Rest can be the most overlooked factor in a training program and it takes a disciplined person to get it right.
You must realize that your rest days are the days you actually grow; you don’t grow the days you are putting in intense sessions in the gym and traumatizing your muscle fibers. After breaking down your tissue, you need rest days for them to repair and adapt to your training stimulus. If your goal is to get bigger or stronger, you have to work in days of rest, and even a week of rest at the end of a periodization cycle.
Typical rule of thumb is to take off 24hrs in between normal workouts, and 48 hours after intense ones. If you are doing an upper/lower split you have a bit more wiggle room than if you were doing total body.
Bottom line is, no matter what days you work out or what your goals are, you need to get in at least one rest day per week. The older you get, and the more weight you start lifting, this will likely increase. As a young stud, I was in the gym 7 days a week, guaranteed. Not all days were lifting heavy, but I never missed a day. I made some serious gains, but the reality is that this kind of schedule is not sustainable, and will eventually tax your muscles, central nervous system, and could lead to injury. Rest is vital to your success, no matter how hard it may be for you to accept.
The inverse to not enough rest is too much rest. I’d argue that far more people have this problem than you would think. Overtraining is one of those buzz words you’ll hear people throw around in the fitness community, and I’ve been told by other trainers that I am in fact overtraining.
I just laugh and simply let people know that they aren’t training hard enough. Aside from serious competitive athletes (the kind of guys/gals you see that have sport specific practices 5 days a week, as well as adhering to a strict strength and conditioning program), it is very hard to overtrain. Gym rats would have to be doing marathon sessions in the gym 7 days a week to achieve a true level of overtraining in my opinion. Bottom line is I would guess people are undertraining before they ever hit a state of true overtraining.
On your off days, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to sit around and do nothing. Active recovery is something all strength athletes should be doing. On your off days, get outside, go mountain biking, hike, play with your kids, shoot hoops. Just stay away from the serious lifting for a day. Let your body recuperate so you come back stronger for your next workout.
Once a week, you can have a day where you lounge around too. My lounge days are Sundays, where I can sit and watch football. Lounge days are good for people seeking mass gain too; minimum calorie burn and you can eat like a beast while you rest. If you are not a lounge person, you can stay within the realm of active recovery; but do not exceed this state!
Listen to Your Body
With that being said, your body will tell you when you need rest. Listen to it. Do not disobey it. Chances are, even if you drag yourself to the gym, you will probably have a crappy workout because your body is starving for rest.
Listening to your body is really the easiest thing you can do and the best indicator of when you need rest. It never lies.
Speaking of rest, it is time for me to get my butt on the road and to the beach! I’ll have a full weekend of active recovery, and I know I’ll be back bigger and stronger, ready to tackle another training session on Monday. Learn to rest guys, its important; not only for your body but for your psyche.
Don’t be stubborn! Get it done!