Are rest days necessary?
You’re hitting the gym five days a week, sometimes six. You’ve smashed that PB that you’ve been working towards and you feel (and look) pretty damn good. Why the hell would you take a rest day!?
When you’re on a roll with your training, it can feel counterproductive to just stop. But are rest days actually beneficial for our training? We put this question to Team Grenade® ambassador and specialist osteopath Adam Whatley and, *spoiler alert*, the short answer is YES!
Read on to find out why and when Adam recommends you take a rest day and why this simple move is sure to help, not hinder, your training.
“Rest days are an essential part of our exercise routines and must be factored in and structured accordingly. Often people put themselves under high amounts of pressure that they MUST train everyday, otherwise they feel like they’re slacking or NOT gaining. On the contrary. Time off allows your body to recover and grow, ultimately increasing your performance.
Everyone knows the feeling of having a bad night’s sleep and its effect on our mental and physical capabilities, similarly to over-training. Your body starts to fall into what is known as a catabolic state (muscle break down). In addition, this can produce an unwanted stress hormone cortisol, which can be harmful for everything if in excess. This is a similar process to what happens if you do not allow it to recover from increased exercise.
Let’s dig a little deeper.
How does your body react to exercise?
When we exercise, our muscles experience micro-trauma. This is a normal response to an exercise stimulus. The soreness that we can feel the following day after exercise is referred to as delayed-onset muscle soreness, also known as DOMS, and this is the result of this micro-trauma. This is completely normal following intense exercise, but as your muscle gets used to this stimulus, DOMS is reduced. It is at this stage that muscle recovery is fundamentally important. When we place a stimulus on our body, its natural reaction is to build back stronger, to next time deal with this stimulus, similar to how our immune systems respond to a virus.
How often should I rest?
Initially, I recommend taking a rest day every third day. People who have been exercising for some time should train on a 5 day on, 1 day off rotation. Furthermore, I recommend slightly alternating your plan every 5th week and then having an off-load week every eight weeks. This should comprise of a week of ‘de-loading’ 60-80% of your normal resistance but with more reps. Think of it as ‘active recovery’. This will fill your tired muscles with fresh capillaries to recover faster!
What are off days?
Treat your rest days as recovery and building days. Your rest day should be exactly that – a day off from taxing your body. You might go for a casual walk at most, but no great effort to do more physical work than necessary should be made. However, if your workouts have been light to moderate intensity all week or you're a beginner exerciser, you can take a more active recovery day. That might include playing a sport outside, taking a yoga class, or going for a longer walk.
During your de-training week every eight weeks, decrease the intensity on your training load and incorporate more stretches into your program.
What are the benefits of rest days?
Recovery is beneficial for both physical and mental capabilities. Not only will you allow your body to recover and repair, you will also reduce levels of fatigue, increase growth and performance and prevent injuries from occurring.”
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