Regular rest is important to maximize muscle growth. It prevents over training, gives your body a chance to grow and adapt to the stimulus you have put on it and ‘catch its breath’ so to speak. It also makes sure that your central nervous system and immune don’t fall behind. Most of us don’t like rest days, but they can be a good mental break to come back in full force. Additionally there are things you can do on your rest day that will help your body recover to its maximum potential.
Here is a list of things you can do on your rest day:
Total rest is good for the body to recuperate. It gives your muscles the time to recover on a deeper level, refill their glycogen stores and grow in strength without rushing to recover before being worked again. Most workout splits work a certain muscle once or twice a week so that they can recover before their next session, but their recovery is sometimes limited because even though they are not being put under a physical stress, they end up competing with the other muscles that are working in the other sessions for nutrients. The body can only do so much at a single time, and occasional rest days that involve complete rest with any stimulus allows it to focus more of its resources on rest and growth instead of performing at the same time.
Those who are really dedicated to the iron often feel lost during the time that they would be pumping things up. It is also possible to also feel depressed because you don’t feel the endorphin release that exercise brings. Others even feel guilty for not pushing their bodies to the limit all the time. This can make some hate rest days, but some use this extra time as an opportunity to do things that they don’t usually have time for or don’t think about doing. These things can include taking a walk, going for a swim, spending time with family and friends, watching a good movie, cleaning out the house or eating at a fancy restaurant.
The steam room is a favorite among those on rest days because they have an excuse to go to the gym (force of habit) even though they are not working out. The steam room also compliments rest and recovery because of sweating that helps remove toxins and waste products. Additionally, the increased blood flow from the heat and widened blood vessels increases the availability of nutrients to muscle for optimum growth.
Stretching is also a good option because it elongates the muscles, increases blood flow and relaxes them. The benefits that stretching provide not only help to get the most out of rest days, but offer additional benefits like improved range of motion and flexibility and decreased injury risk.
Light cardio is a popular form of rest (often called active rest) because it allows people to still exercise when they are ‘resting’ from their prioritized form of exercise. Light cardio can benefit rest and recovery because it increases blood flow, which will help take away toxin and waste products from recovering muscle and at the same time increase the rate at which required nutrients are delivered to these muscles. Cardio at a higher intensity or for a prolonged period of time, however, can actually inhibit muscle growth because this could cause the body to redirect resources (energy and nutrients) from muscle to cope with the new stress placed on it.
These things can help to maximize your rest days. It is best to try a combination of these. For example, doing light cardio on some rest days will contribute to a balanced health and fit body, but rest days with complete rest (no exercise) are also necessary for the body to dedicate all of its resources to growth and development alone. STAY STRONG!