The amount of rest that you give your body after exercise will directly affect how quickly and effectively you build muscle strength and size. Many weight lifters can become so preoccupied with their training regimen and routine that they overlook the importance of rest.
Why Rest is Important
While your weight training workouts are what stimulate the process of muscle building and strength gain, a period of adequate rest in between your sessions is essential for these developments to occur.
The break between workouts is when your muscles heal, recover and adapt by growing stronger and bigger. Lifting causes minor tears throughout the muscle tissue. The process of repairing those muscles, referred to as muscle protein synthesis, occurs on the days between workouts. Damaged tissue is replaced with newer blocks of stronger and larger predecessor tissue. In other words, your muscles become bigger and stronger. Additionally, during the break between workouts is when your nervous system recuperates so that your body can perform at high levels during the next workout.
The Right Amount of Rest
Your muscles need 48 hours of rest between weight training workouts to fully recover. This means you should plan to schedule one to two days off in between each workout session so that they're completed on nonconsecutive days.
A 48-hour rest period means you can fit in two to three weight-training workouts in every week. You could lift Tuesdays and Fridays, for example, or follow a Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays routine.
Following particularly high intensity or high volume workouts, you may find your muscles remain sore on the day of your next schedule routine. Depending on the intensity of your soreness, you may want to consider taking another day off to give your muscles some additional recovery time.
If you don't give your body sufficient time to recover, you will have wasted your time and effort in the gym. If your muscles are not allowed to fully heal, then they'll remain in a broken-down state and won't ever have the opportunity to generate growth. More is not always better when it comes to lifting weights.
What to Do on Rest Days
To maximize muscle recovery and facilitate strength and size gains, on your days off it's best to get more sleep. Make sure you get at least eight hours of sleep at night and try to incorporate a nap. While it's okay to completely rest physically, participating in other light-intensity activities can increase blood flow and help the healing process. Consider taking a walk or a light jog.
Make sure you're properly fueling the muscle building process by eating breakfast every morning, eating something every three hours, and taking in protein, fruits and vegetables with every meal. Drink water even on on your days off to help keep your body hydrated and your blood volume high.
How You Can Lift Weights Nearly Everyday
If you simply enjoy weight lifting or your goal is to put on a significant amount of muscle mass, there are ways you can structure your weekly routine and lift weights more than three days per week. The key is to focus on a limited number of muscle groups each session. Rather than targeting all the major muscle groups, you target two to three.
For example, to lift six days a week, target your chest and back on Mondays and Thursdays, your hips, legs and core on Tuesdays and Fridays, and your shoulders, biceps and triceps on Wednesdays and Fridays. To work out four days per week, work your upper body on Mondays and Thursdays, and your lower body and core on Tuesdays and Fridays.
These split-muscle routines give your muscles the minimum 48 hours of rest they need to fully recover and heal between sessions. They not only allow you to safely and effectively lift weights more frequently, but they give you time to do more exercises per muscle group and elicit greater size gains. In the six-workouts-per-week schedule, for example, because you're just hitting your chest and back on Mondays and Thursdays, you likely have time to do three to five exercises for each the chest and back. A higher volume workout is more effective at breaking down the muscles and stimulating the muscle building process.