Muscle recovery is the key role in making any kind of progress from training, but also just ensuring a healthy active lifestyle and providing your body with longevity through exercise and fitness.
Although if you train you may notice all muscles do not treat recovery equally.
You may train one muscle and experience soreness for half the week and train a different muscle another time and experience soreness for only a day or even half a day. So why is this?
This is because as stated all muscles do not treat recovery or respond to training in the same way. Some muscles recover faster from a workout than others.
What muscles recover the fastest? Simply put smaller muscles typically recover the fastest after training.
Although people may experience exceptions to this rule the science behind why smaller muscles recover faster after a workout is relatively straight forward.
Why Do Small Muscles Recover The Fastest?
So that’s pretty simple the smaller the muscle the faster the recovery but why do small muscles recover the fastest? Small muscles typically recover the fastest for multiple reasons and the obvious one is the simple fact that they are smaller.
It’s simple since these muscles are smaller and take up less of your body it takes less protein and processing of these proteins to fully rebuild them reaching recovery.
An additional reason why smaller muscles experience faster recovery after a workout is the fact that since they are small they are more used to wear and tear be it from exercise or day to day life.
Because of their size it does not take as much stimulus or exercise to tear up the muscle, since they are easier to breakdown they are broken down by people more often and therefore have to build back up or recover more often.
Since these muscles have to recover so often they have become more efficient at it reaching recovery faster.
What Muscles Recover The Slowest?
If you were wondering what muscles repair the fastest you may also be wondering what muscles recover the slowest? If you think just because your smaller muscles recover the fastest your larger muscles must recover the slowest you would be correct.
Your larger muscles recover from exercise the slowest for basically the opposite of the reasons your small muscles recover faster.
Since these muscles are larger and take up more of your body space they can take a lot more wear and tear and stress from exercise.
If a muscle can take more damage it will take more protein for them to experience recovery and the more protein required the more time is required to synthesize this protein in order to achieve recovery.
Again similar to how small muscles recover faster because they are more used to a large portion of them being broken down by people whether it be through exercise or daily life larger muscles recover slower because they are not so used to being broken down by people as much especially to a significant extent.
A bonus piece of information: one thing that always recovers even slower on people then the muscle belly itself is the tendons and connective tissue attached to these muscles helping them function.
These tissues do not get the same level of blood supply and circulation that your muscles do so they do not get near the same level of repairing nutrients at the same speed.
Although this law of smaller muscles is the body recovering faster is basically written in stone there is always room for rare cases and always an explanation for these rare cases and why you might experience a larger muscle recovering faster than a smaller one or even any other muscle.
The possible exception does not bring any muscle in particular into question; it is more of a scenario situation.
Just for example purposes if you do a large number of push ups every other day but never leave your house your chest would be used to a lot of wear and tear and your chest muscles would have done a lot of adapting.
On the other side of things you never leave your house so you haven’t been doing much walking around and your calf muscles don’t get used much at all so if you decide one day to do a calf workout you may be sore for 4 or 5 days.(See Foods That Help With Leg Cramps)
Whereas when you do a chest workout you are sore for only 1 day if that because even though they are bigger muscles you are so much more used to using them.
Another possible case where it seems like your smaller muscles are recovering slower than your larger muscles is if you simply are not working your large muscles hard enough to create plentiful microtears.
If you decide to do a chest workout but do it sloppy and lazily and for a short period of time your chest muscles will probably not be very stimulated for recovery if stimulated at all so it won’t take very much time for your chest muscles to recover from that workout.
This can make it seem like a big muscle in your body like your chest is recovering faster than smaller muscles like your biceps but in this case it’s just due to the amount of effort focused on and damage done to said muscle during exercise.
You also may be selecting the wrong exercises for maximum muscle stimulation. (See The Golden 5 Exercises)
Experienced Vs Inexperienced Trainer
Along with the size of the muscle there is another key factor in determining how fast one’s muscles will recover overall and that is the training experience of the individual.
Contrary to what you may think in most cases the beginner will recover faster then the well experienced individual.
You may think this contradicts another point I made earlier about how the more often a muscle is broken down the better or more efficient it becomes at recovering but this is not the key factor here.
The more experienced lifter will likely still have muscles that are more efficient at recovering so why will the inexperienced lifter recover faster? The reason the inexperienced lifter will recover faster is because they are likely to not stimulate the muscle to its full or near full potential.
Even if they do feel like they hit a hard workout the more experienced lifter already knows their limits and will train closer to their limits which will in turn take a good amount of time to recover from.
Regardless of what one’s muscles are used to, the closer a muscle is put to its limit the more days it will take to recover and that’s true every time.