Today I want to go over an often overlooked topic: What are we supposed to do on workout rest days?
It is on these days that your body will grow and repair itself from training using your nutritional intake from the other days of the week. This is the basic concept of how your muscles grow.
We all know what to do on our work days. We train at high intensities, go through work sets, and drink our recovery protein. And naturally after a hard day of training, we reward ourselves by kicking back and lounging in front of the TV or computer all day.
But doing this is only limiting your ability to get fit and stay healthy… and here’s why:
The Human Body Was NOT Designed To Do Nothing
Prior to the 20th century and introduction of technological breakthroughs, humans were much more active. We didn’t workout on a daily basis per se, but we definitely had our fair share of walking around.
Can you guess what humans these days spend most of their time doing? Sitting.
We sit while we eat, work, drive, surf the internet, and watch TV… Since we are restrained in a seated position for the majority of our lives, certain consequences such as muscle weakness, bad posture, loss of motion and function and decreased circulation can be predicted.
While blasting your muscles with high intensity exercise every few days is better than doing nothing, the most effective way to increase size, strength and stamina is to mix in a couple of days of lower intensity exercises.
This means that you should try to keep your body active even on your rest days by fitting in a light exercise such as a brisk walk. The goal here is to do something you enjoy. Your rest day exercise shouldn’t be considered a workout, but rather, a leisurely activity.
Half an hour of light cardio, body weight exercises, yoga, stretching or even walking will suffice. Even a session of dancing will do – just don’t let alcohol ruin your hard work.
If you’re a little more on the heavy side, concentrate on doing non-weight bearing exercises such as swimming or biking until you’ve lost a bit of weight. This will help to reduce the chance of injury.
Not to be mistaken, I’m not telling you to overtrain your body. Too much of anything is bad. Overtraining will not only slow your results but eventually cause injury.
Low Intensity Exercise Decreases Recovery Time
Following a workout, you have just made millions of micro-tears in your muscle fibers. The muscle fibers will regrow denser, larger and stronger than they previously were.
Performing light exercise on your off-days will help to decrease your recovery time by increasing blood flow and shuttling nutrients to your muscles, given that you’ve had an appropriate post-workout nutrition meal.
And finally for the elite-athletes or models seeking to shed that extra ounce of body fat, you can perform a light bodyweight interval circuit. Just try not to overdo it otherwise it will weaken your upcoming trainings or impair your recovery.
Remember, rest days are in place to optimize the release of growth hormone and let it do its magic. This isn’t possible if you overtrain your body and constantly force it into a catabolic state. We get stronger and build muscle while resting, not while working.
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