We all know the importance of working out and training hard. However, something that is so often overlooked is the importance of taking rest days. If you want to achieve maximum results from your strength training, you need to allow your body time to recuperate.
What many people don’t know is that lifting weights actually breaks down fibres in the working muscles. Increased strength and mass occur when these fibres heal and rebuild themselves. This is why rest and recovery (alongside a clean diet, high in protein) are so crucial if you want to see progression. Not giving your muscles adequate time to repair leads to increased risk of injury.
If you overtrain by not allowing your body sufficient recovery, performance will plateau. This is why it’s a good idea to split your workouts into muscles groups, targeting certain areas on specific days. This method enables you to train one area of your body whilst another is recovering.
The required amount of rest varies from person to person. The trick is to listen to your own body: if your muscles are sore/you feel fatigued, take a rest day. Just make sure you’re able to determine the difference between necessary recovery time and laziness.
I tend to take two rest days per week, although I’m not the sort of person who can sit around and do nothing all day. So if you’re anything like me, and get itchy feet if you’re not moving, here are some ideas of activities to perform on your rest day:
Cardio: walk, run, cycle, swim – whatever you fancy. Cardio is a great way to get fresh blood pumping around your body. Providing freshly oxygenated blood to the recovering muscles will aid in recovery and repair.
Yoga/stretching: this is a great way to de-stress and clear your mind. Not to mention, it aids in easing muscle tension. Increasing your flexibility greatly reduces the risk of injury, so it’s important to take some time to focus on this.
Foam rolling: getting rid of those nasty niggles is crucial, and strangely satisfying (I always feel about a stone lighter, and a lot more bouncy once I’ve finished rolling my legs). Rolling out your muscles can help increase blood flow, and will also assist in improving mobility.