The overlooked importance of rest for muscle growth
Do you know a workout warrior? Are you a workout warrior yourself? A workout warrior is someone who works out every muscle of their body 7 days a week with no rest in between sets and leaves it all at the gym every single time.
I'm here to tell you that is a major waste of your time. While workout warriors may feel accomplished every day, they are entering a fitness realm of mediocrity and disappointment.
I am going to start with a fitness fact that makes this article really simple.
FACT: Your muscles only grow when they are resting.
A muscle can not grow if it does not get adequate time to recover. This means if you work the same muscles over and over again, you are going to look the exact same despite working your butt off. And who wants to set themselves up for that kind of disappointment?
One of my favorite fitness follows on Twitter is Justin Mihaly. He said my thoughts best, in the bluntest way possible.
Now I'm not saying to not workout hard by any means. I'm advocating for a workout plan that attacks recovery just as hard as it attacks your workouts.
What does the research say?
A study was conducted at the University of New Mexico by Len Kravitz, PH.D. They studied the effects of rest and recovery in regards to muscle growth. This study was done to find ways for trainers to support their client's recovery efforts more effectively.
Here are some of the findings from the research.
Resting Between Sets:
For muscular endurance training, you should rest between 30 to 90 seconds. For hypertrophy training, you should rest between 1 to 2 minutes and for power training, you should rest for 3 minutes between sets.
Certain lifts that require more rest:
The study by Kravitz found the following about some popular exercises
"Ground-based movements such as the deadlift, squat, and overhead press require more rest than smaller muscle groups such biceps, triceps, and forearm flexors. This is due to the increase in motor unit recruitment and larger muscle mass involved with these multi-joint exercises."
Can massage help you recover?:
It was proven in the study by Kravitz that massage can reduce delayed onset muscle soreness. Also, the psychological benefit of massage can greatly improve your recovery.
What about actual rest days?
After reviewing countless studies on recovery and reading tips from the best trainers in the business, I highly recommend taking two rest days a week. This allows your body to recover. Then you return to the gym refreshed with happy muscles that are growing.
On these rest days, you can do active recovery activities such as walking, stretching, pilates, or light yoga.
Where does this information leave me?
With 2 rest days, you have 5 days to fit in everything else. Make sure you target each major muscle group 2-3 times per week during those 5 days. Cardio should also be added in 2-3 days per week.
Make sure you are getting quality sleep on your workout days. I recommend taking a ZMA pill 30 minutes before bed. ZMA's are made up of natural minerals that aid in good restful sleep and support your immune system and muscles.
On your rest days make sure you continue to take your normal supplements and eat healthily. Your muscles will be actively recovering even though you are not as active. Fueling them properly will give them what they need to grow. Also, be sure to drink a lot of water on active and recovery days.
If you follow these tips and allow your body to recover, I promise you will be much happier about working out and will see progress much faster.