Rest is as Important as Exercise

Posted On Nov 19, 2013 By Tim Arndt, Resistance Training Specialist

Rest is important for muscle recovery

"Wow. You're working out way too much!"

That was the reaction I had recently when a new client was telling me about his exercise routine. I had asked him to tell me about his weekly routine so I could get an idea of how often he was exercising and what he was working and when. As he was going through his weekly routine I quickly discovered that he was doing pull-ups and resisted abs crunches every day. It was time I gave him a reality check.

I asked him why he did those particular exercises every day, and he replied that it was because he wanted a stronger core and bigger back muscles. With his logic, working your entire body every day would be the clear-cut best way to gain strength. But that is not the case.

The strongest people in the world are not exercising the same muscles every single day. In fact, they are resting their muscles far more than they are actually working them.

Exercise only provides the stimulus that causes our bodies to adapt. It is not when our bodies adapt. That happens when our bodies are at rest. This is especially true when we are sleeping. That is why sleep is so important to getting results.

How we structure our workouts will determine how our body adapts to that stress. For example, lifting heavier weights will stimulate the body's muscles and cause them to get bigger and stronger, whereas jogging stimulates our cardiovascular system and makes our hearts beat stronger. This adaptation takes a lot of time though, which is why it's so important to give our body plenty of rest days to allow it to make the changes we are asking it to do.

If we do not give our body proper rest and instead work it too intensely and too frequently, it will begin to break down and become highly susceptible to overtraining, which leads to injury and burnout. This is obviously not a recipe for success.

So how much rest is enough rest? Research suggests that you allow 48 hours of rest between workouts. However, for more intense workouts such as long runs and high volume strength training, I recommend 4-7 days. For example, I had my client reduce his core training and pull-ups to just 2 days per week, and now he feels a lot better and is stronger as a result. Before, due to his workout frequency, his muscles always felt worn out and weren't able to work at their full capacity.

It may take some trial and error to figure out what works best for you, but you should always feel fully recovered before hitting up another intense workout. Also, if your muscles ache, make sure you wait until they have fully recovered and are no longer sore. Muscles are very prone to injury when they feel sore, so it's best to give them more than enough time to recover.

Finally, always err on the side of too much rest. Your body takes a long time to recover and adapt, but it also takes a long time before your muscles start to become detrained. So you don't have to worry that you're going to lose your results even if you go longer than 7 days between workouts.