What the Soviets Can Teach Us – Recovery

Here are a few studies out of the old Soviet Sports Review on the recovery process in weightlifters.  I have broken it down to expedite the message but the results speak for themselves.  The back issues of the SSR are filled with gold.  You just have to do the digging.

Soviet Sport Review
September 1980
by Talyshev

What they did

Highly qualified athletes were assigned to execute a normalized, standard training load at the beginning of each new weekly cycle. Post workout the athletes took a sauna in combination with hydro-therapy for total body recovery. One group began means immediately post workout. Other groups were assigned to recovery means at 3, 6, and 9 hours later.  Several physiological indexes were recorded along with the force of a medball throw into a force plate testing work ability. Prior to the study, work ability was tested during a rest day.

What they found

In all cases there was a sharp drop in work capacity (WC) following the workout, and if no recovery means were utilized, recovery began to take place the following day.

Employing recovery means immediately post workout led to a marked increase in WC upon recovery completion and 3 hours later. However, the increase slowed down and was actually worse the following day and below its initial level. Restoration did not take place.

Recovery means 3 hours later led to pronounced increase in WC at 6 hours post means (9hrs post workout). WC was restored to its initial level the following day. Restoration took place.

Recovery means employed at 6 and especially 9 hours post training WC not only recovered on the following day but there was a significant increase in ability indicating supercompensation.


The results of the study indicate the restoration of WC may depend heavily on the time when recovery means are applied. 6-9 hours post training produced higher WC the following day and supercompensation.  Restorative means applied sooner than 6 hours actually worked against the body the following day. If restoration is necessary in the case of a two training session day, meaning morning, then evening workout, applying restorative means immediately following training should be the preferred route.

Recovery in the training of weightlifters
Soviet Sports Review
December 1980
by V.S. Kopisov

What they did

Four groups of weightlifters (Masters of Sport, and Masters of Sport Candidates) were studied over a 10 week period on the effect of varied recovery means associated with training loads.

The 1st group used an average intensity of 68% of max with a large number of reps. The load, and intensity variability was low, meaning small changes on either side of the average. Recovery means variability was also low, meaning few recovery modalities were used.

The 2nd group used 80% but again with low variability in volume, and intensity. Recovery means variability was high in this group.

The 3rd group averaged 80% as well but with large variability in volume, and intensity. Recovery means variability was low in this group.

The 4th group averaged 80% with large variability in load, intensity, volume as well as high variability in recovery means.

What they found

The 4th group gains were significantly better than all the others. Number of lifts missed were also lowest in group 4 even though they employed a large variance of lifts from the mean. The number of reps attempted over 90% was lowest in group 1 but missed lifts in this group were 2-6 times larger than other groups.

Group 2 had the highest number of injuries.  Subjective evaluations on mood, well being, and energy were highest in the 1st group, but results of the subjective tests were only significantly better than group 2 and not the others.


Programs that have a high variability of training means in both recovery and load is more effective that the use of a large number of recovery means with lesser intensity, and volume variations.  The program does not create a strong enough stimulus for improving the level of adaptation when using low variability.  Also, using the same recovery means alters the effectiveness as the body adapts quickly just as it would to any other stimulus.  For a long period prior to the competitive phase, it is advisable to conduct intense workouts with the minimal use of recovery means. Executing training with optimal incomplete recovery during an off season period requires a greater mobilization of the body’s resources to super compensate and this expands the athletes functional abilities.  In the phase immediately preceding the competition period all means of recovery should be used to assist in restoring the athlete above the baseline in functional abilities.



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