has been documented).
Bodybuilders afraid of losing muscular size should note that Boyer Coe, the Mentzer brothers, Arnold and Chris Dickerson, among others, all participate in aerobics. That is, not sprinting as hard running or intense biking (judged by the inability to breath normally), which creates lactic acid and should be avoided. Any size lost will be fat, and what bodybuilder wants 20" arms if 5" are fat?
Aerobics will also allow you to consume more food and still lose weight (to a certain point, of course).
But beware! To the average bodybuilder weighing 160 pounds or more running can be very hard on the knees and lower back, especially if one runs on concrete. If you wish to run find a soft dirt of sawdust path. Biking is better as it involves the entire musculature of the leg (running uses primarily the leg biceps).
This can be done daily or on the off days of your workout. You will find that 30 to 60 minutes of aerobics will enable you to satisfy the urge to exercise and allow you to stick to a three day a week program (which most beginners and intermediates should be on). Or, if done following a workout, it can serve as a cool-down and also extend the high of your lifting session.
The aerobics rule is to never get out of breath. Bring a watch and keep your pulse rate between 120 and 130, thus ensuring cardiovascular benefit and low intensity. If you run begin by alternating running until you feel your wind going and then walking until it returns. Spend at least 30 minutes biking, running, walking at a good pace or swimming.
This program will promote greater recovery, growth, and will prime your metabolism while creating energy. Give it a try!