Rest days important? but why exactly?
As a strength athlete you are probably used to training hard and pushing yourself until your body can't do it anymore. But did you know that rest days are just as important to your performance as time spent in the gym?
Rest days give your body the time it needs to recover from the stress you put it through during your strength training. During an intensive training session, your muscles are damaged and small tears occur in the muscle fibers. This is a normal process and it's how your muscles grow and get stronger. But without enough rest days, your body can't properly repair the damage and your strength and performance can decrease.
Scientific research has shown that rest days are critical to the recovery and performance of strength athletes. A 2016 study published in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance found that athletes who rested for two days between strength training sessions achieved significantly better performance than athletes who rested for just one day. Another study, published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, found that athletes who rested at least 48 hours between strength training sessions built more muscle mass and strength than athletes who rested less. This was because those trained muscles get at least 48 hours of rest.
Rest days are not only important for muscle recovery, but also for your overall health and well-being. During your rest days, your body can focus on repairing damaged tissues and building new cells. In addition, your body can also balance its hormone levels during these days, which can contribute to better sleep, more energy and an improved mood.
Ignoring rest days can lead to overtraining, which can lead to injuries and fatigue. Overtraining can also negatively impact your immune system, making you more susceptible to illness and infection. So it is important to schedule enough rest days and give your body the time it needs to recover.
Another important aspect of rest days is that they can improve your mental health and motivation. Strength training can be physically and mentally challenging, and it can sometimes be difficult to stay motivated to keep going. Having rest days can give you the time and space you need to reset your mind and body, giving you the energy and motivation to get back to the gym and continue your workout.
Rest days are also an excellent opportunity to work on improving your mobility and flexibility. Doing yoga, stretching, or other light exercise on your rest days can relax your muscles and help increase blood flow, which can speed up the recovery process and reduce the chance of injury.
Some strength athletes find it difficult to plan rest days because they are afraid that they will lose muscle mass and strength. But the opposite is actually true. Getting enough rest allows your body to focus on building muscle mass and improving strength. If you don't give yourself enough rest, your body can't function optimally and your performance will decrease.
Another benefit of taking rest days is that it gives you the chance to improve your diet and nutritional habits. When you're constantly working out, it can be hard to find the time and energy to prepare healthy meals and get the right nutrients. By scheduling rest days, you can focus on improving your diet and optimizing your diet to support your performance.
It's also important to remember that rest days don't necessarily mean you're not active at all. For example, you can have an active rest day, opting for lighter exercises such as walking, swimming or cycling or training the muscle groups you skipped. These activities can help you stay active while allowing your muscles to recover.
But what are the best ways to schedule rest days? This depends on several factors, such as your training level, age and goals. In general, experts recommend planning at least one rest day per week and never doing more than two consecutive days of intensive strength training without a rest day in between per muscle group. At the very least, rest each muscle group for at least 24-48 hours. This means that these parts of your body can recover and prepare for another workout.
Finally, it is important to mention that rest days are not only important for experienced strength athletes. Beginners should also schedule rest days to give their bodies time to recover and adapt to the new training stimuli.
In short, rest days are an essential part of strength training and have a significant impact on your performance and overall health. Scientific research shows that rest days are crucial for the recovery and performance of strength athletes. Therefore, plan at least one rest day per week and don't forget those rest days
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