Whether you’re a college athlete or a professional weightlifter, rest days are essential for your body’s recovery and should be built into any training schedule. Without them, you risk overtraining your body, which often results in exhaustion and muscle soreness. You’ll also become more susceptible to picking up an illness or an injury.
While on the surface rest days seem counterintuitive, they improve athletic performance and provide your body with the rest it so desperately needs.
It’s difficult to explain just how important it is to listen to your body, but when rest day comes around in your training schedule, take the time to assess exactly how you feel. If you’re feeling tired, get some extra sleep. If your energy levels feel low, eat lots of high-energy foods. Listen to what your body’s telling you needs to recover and act upon it.
In order to maximize your rest days, you should look to eat right and hydrate well. Water works as an effective lubricant for muscles and joints, so it shouldn’t only be consumed on your workout days, but also on your rest days to avoid muscle cramps and soreness.
Sports drinks and food such as watermelon and strawberries also work well for hydration. In terms of food, it’s best to limit carbohydrates and instead focus on lean protein which works to help muscle recovery. Fresh fruits and vegetables provide similarly important vitamins and minerals for assisting recovery.
Despite being termed a “rest day”, it can be beneficial to engage in low impact workouts such as yoga or simply stretching and foam rolling. It’s recommended to aim for 30-45 minutes of light exercise on an ideal rest day. This gives you a break from your intense workouts, but also keeps your body moving.
Stretching is a great way of improving flexibility and reducing muscle tightness on recovery days. This is similarly the case with using a foam roller, a practice that improves your range of movement after workouts.
Can I take 2 rest days in a row?
Every athlete on any good training program will need rest. Usually this is a day, but sometimes two days are needed to fully recover. After all, your body isn’t a machine.
A lot of strength gains come from allowing your muscles to repair, so taking an extra day off can actually make you stronger. Sometimes 24 hours isn’t enough to fully shake off your delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) from a heavy and intense session, but with an extra day, the pain will likely have fully subsided.
Two rest days in a row can also help you to overcome a frustrating plateau. If you’re struggling to achieve gains, taking an extra rest day can help provide your neuromuscular system with the time it needs to reset. Alongside this, it can also renew your resolve.
The program you’re working to or the weightroom you see every day can often become monotonous, especially if your gains start to plateau. By designating yourself two days off, you’ll likely come back reinvigorated and motivated to stick with your training plan long-term rather than suffering from overexertion and wanting to throw in the towel.
Do muscles grow on rest days?
The simple answer to this question is yes. Rest days are essential for muscle growth. While exercise and intense workouts create microscopic tears in your muscle tissue, rest days serve to repair them.
Contrary to popular belief, it’s the rest periods between your workouts where muscle growth is at its highest, not during training. This is because they provide your muscle tissue with the time needed to heal and grow, which subsequently results in stronger muscles.
Muscle growth is unsurprisingly one of the biggest fitness goals for those who regularly visit the gym. So kicking your heels at home on rest days may seem like a pain, but without this vital recovery time, your muscles wouldn’t have time to repair or grow in mass, and would likely become overworked. So, appreciate the rest.
How many rest days do you need a week?
When it comes to the amount of rest days you ideally need a week, it all depends on your exercise routine, as well as your personal fitness goals. If your main aim is to lose weight through working out, then anywhere between 3-5 sessions a week is more than enough for achieving and then sticking to your goals.
If you like high-intensity workouts then three sessions a week is enough, whereas if you prefer low-intensity sessions then four of five is probably best.
After deciding on the right amount of sessions for you a week, you should go with however many rest days you’re left with. It’s best to space these out in order to maximize the beneficial effects of the exercise. So for example, if you perform three high-intensity sessions a week, then four rest days are perfectly acceptable.
If you’re a serious bodybuilder or an athlete solely focused on lifting weights for maximal muscle growth, it’s important to be committed to your training. This however, doesn’t mean training as much as possible. In fact, doing this will slow down your progress and prevent your muscles from properly repairing and growing.
The ideal training routine for these athletes is 4-5 times a week. This allows time for a couple of rest days which will help you reach your muscle-building goals faster. Consuming protein on these rest days is also beneficial as it helps maximize the growth and recovery of your muscles. So make sure you’re stocked up on it for these days!