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Allowing your muscles an appropriate amount of rest is just as important as weight training for developing muscular strength and size. The process that causes an increase in force production and development in size takes place in between your workout sessions. Therefore, an adequate period of rest is needed for real strength and size benefits to occur. Weightlifting on consecutive days is not appropriate unless you participate in split-training workouts.
Importance of Rest
When you lift weights, your muscles are required to produce a greater amount of force than usual. This stress causes them to become overloaded and damaged. Small tears appear within your muscle fibers. It's this damage that stimulates improvements in strength and size. Immediately following your workout, your muscles will go to work on healing themselves. During this healing process, the muscles also make efforts to adapt so that they're better equipped to handle the stress of weightlifting. As a result, they heal with the ability to produce a greater amount of force and at an increased size.
The National Strength and Conditioning Association notes that at least 48 hours of rest are required in between weightlifting workouts for muscles to adequately recover and heal. This means that lifting workouts should not be completed at a greater frequency than every other day. An example of an appropriate weight-training schedule would include workouts on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Your muscles may need even more than 48 hours of rest in between weightlifting workouts. Beginning lifters or those who are getting back into it after a long break may find they need a little more time to recover. In addition, more rest may be needed for those who've participated in an extremely high-volume workout that significantly damaged muscle fibers. If you're still sore on the day of your scheduled workout, consider allowing your muscles an additional day of recovery time.
It's important to note that it is possible to lift weights on consecutive days if you train different muscle groups in each session. For example, you could perform upper body exercises on Monday and Wednesday, then lower body exercises on Tuesday and Thursday. This still allows your muscle groups the minimum of 48 hours of rest they need after they're overloaded. Bodybuilders or those looking to develop significant muscle mass will follow a split-training schedule, because it allows them time to perform a greater number of exercises, sets and repetitions for each muscle group. A more intense and frequent schedule includes focusing on the chest and shoulders on Monday and Thursday, the back and legs on Tuesday and Friday, and the biceps and triceps on Wednesday and Saturday.