Mathews McGarry is passionate about many forms of strength training, and spent years lifting, dragging and flipping all manner of heavy objects. After graduating on the Faculty of Exercise and Sport Science, he started writing about his experiences, and sharing advice for better life. Follow him on Twitter.
While it’s tempting to camp right in front of your glorious Temple of Iron and jump in for a deadlift session or two (or five, or ten) every single day, the benefits of such an approach shrivel in time, and the only perk, to begin with, is your deluded belief that more is always better. If you’re a natural lifter, then quality beats quantity any day of the week, and off days are a part of what makes a high-quality routine.
Rest is a powerful tool for growing strength and boosting muscle growth, but only if done well. Let’s see how you can optimize your rest to complement your lifting routine and ensure the greatest gains possible!
Rest is the Secret for Results
The single most important factor that shows if you’re doing everything right is the final outcome. More often than not, people will measure the value of their training based on their workload, intensity, the frequency of lifting and other parameters, whereas the best athletes will tell you that you should only look at your results.
Although you might feel as if all the effort you invest in training is solely responsible for your muscle development, lifting alone loses its effect when not combined with proper rest. Having an intense four-day split is more than enough to stimulate all your muscle groups, while still leaving time to regroup. Overtraining can not only diminish your growth potential but also lead to a significant decrease in athletic performance and even injury.
The growth process occurs on a molecular level, and it involves a cycle that requires both training and rest to happen in the right amounts and at the right time. This process, however, never happens during a workout, but only afterwards – training is your trigger, while rest is your time to grow. Putting your body through an endless loop of exercise every day will reverse this process and put your body in a state of catabolism, preventing potential muscle repair and growth.
This is why deloading and keeping your stress levels low is so important.
Keep your Nutrition on Point
If you’ve already created your optimal diet, then stick to it even on rest days. There’s no scientific evidence to support a deload in your menu. On the contrary, while your body uses food for energy consumption during training, it needs equal if not even larger amounts of nutrient-dense foods to support new muscle fiber production and protein synthesis.
To become stronger and build lean muscle, your rest days brimming with food are your best friends. Consuming quality carbs will boost your insulin production, and insulin is a hormone that has the highest anabolic potential in your body, as it activates a protein called mTor, which plays a crucial role in promoting muscle growth. As you can see, your body goes through a myriad of complex molecular processes that are essential to building lean muscle and healthy weight gain. Placing your body under excessive amounts of physical stress can only impede these processes, slow down your growth and force your body into stagnation.
Instead, you should find ways to relax, hydrate and get plenty of rest. Professional athletes and some true lifting buffs (pun intended) use healthy medical marijuana concentrates to speed up their recovery rate, manage their sore muscles, and ensure a more efficient training session for the next day. Athletes also combine moderate mobility and flexibility exercises that will increase blood flow to any given area, while deep-tissue massage can also be an excellent tool for boosting recovery.
Optimize Your Performance
Especially when your body is recovering from a heavy lift, your nervous system and your immune system will crave sleep and rest in particular, to replenish your glycogen resources and ensure a safe and strong training session after your rest day.
When you follow your diet, lifting routine (this means your deload weeks, too!), and your strategically planned rest days, each day of your week will have its purpose. Allowing your mindset to change and accepting rest days as a necessary evil might be all it takes for your performance to skyrocket. Then again, perceiving rest days as true growth days will also help you prepare mentally and physically for that next PR attempt.
Train heavy, but train smart and never skip growth day!