One of my favorite principles in fitness is break to build. The concept requires muscle to be broken down, by doing challenging workouts, in order to build muscle size, strength, or endurance. It is essential that the workout is difficult enough to force the body to adapt to it. If it is too easy, then muscle will not be broken down enough to force the body to adapt by rebuilding stronger muscle. It’s like tearing down the top story of a skyscraper and replacing it with a few stories.
Breaking down the muscle is only one of two components. Building it back up is just as or even more important. Rest is often overlooked and undervalued. Without enough rest, the body isn’t allowed the needed time to repair muscle tissue. This prevents maximal gains and leads to over training and possible injury. I’ve seen countless fitness addicts constantly breaking down muscle and not allowing it to rebuild by working out the same muscles everyday. Everyone who has worked out at a gym for a while knows that guy that is there everyday doing bench press and curls. That guy would see more progress by adding a rest day or alternate between muscle groups each day (ex: lower body/upper body, or chest/back). On the other hand, too much rest can just be as detrimental to fitness gains. Just like the fitness addict, the gym member who only fits in one workout a week is also not going to see maximal results. When I only see a person once a week, whether it is a personal training client, athlete, or boot camper, I always stress the importance of getting another workout in during the week. Otherwise their hard work here goes to waste.
So what is the right amount of rest between workouts? Generally, 24 to 48 hours. 24 hours is the least amount of rest needed to allow the muscles to build up and is the perfect time to break it back down again. After 48 hours, the body starts to lose the gains it made from the workout. As I discussed earlier, there are ways to work around this by alternating muscle groups or modes of exercise. When done right, the progression in fitness level will look a lot like a flight of stairs, taking small steps up. By following this principle, you will be able to maximize your results and stay healthy.
Keith Spieker, Athletic/Fitness Training Specialist
Graduated from Grand Valley State University in April 2012 with a degree in exercise science. Sports background includes many years of club soccer experience, 4 years high school varsity soccer and track, and 4 years GVSU club soccer. He enjoys working with people and being a part of the positive changes in their life.