Exercise and dieting towards your fitness goals are the top 2 most important to focus on things when trying to achieve your health, strength and aesthetic goals. However, a third factor, good quality rest and rest days may contribute to even better results and quite frankly, without rest – gains are not possible.
In the past we’ve covered the importance of diet, nutrition, exercise and programs. Now, let’s talk about rest. It doesn’t matter how heavy or how great your lifts are going, or if your diet is on point, you will not get good results or optimize without proper rest. Rest means sleeping, not stressing yourself out mentally or physically more than you have to outside of training, and rest also means taking time off entirely from the gym and diet too. We all know the importance of sleep; but, did you know that without it you can’t grow muscle?
The most successful fitness programs are not complete without rest days. Taking regular breaks allows your body to recover and repair. Here are some of the benefits of rest days:
- It allows time for recovery: It’s during this time that the beneficial effects of exercise take place. Specifically, rest is essential for the gains! Exercise creates microscopic tears in your muscle tissue. But during rest, cells called fibroblasts repair it. This helps the tissue heal and grow, resulting in stronger muscles and allows time for your body to recover the glycogen lost during exercise.
- Prevents muscle fatigue: Rest is absolutely necessary for avoiding muscular fatigue. Soreness is great, sure, it’s an indicator of a good day in the gym. However, what if you could avoid soreness and exercise harder next time? Glycogen stores need to be refilled! Remember that every time you exercise you tear down muscle and deplete glycogen, so if you were to continue to exercise without rest, you might start muscle atrophy – losing muscle.
- Reduces risk of injury: Regular rest is essential for staying safe during exercise. When your body is overworked, you’ll be more likely to fall out of form, drop a weight, or take a wrong step. Overtraining also exposes your muscles to repetitive stress and strain. This increases the risk of overuse injuries, forcing you to take more rest days than planned.
- Improves performance: When you don’t get enough rest, it can be hard to do your normal routine, let alone challenge yourself. For example, you might be less motivated to do an extra rep or run another mile. Even if you push yourself, overtraining decreases your performance. You may experience reduced muscular endurance, strength, have slower reaction times. Think about powerlifters or professional athletes and why they take rest days before the big day – to give their central nervous system a break and come back stronger!
Now, how do you take proper rest days?
Well this is something that is dependent on a lot of different variables and external factors, as well as the individual preference. Somethings that make this question hard to answer is that the frequency of training per week, the duration of the training day, how intense training is, nutrition, sleep and the individuals ability to recover as well. However, there is a general guideline to follow – if you’re really tired, fatigued, or training more than 5 times a week at a somewhat intense level – then rest for a day or two – and then cant back into it stronger the next time. Most of the trainer here at The Markham Gym train 5 times a week or take rest days every 2 to 3 days and we would advise you to do something similar too!