Fitness

Why You Should Rest Between Exercises and Take Rest Days

In the workout world, there are a few ways to define rest. First, there is rest during exercises. You know, the breaks you take between reps or sets. But on the other side of the coin are types of rest like days off from exercise, sleep and proper nutrition. Each of these are essential to seeing the results you’re after, so let’s delve deeper to understand how each can impact your progress.

During exercise: Rest between sets or exercises

Depending on the type of training or exercise you’re doing, you should rest anywhere from 30 seconds to five minutes. The rule of thumb here is to rest for shorter periods of time during endurance training (like the 10-to-30 second breaks you’ll do in HIIT workouts with 8fit, for example) and for longer during strength training (so, taking a full few minutes to regroup after a heavy set of squats or similar). Resting between sets allows the body’s energy systems to recuperate after they’ve exhausted their supplies, powering you up for one last set of bicep curls or one last sprint. Without this rest, you can risk compromising good form, which can lead to injury, and for HIIT especially, the cycle between intensity and rest is essential to reaping the cardiovascular and muscular benefits of the format.

Taking days off and sleep

While taking breaks during a workout is crucial, the most important rest is actually the rest that happens between workouts. Muscle groups need 48 to 72 hours to recuperate and repair themselves properly after strength training workouts, depending on the intensity of the workout. This is why you might hear a bodybuilder or weighted workout enthusiast say “today is an arms day” or “tomorrow is legs day” – they’re focusing the day’s work on a muscle group that’s fresh, and giving other muscle groups the day off. If you’re strength training your full body, you might need to take the next day off from exercise. Without the rest, you won’t see the increase in strength you’re after.

squat female workout fitness rest

In order to recover from endurance workouts, the body needs less time. In fact, if you fuel your body properly, you can run two or more consecutive days.

Sleep is often the most overlooked – but most important – piece of the recovery process. Shutting your body down with sleep gives it the opportunity to repair everything from torn muscle tissues to hormone levels. If you’re concerned with muscle gain, sleep allows your body to perform protein synthesis at a much higher rate, so I advise eating a protein-packed meal in the evening to help increase muscle gains.

Nutrition is key

Speaking of meals, proper nutrition plays huge role in the body’s ability to recover. It’s all about what you eat and when you eat, too (we get into more specifics on the “when” in a another post).

Fueling your body with the proper balance of macronutrients – specifically protein – gives you the energy you need to workout, and recover from your workouts. Protein makes up our muscles, skin, tissues, hair and nails. It also plays a role in regulating our metabolism, hormone production and the growth and repair of cells (i.e. muscle repair). Protein requirements vary from person to person but, lucky for you, an 8fit meal plan takes the guesswork out of macros by automatically calculating your exact needs based on your body type and fitness goals, and giving you recipes that map back to those needs.

post workout smoothie banana workout

The dangers of overtraining

Overtraining and refraining from rest can lead to injury and underperformance. If you don’t give your muscles and tendons enough time to recover, they won’t be fully prepared for the next workout. Tired muscles are more prone to serious injuries and prevent you from performing to the best of your abilities.

Beyond that, feeling tired day after day can actually be very demotivating. Give your body the rest it needs and you’ll reach your goal – lose weight, gain muscle, get fitter – faster.