A lot of people think they need to be #teamnodaysoff in order to reach their fitness goals. I see that exact hash tag all over Instagram; people bragging about training every day, giving it 200%, and going hard with every workout. While this is a lot of dedication and I commend these people for being so focused, one thing that I don’t think is talked about enough is how important allowing your body to rest is. I personally take 1-2 rest days per week and I know all of our ADO Fitness coaches program at least 1 rest day into every clients plan.
Now, I am definitely not saying working out a lot is bad. Resistance training and getting enough exercise is very important for everyone. In young adults, it helps increase bone density and build muscle. In older adults, it helps maintain ability to perform daily activities, maintain independence, and decrease age related bone loss. It helps you achieve a toned and muscular look and maintains your cardiovascular health.
However, training every day does not allow your muscles time to heal and recover. When you weight train, you are actually creating small tears in your muscle fibers. After this, your body begins to repair the tiny tears and when it does this, it adds more tissue, which is why your muscles grow. If you never take a rest day, your muscle never has time to rebuild itself and it can actually slow down your progress.
According to The Active Times, you should take at least 24 hours off before training a similar muscle group again. This means you should not train legs two days in a row, train shoulders two days in a row, etc. Even though there is this “24 hour rule”, full recovery of the muscle groups takes 72-96 hours. This is why you generally have a training plan the separates similar muscle groups by a few days. An example of a training plan may be “legs, arms, back, rest, legs, shoulders, rest”. Recovery also depends on the intensity of your training… If you are training larger muscle groups or training with heavy weight or higher intensity, you may need a longer recovery time.
Other important factors in recovery are what you eat and drink, how much you sleep, and what supplements you take. It important to give your body enough protein and carbohydrates to rebuild your muscles; if you aren’t eating enough, your muscles won’t have the nutrients they need to be able to repair themselves and grow. Getting enough sleep is key to muscle growth as well. When you enter REM sleep, your body increases its production of growth hormone, which helps your muscles repair themselves. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, or not sleeping well, your production of growth hormone will be decreased and your muscle growth will slow.
While I fully support training hard in the gym and giving your training your all, I will forever preach moderation. Your body needs rest and recovery just as much as it needs the training in order for you to reach your goals. Listen to your body! When you are tired, rest; when you are in the gym, give it your all; feed your body the proper nutrients it needs and get enough sleep; stay consistent with your plan. If you follow these simple rules, you can pretty much guarantee you will see results.
American College of Sports Medicine. 2016. http://www.acsm.org/public-information/articles/2016/10/07/the-basics-of-starting-and-progressing-a-strength-training-program
The Active Times. 2015. https://www.theactivetimes.com/why-rest-days-are-just-important-working-out
Image by: Mike Zuch. Zuch Photography. 2017.