Did you know that during a workout, your muscle fibers tear? This is primarily why soreness sets in after an especially strenuous session. During rest, however, these tears are filled up with new muscle tissue and in the process, the muscles grow.
The problem is, if you're not resting properly, serious damage can be done - injuries can set in when you haven't given your muscles adequate time to heal. So the question is - how much rest during a workout is enough? How much is too much? Too little? Keep reading to find out how to rest properly during a workout.
The Dangers of Overtraining
Overtraining can wreak havoc on your body - extreme thirst, frequent musculoskeletal injuries, insomnia, frequent infections and colds and extreme soreness, you could very well be overtraining. The dangers include a weaker immune system, serious muscle damage and depression.
Plus your motivation to keep going at a rate that's unhealthy will seriously take a hit when your body can't keep up. It's important to let your body recover after working out, as well as rest during the workout so you can reap all the benefits of exercise.
How Long Should You Rest?
There is no standard time that every person should rest in between workouts and sets. Muscle recovery time varies from one individual to another depending on three aspects:
1. The intensity of the exercises.
The intensity of a workout is determined by the rep range. For instance, if you are strength training, you would need to do between 1 and 5 reps per set. Muscle building or hypertrophy training calls for 6-12 reps and endurance building requires doing more than 15 reps.
The higher the rep range the shorter the rest period should be. So while you rest for 2 to 4 minutes in strength training sets, you should rest for 1 to 2 minutes for muscle building and half a minute to one minute for endurance building.
When it comes to the time period between workouts, the heaviest exercises like weight lifting need between 24 to 72 hours of maximum rest depending on the load being lifted. For less intensive workouts, one day (24 hours) of rest should be enough.
2. The physical demand of the exercise on your body.
The physical demand of an exercise can be measured by the number and size of muscles being targeted. If for example you are exercising your legs or back you would need more rest than if you are working on your biceps.
More rest is also required if more than one muscle group is involved as compared to exercising a single muscle only. This means that compound exercises like squats, pull-ups, presses and deadlifts are more demanding and hence call for more recovery time as compared to other exercises such as bicep curls or leg extensions.
3. Your exercise objective - losing fat, building muscle or increasing strength and endurance.
Your objective greatly determines what type of rest you undertake - complete or incomplete. Complete rest is longer and allows your muscles to recover enough to lift heavier weights and do more reps. It however lowers the speed of muscle growth and weight loss. Incomplete rest on the other hand is shorter and best for building muscle and losing weight quickly. But because of fatigue, your work capacity goes down with each set.
Weight loss, muscle building and endurance training typically need an incomplete rest of between 20 seconds to 3 minutes depending on the intensity of exercise. Body toning and strength training require a complete resting period between 1 and 5 minutes, again depending on exercise intensity.
Workout Recovery Tips
- Exercise only one muscle group once per week. Since muscles take around 7 to 10 days to heal, you should target a single muscle group only once a week. So each session of exercise within a week should be targeted towards different muscles.
- Every month or so, schedule a week for recovery. During this week, cut in half your training intensity. Reduce your reps and lift lighter weights. Try a new class, go on a bike ride or walk around the neighborhood. This will allow major recovery of your whole body and also keep you motivated.
- Keep yourself well hydrated during rest to ensure speedy and effective recovery.
- Get quality sleep. As you sleep, your body is recovering, building your muscles and allowing you to get back at it again tomorrow.
- After a workout, eat a snack with protein to refuel the body. Even during longer rests don't forget to eati a healthy diet with plenty of muscle-building proteins and immunity-boosting fruits and veggies
- If you're training hard toward a goal, race or competition, consider a weekly massage. Massage is an excellent way to soothe sore muscles, improve blood flow and optimize muscle and body recovery.
- Stretch! Both before and after exercise spend some quality time stretching. You may even want to add yoga to your weekly routine to help you recover and gain flexibility.