Do you normally take a rest day or two during the week to break up your workouts? If you don’t, you might want to reconsider after reading this.
Rest days are important for many reasons. Even the most elite athletes and weight lifters take a day off to recover. They aren’t in the gym seven days per week, and there’s a good reason for that.
Why Take a Rest Day?
If you are doing a lot of strength training such as weightlifting, bodyweight exercises, or other types of resistance training, it’s important to know that you will make much better gains by giving a day in between each workout to let those muscles recover/grow.
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Rest is when all the magic happens and when your muscles can regenerate, grow, and recuperate. Without rest, you are likely to experience overtraining, and yes, it’s very real. That’s when the body has trained so hard for so long without rest that you will start experiencing effects such as muscle weakness, fatigue, sleep disruptions, moodiness, irritability, and much more.
Overtraining can also lead to reversing all your hard work as you’ll start to need a longer recovery if taken too far. This recovery period has lasted as long as six weeks for some athletes who’ve experienced overtraining syndrome, not a good thing if you are working towards a goal.
But What Do I Do On My Rest Day?
A rest day doesn’t mean that you have to sit around all day, watch TV, and eat junk food. Nope, it can consist of cardio exercises such as a run, a bike ride, use of the elliptical machine, or even a game of basketball or other sports with your friends.
This is called active recovery. When you are engaged in active recovery, your fast twitch muscle fibers are still getting the rest they need, those are the muscle fibers mainly used in strength training, while your slow twitch muscles are raring to go and happy to help your body run, jump, and play.
What Should My Workout Schedule Look Like?
A good rule of thumb is to give at least one day in between strength training before you do your routine again. For instance, you can workout Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Or, if you do a split plan and can be at the gym more often, it would be more like leg day on Monday, chest, and triceps on Tuesday, biceps, and back on Wednesday, and shoulders and abs on Thursday.
By the time you get back around to leg day, your legs will be fully recovered, and this type of split plan is super effective. For the days left in the week, you can do your cardio workouts.
You can plan your workouts however they are convenient for you, just be sure to let those muscles rest for maximum results.