It’s quite simple – if you want to build muscle, you need to rest and recover. It doesn’t matter if you are training for Mr Olympia or if you just like to stay in shape, rest and recovery is essential to build muscle correctly.
Generally, the advice is not to use the same muscle group for around 3-4 days after each workout – but is that enough? Let’s face it, for most of us, the gym is a huge part of our lives. Hopefully you enjoy going to the gym, and the idea of doing nothing to help reach your goals seems crazy.
The way in which we build muscle is complicated, but simply put, after working out there is muscle damage. The muscle then uses amino acids we get from proteins to form new muscle, or recover. The body therefore needs this rest to be given a chance to do that.
If you’re in the gym 7 days a week, don’t think that you are going to look bigger just because you lift more often. Rest days are when our muscles grow the most. Our muscle fibres recover and as a result we build muscle mass.
So how much rest do you need? Well there is 2 aspects to consider:
- Daily Rest
- Rest from the gym
Daily rest is all to do with the idea of your ‘sleeping pattern’, and this isn’t something that you should underestimate. Your results will be drastically lowered if you are up until the early hours, getting only 5-6 hours of sleep per night. The rule of ‘8 hours’ is usually a good place to start.
What we are talking about though is rest from the gym – the rest and recovery that aids our work in the gym. As you would expect, there is a lot of debate into how much rest our body needs in order to recover fully. The first thing to consider is time between using the same muscle group, and as stated earlier, 3-4 days rest is usually advisable.
Then you need to consider how often you go a week. If you’re going 7 days a week, you may be at risk of over training, even if the risk is quite small. Really you need at least one day of rest a week. This gives your muscles a chance to use up the nutrients you should be feeding them.
Finally you need to consider prolonged rest. Particularly if you focus on strength/weight training, a prolonged rest is often advised. Even if you take your one day off per week, every 3 months you need to be taking a full week off. Trust me, over resting is definitely better than not resting enough.
It’s rare to find something that tells you that you need to do less in order to achieve more. In this case though, it is imperative. If you want to maximise results at the gym, then proper rest and recovery is essential. If you think that you are neglecting rest, try implementing it into your plan, and I promise you will see the difference.