What are the benefits of exercise rest days?

Written By;  Jordan Brown  (Exercise Science)

We’ve all fallen into the trap of over training and often this is due to not fully understanding the importance of programming rest days. Remember when you first started training, you were hungry to see results and the notion of resting was non-existent.  Personally, for me, this was a 6-day split with the mentality that constantly being sore meant I was on track to achieve my goals (increase muscular size and strength). However, this is not a smart way of training and I’ll explain why.

Think of it this way, in a normal week you work Monday – Friday. This can be stressful both mentally and physically. We consequently use the weekends to rest and rejuvenate before tackling the rigors of another taxing work week. What would happen if you didn’t have the weekend to rest, you would get run down and eventually get sick.

Think about your training in the same way. If you don’t incorporate rest days your body will be unable to adapt accordingly to the stimulus placed upon it. If prolonged, this can correspond to; low energy levels, persistent soreness, loss of weight, strength, and motivation.

In contrast, including rest days can;

  • restore hormonal balances
  • muscle damage
  • joint and ligament damage
  • neural fatigue (important for muscle activation).

Simply put, you will get stronger by allowing adequate time to recover from exercise.

Train, Rest, Adapt, Repeat.

Exercise rest days are vital for improved results

The science behind rest days:

  • When you train, it initiates protein synthesis pathways, in the case of resistance training, this is the motor pathway. This causes an increase in the translation of proteins (IGF).
  • Following a training session, the muscle begins to recover. It is during sleep where growth hormone (GH) levels are at their peak.
  • Thus, improvements in performance can only occur during rest periods following a training stimulus.
  • During the recovery period, the body builds to greater levels to compensate for the stress that you have applied. This results in the body being able to adapt and results in a higher level of performance being reached.
  • However, if proper recovery time (rest) is not given then the body cannot adapt and this can cause overtraining syndrome.
  • Without proper recovery time, not only will you reach a performance plateau, but you also will run the risk of injury, and may even experience reduced performance (decreased muscular strength).