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The importance of a rest day

To each achieve the results we all individually desire it’s common to think and also assume we must spend 6 or even 7 days a week in the gym to reach such goals. Some people train more than once a day! The surprising fact is that some of the most famous physiques on earth have been built on only 4 hours of training each week. We are going to look at some of the different theories behind training, and by training I must point out I will be specifically referring to weight training. I am going to look at the benefits of incorporating rest days into your training routine and what the associated benefits may be from doing so.

Let’s talk about the most important aspect of training and that is recovery. Recovery time is important because it is then when the body heals and most importantly adapts to the training you have undertaken. When training, muscle tissue breakdown occurs and during the recovery period your body is refuelling its energy supplies but also repairing damaged muscle tissue.

This next point causes a huge amount of confusion and it’s easy to see why. The reason for this is most people assume recovery means greater amounts of replenished energy. They have had a day off or in some cases a couple of hours and they feel as though they have the energy to train again, so the body must be repaired right? No! Now depending on the intensity of the workout and body part trained this may feel replenished the same day. The next day or several days time however this does not necessarily mean your body is “recovered”.

If someone was to keep training and pushing their body, muscle tissue would start to break down while the body is trying to go through the recovery phase. You may also find performance slows over time and results will diminish as well. This will take effect on not only your physique but the constant stress of training puts much unneeded stress on your vital Central Nervous System (CNS). When this occurs your immune system will weaken and all things can happen from that point.

During my time training I have realized that every individual reacts to training quite differently and it heavily depends on how hard and intense your workouts are. I know for myself I could not consistently train as hard as I do 7 days a week. I would become run down, over tired, my results would quickly suffer and I would also run the risk of getting sick. I have learnt that sometimes in training less is actually more. You must always remember that training is the stimulus and together with nutrition and recovery this is what helps the body recover and ultimately grow. I have adopted the following approach.

  • Monday Training (Shoulders)
  • Tuesday Training (Back)
  • Wednesday Rest Day
  • Thursday Training (Chest)
  • Friday training (Arms)
  • Saturday Training (Legs)
  • Sunday Rest Day

This gives me two complete rest days a week which I find is perfect for me. You will also notice I ensure my larger body parts are separated as far apart as possible. This is because these body parts require a much higher workload. On back and leg day for example my body is under a lot more stress and is also burning a lot more calories as the muscle groups are so much bigger. I have also seen other gym goers adopt a one on one off principle where they take every second day off training altogether and run through each body part over a 9 or 10 day split. It comes down to trying new things and seeing what works for your body because everyone is different.

Now when I refer to rest days it would be unrealistic to assume you or I simply lay in bed all day, however I sometimes try and make this happen. A rest day should simply involve some stretching, good nutrition and by this I mean stick to your meal plan. This is not a day to binge as we want to ensure your body receives all the nutrients it requires to recovery adequately. Sometimes I go for a light walk to get the blood moving but this is only light cardio! You want to keep active and entice some blood flow which will help your body recover and flush out toxins but you don’t want to run a marathon so a light 30 minute walk is fine. If you lay in bed all day like a zombie your body and mind will begin to feel sluggish and although it seems like an attractive idea your much better getting up, eating and embarking on some light cardio and stretching. A rest day is a perfect day to make up for your precious gym time, take the dog for a walk, spend some quality time with your girlfriend, wife or husband or catch up on work, but remember to keep your body and mind active!

Remember, it’s important to note that everyone is different but from my own personal experience and observing many high level athletes and bodybuilders if you are really training at 100% there is no way you could train 7 days a week with the same amount of intensity. You may be able to for a few weeks before your body gives way but this is not ideal for long term results. If you are serious about your training you should be putting just as much importance on your recovery and rest days as you do on your training. Remember one thing - your body does not grow in the gym, it is merely the stimulus. When you refuel your body with quality nutrients and rest this is when repair occurs and muscle hypertrophy takes place.

If you want to grow, you have to rest!