Are you wondering how long you should rest between workouts? Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced gym-goer, knowing how to rest properly is an essential part of a successful fitness routine.
Rest periods can help you avoid fatigue, improve your performance, and even help you make gains faster. So, how long should you rest between workouts? Let’s find out!
How do You Monitor Recovery?
Peak performance isn’t just about what you can do today – it’s about how your body responds, bounces back, and adapts to stress after exercise or competition.
Lifting weights at the gym is challenging for your body – but that’s a good thing! When you stress your body, it responds in different ways to help it restore itself to a balanced state. That’s why it’s crucial to think about recovery from a holistic perspective – it’s not just about the muscles but how exercise affects your whole body.
Your Muscle-Building System – The ANS
Muscles require electrical stimulation to cause contraction, depending on the nervous system to activate. The nervous system, specifically the autonomic nervous system (also known as the ANS), is split into two branches:
- The sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is the “fight or flight” branch. You activate your SNS if you want to run fast, jump high, or lift heavy.
- The parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is the “rest and digest” branch. You need to activate your PNS if you want to chill out, relax, and recover.
If you want to give your training sessions your all, you must crank up your sympathetic nervous system and push heavy weights. But when it’s time to switch gears and relax with a night of deep, restful sleep, you need your parasympathetic nervous system working correctly.
To keep your ANS and recovery in check, ensure you accurately assess each workout’s overall stress.
Track How Your Workouts Feel
A great way to gauge your level of effort is with the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE). This handy tool lets you understand how you’re feeling on any given day and how you’re recuperating following workouts.
Rate your sessions on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being an intense workout, 9 being tough, 8 being challenging, and so on. Of course, this isn’t an exact science, but it’s a great way to assess how you’re feeling at the gym on any given day – no matter how much weight you’re lifting or if you need more rest.
Calculate Workout Intensity
Want to get an idea of how hard you trained? Calculate the workout’s total stress! Most people know about calculating total volume (sets x reps). However, the load is just as important when considering intensity. To accurately measure your workout, use this formula: sets * reps * weight.
Using this equation, here’s how two different workouts done with a standard 5×5 lifting scheme would look:
- 5 sets * 5 reps * 200 pounds = 5,000 pound workout
- 5 sets * 5 reps * 400 pounds = 10,000 pound workout
While each workout contains identical total reps, adding in the load gives you a better measure of how challenging the training is. It’s worth noting that as lifters mature—either in age or in experience—they usually need more intensity to force the body to grow.
Other Factors That Affect Recovery
As we get older, stress becomes more taxing, and we don’t bounce back like we used to.
For example, a 20-year-old with a hectic schedule of attending classes, hitting the gym five times per week, and dealing with extracurricular activities can handle a decent amount of stress. On the other hand, a 50-year-old with teenage children, a full-time job, and money problems to worry about needs more time to recuperate.
Here are three significant factors to consider when designing a weekly schedule:
- Age and recovery ability.
- Primary training goal (e.g., strength-focused vs. physique focused).
- Other stressors in life.
For most lifters, 2-4 sessions per week work well. Younger lifters can typically handle more workouts, while older lifters should stick with fewer.
Get healthy muscle recovery after every workout so you can return to the gym and keep making gains.
Building A Better Recovery Template
Once you understand the intensity of your training and your weekly workout plan, it’s time to plan for rest and recovery between sessions. Get the most out of your workouts by giving your body the time it needs to recover.
When you’re young, doing two workouts in a row is easy. But as you age, you’ll likely require more rest between sessions. Of course, there are exceptions, and some individuals can train daily. But most people who train hard 3-4 times a week benefit from taking a day off between workouts.
If you want to increase your strength, you can probably only do max-effort workouts twice a week. Intense workouts like these mean you’ll need 48-72 hours between sessions to give your body the rest it needs. Remember, even if your muscles feel ready to go, your nervous system needs some time off too!
Even with only two high-intensity days, you don’t have to skip the rest of the week! You can still get your sweat on with less intense, volume-focused workouts, recovery workouts, or something else. There are plenty of options for moving your body and recovering.
If you’re more focused on your physique, follow a traditional bodybuilding-style split. You’ll most likely hit maximal intensity on leg day and potentially on your back or chest day. Then, give yourself a day off after those heavy workouts to maximize your ability to recover.
How Long Should You Rest Between Workouts
How long you need to rest between workouts depends on many factors! However, you can determine how much rest you need using the methods above. Additionally, most professional workout plans will plan recovery time for you!
Ready to reach your fitness goals? Find the perfect training approach to help you get the most out of your workouts and maximize recovery. Get started now – check out our free workout plans!
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