Written by Jack Boardman
The Benefits Of A Rest Day
Muscular hypertrophy is the result of burdening your muscles by lifting heavy weights, which causes trauma to the individual muscle fibres. Because your body treats this as an injury, it overcompensates and, in attempts to recover, increases the volume and density of the ‘injured’ myofibrils.
First of all, your body is recovering when you rest. When you lift weights, the exercises you perform ultimately tear and break down your muscles. Without taking a rest day, your body turns to breakdown mode – something that may eventually catch up to you in the form of a lacklustre workout, demotivation, stress, malnutrition or injury. Rest allows the recovery your muscles need to strengthen and, in doing so, be able to lift heavier weights and achieve more reps and gains.
The Time Of Day Effect
Your growth hormones are highest when you sleep. For weightlifters and bodybuilders, the muscle growth that you are working for will, therefore, come when you rest.
When you take a rest day you build more muscle, replenish glycogen stores more easily, and let the nervous system get back to an optimal working state. This will help you grow faster, but it’ll also improve your performance on the day you get back to the gym.
Many people don’t consider the psychological impact of exercise, nor the advantages to your mental health. But what about your motivation? That’s something you’re sure to feel peak and trough from time to time and your workout will almost always go much better when you’re motivated to put in the work. If your training and methods for building muscle all occur in the gym, by taking a rest day you’ll give yourself the mental space you didn’t know that you needed.
Take A Step Back
By taking a step back from the actual place you train you may, first of all, increase your desire to return. Absence makes the muscles grow stronger.
Secondly, it may allow you the opportunity to reassess your approach and re-plan your workout week ahead. If certain exercises from the previous sessions haven’t been getting the results you want, stop to think about why. It may also help you to realise when you’ve been overdoing it and assess any potential injuries.
What else should be doing to help things along?
Think nutrition. You need to refuel and make sure you are eating and taking in the nutrients that your body needs. Whereas some people avoid carbs and fats on rest days, remember that your body still needs these for recovery along with vitamins.
By now you know the importance of the building blocks that is protein in its many forms, but even though you may associate protein with exercising, keep in mind that rest days are when your muscles are healing and rebuilding – precisely when you’ll be needing that protein. To maintain a positive nitrogen balance, as a weightlifter you ought to ingest one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight.
Many people lower their carb intake on a rest day – often for fear it will add unwanted weight. This isn’t the whole truth, and many would advise against it. This, in fact, could be one of the places you’re losing gains. See our previous point about replenishing your energy stores and start to think about how a rest day could instead be considered your grow day.