HANDBALL: HOW TO RECOVER

Recovery is key for any sport. It's how we keep playing for longer and avoid injury. In the case of handball, recovery is essential if you're going to make it through a whole season's training and perform to the full in matches, not to mention if you simply want to feel better after exercise.

Want to find out more? Check out our tips on how to recover so that you feel as good as new and ready to let rip at your next training session!

handball-recovery

1/ HOW TO RECOVER WELL AFTER A HANDBALL TRAINING SESSION OR MATCH

Some parts of the body will work harder than others during handball training and matches, and each needs to be dealt with in its own special way.  We explain the different recovery methods for each part of the body so that you can choose the ones that work best for you. For the most efficient recovery, you'll need to use at least two of these methods.

The body parts that work the hardest in handball are:

- the legs: your hamstrings, calves, quadriceps and glutes will be put under heavy strain from the frequent sprints and changes of direction.

- the shoulder, which is used constantly

- the wrist

- the lower back

Here are your recovery options for each group of muscles:

A/ THE LEGS

For the hamstrings, calves, quads and glutes, one option is a massage to relax the muscles. Massaging the muscles reduces their excitability, which reduces cramps, stiffness and sore muscles. It also gives you a "sensation of recovery" (a state of mental well-being, even though not much has changed physiologically). This helps you better psychologically tolerate future efforts.

There are several accessories that can help you with this:

-> massage rollers are perfect for massaging the hamstrings, quads and calves. A vibrating roller will boost the massage effect.

-> massage balls let you really target the glutes. 

-> a trigger point massager with a vibrating setting lets you choose the amount of pressure you want. 

-> a massage stick adapts to whichever body part you want to massage.

-> the massage gun has a percussive effect. It is powerful to really get into those painful points.

-> massage cream or oil for a self-massage or for getting a helping hand from a friend!

leg-massage

Applying cold, in the form of an ice bath or cold compress, reduces the inflammation and aches caused by exercise. You may also want to apply a cold compress to your ankle or knee if it feels painful.

Compressing the calves using compression socks can reduce muscle pain. The aim is to squeeze the muscle to aid blood flow, limit muscle "damage" and therefore reduce inflammation, aches and stiffness. This can be done both during and after exercise.

-> To be done just after training sessions or matches for 1½ to 2 hours.

Electrical muscle stimulation to relax the muscles without having to lift a finger!

Stretching, done gently for 15 to 20 seconds, after a training session or between matches to make you feel better.

So there you have it: all the methods you can try to help your legs recover after a handball match or training session. 

NB: if you plan to test a new recovery method, do so after training rather than between two matches! It's best to try something new when there's nothing to lose ;)

B/ THE SHOULDERS

 

To relieve your shoulders after a training session or match, your options are:

- A massage with massage cream or oil and/or a massage ball. Place the ball between your shoulder and a wall and push to target the trigger points.

- A cold compress on the painful area.

- Electrical muscle stimulation

- Stretching

shoulder-stretch

C/ THE WRIST

You can help your wrist recover as follows: 

- Stretching the forearm muscles that mobilise the wrist (the main muscles that give your wrist its strength and movement are actually connected to the elbow).

- Compressing your forearm using a forearm sleeve.

- Massaging your forearm muscles.

- Applying a cold compress, this time for the wrist joint in order to relieve any pain. 

D/ THE LOWER BACK

You can try:

- a massage with a roller to self-massage your entire lower back, or with massage balls to target the really bad bits.

- a warm compress or bath to relax your back.

- electrical muscle stimulation.

- stretching to relieve your back after a training session or a match.

back-stretch

As well as these recovery methods, don't forget to get a good night's sleep, which is vital for helping you recover as it lets your body regenerate. If you have a training session or match in the evening, it can be hard to fall asleep afterwards. Here are some tips to help you drop off:

-> avoid screens or set them with a dark background and turn the brightness down as much as possible. Only do relaxing activities (reading, meditation, etc.).

-> don't eat too much.

-> avoid alcohol, which produces a stimulant effect.

2/ ERRORS TO AVOID FOR BETTER RECOVERY DURING A HANDBALL TOURNAMENT

Now you know how to recover after a training session or match. But watch out: unlike what you might think, it's unwise to follow this exact same advice during a tournament. We explain why:

Having a very hot bath to relax will create additional fatigue, doing intense stretching will create more aches, looking at a screen in the evening will stop you from falling asleep, and having a lie-in could throw out your circadian rhythm if you don't get enough light in the morning!

So what methods can you use to recover during a tournament

3/ RECOVERY ROUTINE DURING A HANDBALL TOURNAMENT

Here's an easy routine that you can do between matches either on your own or as a group.

- A cool-down, lying on your back and doing some deep breathing (inflate your stomach as you breathe in, and suck it back in as you breathe out, moving your chest as little as possible).

- A brief, light stretching session: 15-20 seconds of light stretching per muscle (you're aiming to feel a stretch, but not a big one). The muscles to be stretched are the calves, thighs (quads and hamstrings) glutes, back (sides and lower back) and shoulders (all muscles on the back, as well as the deltoids and pecs). These stretches will slightly reduce muscle tone to make you feel more relaxed.

handball-stretches

- Self-massages

        -> with a roller: calves, hamstrings, quadriceps, fascia lata (the side of the thigh) and lower back. 2-3 mins per muscle should be plenty, and for some of them, like the calves, you can do both sides at the same time to speed things up (if there's enough pressure on the muscle).

        -> with a ball: the muscles behind the shoulder and all around the shoulder blade, the pecs (by rolling the ball over them), and using your hand to massage the forearm using massage oil if necessary.

- If you've still got a bit of time left, hold an ice pack on any painful joints (ankle, knee, shoulder, etc.) for 5-10 mins to reduce pain before your next match.

You can do all this on the edge of the court or in the changing rooms, alone or with your team, using equipment that fits easily inside a sports bag (it also helps to have access to the sports centre's fridge or freezer to put your ice packs in). The result will be a certain amount of muscle recovery and a soothing effect on painful joints in the space of just 30 minutes!

To dive deeper into the topic, this article explains why it's so important to recover well, and explains each kind of recovery method:

Now you know everything! You've got all the tricks up your sleeve to recover well after a training session or match or during a handball tournament. All that remains is to apply one or more of these methods - whichever suits you best - so that you can keep training and performing well during handball matches, and avoid suffering from aches, pains and injuries.

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Pierre-Yves

Our partner physiotherapist

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