How Long Should You Rest Between Workouts?

July 31, 2017

 [Below is my transcript of my video about learning how long to rest between exercises, along with supplemental information on the topic.]

Today, I want to talk about how long you should rest between workouts and how rest can actually improve your physical performance, as this is a common question I’ve gotten. I’ve worked with Olympic-level athletes and swimmers and triathletes over the years and helping them be their absolute best, including providing them with knowledge about the best foods for energy and performance.

Well, one of the things you have to realize again is that rest is good. In fact, rest is when your muscles grow; it’s when your body recovers, and so there are a lot of people out there today not getting enough muscle recovery time.


Achieve the Right Level of Recovery

The general rule of thumb is if you are doing a weight-training exercise and completely causing a muscle to go to fatigue, you really need at least 48 hours for that muscle to recover. For instance, let’s say you go and do a really intense shoulder workout (shoulder presses, upright rows and flies, for instance). Well, you shouldn’t work out shoulders again the next day. You should take at least a full day off before working shoulders again. Your muscles need to adequately rest between workouts.

Now, that’s not to say you can’t work out the next day. You absolutely can. You can work out your legs, your back or your biceps. But again, you want to give your shoulders at least a full day of rest before you have them go to complete fatigue again.

In general, this also works for your cardiovascular system. In the past, I’ve done triathlons, and when you’re training during the week, you really should have only one day where you’re going at race pace. You’ll wear your body out. And you absolutely must give your body a chance to recover from common running injuries, such as shin splints, tendonitis (runner’s knee) and sore Achilles tendons, for example.


Learn to Ramp Up Your Exercise & ‘Listen’ to Your Body

Again, rest increases performance. This has actually been proven in sports studies, and this is actually a principle called tapering. When you have a big race coming up, one of the ideal things you can do is continue to build your volume over time.

Each week, always take one complete day off from exercise. One to two days off completely, each week, from exercise, is the ideal amount of time.

When you have that 5k coming up, or a triathlon or that CrossFit competition, and you want to be at your peak performance in exercise, you want to really build up your volume over time. The week of the competition, however, or even a few days before, make sure you do a lighter load — just very light exercise, maybe half of what you would normally do, and that’s going to allow your body to rest and recover for the next day.

In addition, sleep is critical for improving performance. Getting eight-plus hours of sleep a night is absolutely essential. If you’re only getting six hours of sleep a night or just can’t sleep, then it’s imperative you get more Zzzs or find natural remedies to help you sleep better, as sleep time is repair time for your whole body — muscles, tendons, ligaments, organs (including the brain!), etc.

So listen, don’t overwork your body. More isn’t always better; you want to slowly, naturally, continually build up your volume over time, typically by about 10 percent a week, whether that’s running or lifting or performing a certain sport like basketball, football or soccer. That’s how you really want to do it.

Remember, schedule in those periods of rest. Make sure you’re getting plenty of rest between workouts, body parts, runs, etc. If you follow those tips, you will absolutely increase your athletic performance.

If you want more tips on how to get fit fast, subscribe to my YouTube channel. I’m always going over my top tips for recovery, building muscle, burning fat and increasing athletic performance.

 Read Next: 5 Best Foods for Athletes & Performance

Josh Axe

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