| Article written on December 8th, 2015 at 09:49am | Follow Garrett on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram |
I am often asked the question, “Can I strength train two days in a row?” Or, “Do I need a rest day in between workouts?”
Rest and recovery are often overlooked aspects of physical exercise. We are so focused on doing more to get more, that we underemphasize rest days. With that being said, most people are NOT working out at a high enough intensity to warrant complete days off in between sessions. Unless you are doing a full body “kill session,” structuring your program properly will allow optimal recovery.
Why Recovery is Important?
Exercise without proper recovery is counterproductive. If you think about it, recovery is actually where the mojo happens. Once we provide an adequate stimulus to break down muscle fibers where they will remodel the way we desire, we shouldn’t put more damage on top of that. This will have a catabolic effect.
Exercise is essentially damage to your tissues. Recovery is the repair process. We need a balance between the two to create positive adaptations without increasing the risk of overuse.
Taking time to allow for tissue repair and remodeling is what makes us stronger, faster, and better individuals. This doesn’t mean using a day to sit on the couch between sessions. Creating a program that alternates its focus to allow for recovery is key. Or, implementing strategies to enhance the process.
Structuring Your Program Properly
With that being said about recovery, the demand on the body needs to be high to warrant a complete day off between each exercise session. I always recommend one complete day off per week, but even that contains self-myofascial release (SMR) and mobility work to enhance the recovery process and improve weaknesses.
If you structure your program properly you can continue to exercise with little risk of overtraining. This is done by alternating muscle groups each session, whether that be upper/lower body splits or by body part. Bodybuilders are infamous for breaking down their workouts into areas, such as: back and bis, chest and tris, shoulders and arms, legs, etc.
Personally, I am a fan of total body workouts with a different emphasis each session. If on Monday you complete heavy squats and lighter single leg deadlifts, Tuesday you can complete heavy bilateral deadlifts and lighter split squats. Interchanging bilateral and unilateral focused exercises with different rep ranges can be effective. Since you would be doing total body workouts, the volume on each body part will remain low causing the need for longer recovery periods to be minimal.
Ways to Enhance the Recovery Process
At this point you are just finished with your workout and starting to feel it. That “it” is soreness, muscle fatigue, and being worn down. Immediately after the last exercise is completed, the recovery process begins (or even during your workout in many situations).
Will you facilitate the recovery process or slow it down? What I mean is most people just go on their way, jump in the shower, get in the car, and go about their day.
Did you cool down?
Did you stretch?
How about some diaphragmatic breathing to bring down your nervous system?
Some key things to think about following your exercise session to enhance recovery are:
Cool Down: Taking 5-10 minutes to slowly unwind from your session. Slow aerobic exercise is beneficial here to circulate blood and oxygen to damaged cells, as well as buffer lactate produced during exercise.
Foam Rolling: Studies have shown that foam rolling following exercise decreases muscle soreness as well as relieves tissue tension. Restoring tissue quality is key.
Stretching: Returning your muscles back to normal length will help prevent that tight feeling the next day. This is maximized in addition to foam rolling.
Deep Breathing: Breathing directly affects the nervous system. After a workout our bodies are in a more sympathetic (alert) state. Breathing deeply while utilizing the diaphragm will help decrease alertness and allow us to return to homeostasis.
Nutrition: Although nutrition is not my area of expertise, providing your body the proper nutrients to recover is important. Hydration is also key to replenish fluid loss during exercise. Nutrition is arguably the most important and underemphasized aspect of wellness.
Sleep: Most of our tissue repair and remodeling happens while we are sleeping. Are you getting enough hours? Adequate sleep will allow ample time for our bodies to shut down and truly build back up.
Next time you finish your workout, be prepared to facilitate recovery. Exercise alone is only one piece of the puzzle and most people need to improve their recovery strategies.
By: Garrett McLaughlin, MS, ATC, CSCS, ART