Workout Tips

Rest Your Body to Grow Your Muscles

Drop the dumbbells and step away from the gym to get better results in the long run.

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Man doing kettlebell lunge
Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

Question: 

Since I rest each body part for 3-4 days before hitting it again, can I weight-train every day?

Answer:

“I’m inclined to say no,” says Frank Claps, owner of Fitness for Any Body, a personal-training service in the Lehigh Valley area of Pennsylvania. “Your muscles and the energy systems that fuel them need time to recover.” In other words, even though individual body parts are getting rest days, the overall nervous system, which fuels training for all those body parts, must itself have rest days free from the demands of weight training. If the nervous system doesn’t get that rest, it will soon burn out and training will be severely impacted.

Claps points out that many bodybuilders—including professionals—tend to train 4-5 days a week, with a couple of days of rest each week. He agrees with this kind of weekly split. “The best muscle-building results come from having 4-5 days of training with a few rest days within the mix,” he explains.

You can also spend some of your non-training days performing moderate cardio and/or stretching or other non-gym activities. “Even if your goals are more about health and general fitness than about increased muscle size and strength, training every day is too much,” Claps notes. “Without time off from the gym, you won’t have the fuel necessary to be at your best, and your results will suffer.”

Another factor to take into consideration is the stress that weight training places on joints such as your shoulders, an active joint involved in many upper-body exercises. Even though you may do pushing moves like bench presses on one day and pulling moves like lat pulldowns the next day, both sessions involve your shoulder; so methodically inserting rest days into your week is sure to help reduce wear and tear.

M&F understands that you love to train, and you want to train as often as possible. While the mere act of going to the gym is an important part of your daily life, you won’t get the best results if you go every day, says Claps.

For those who love to train so much that it’s hard to skip a day, just apply the same principle to rest and recovery that you apply to training: discipline. Keep yourself from going to the gym one or two days a week, and you’ll get better results in the long run.

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