Taking two to three days off from intense exercise each week while engaging in some form of active recovery will allow you to get your blood flowing to help facilitate muscle repair.
Cue the ever-important rest day. It turns out, exercise experts pretty much agree on the number of rest days people who are in good shape and exercising regularly should take: On average, you should be taking two days per week for rest and active recovery.
It is generally recommended that bodybuilders get 1-2 days of rest per week, with a whole week of rest every three months. You can split train and focus on different muscle groups each day, so while you're working on your shoulders, your legs get a rest and can recover adequately.
In an ideal world, you should work out 5-6 days a week for best results. These workouts should involve a mix of strength training and cardio exercise. The more variety you can include in terms of the types of exercise you do, the better.
Specifically, rest is essential for muscle growth. Exercise creates microscopic tears in your muscle tissue. But during rest, cells called fibroblasts repair it. This helps the tissue heal and grow, resulting in stronger muscles.
Some research suggests that you can start to lose muscle in as quickly as one week of inactivity - as much as 2 pounds if you are fully immobilized (3). And another study suggests your muscle size can decrease by about 11% after ten days without exercise, even when you aren't bed ridden (4).
It's recommended to rest for 72 hours before working out the same muscle group again. This gives your body the time it needs for muscle recovery and growth without risking injury from overtraining or under-recovery.
A “bro split” refers to any workout routine (or “split”) that trains different body parts (or muscle groups) on different days. For instance, training arms one day, chest another, shoulders another, and so on.
A training frequency of once a week will get you bigger muscles, but research as highlighted below shows that a training frequency of 2-3 times per week is more effective in reaching this goal.
Protein is essential for supporting muscle recovery on rest days. It's important to consume high-quality protein sources on non-workout days to optimize recovery. One high-quality protein source to include on both active and rest days is protein shakes.
Rest day is the perfect opportunity to take advantage of low impact workouts such as yoga or Pilates. Or simply take a walk. The idea is to take a break from those hardcore gym workouts, yet keep your body moving. Aim for 30-45 minutes of light recovery exercise on rest day.
If you don't sleep well or long enough consistently for a few days, your reaction time, immunity, cognitive functions, and endurance will decrease, with compounds the symptoms of overtraining. Dr. Wickham says that two rest days in a row should be enough to reset the body back into a normal sleep schedule and cycle.
Downtime between workouts (whether you're lifting, doing cardio or training for a sport) is when our bodies have a chance to actually build muscle. Strenuous workouts cause muscle breakdown, while rest allows our bodies to build it back up.
The Answer? Rest One or Two Days Per Week. For the best performance and to reach your goals in the safest and most effective way possible, plan for one to two rest days per week.
Also important: While a rest day is a pause from your normal routine, it doesn't necessarily mean you can't do anything active during it. A rest day could involve just sitting on the couch and chilling, or it could include active recovery activities, like stretching, foam rolling, yoga, walking, or easy biking.
The Push/Pull/Legs Split
The most popular way to combine your muscle groups into a three-day split is probably the Push/Pull/Legs (PPL) split. That entails training your pushing muscles (chest, shoulders, and triceps) on day one, pulling muscles (back and biceps) on day two, and legs on day three.
The push/pull/legs split is probably the most efficient workout split there is because all related muscle groups are trained together in the same workout. This means that you get the maximum overlap of movements within the same workout, and the muscle groups being trained get an overall benefit from this overlap.
Push/pull/legs is favorite training split which includes pushing muscles (chest, shoulder, triceps), the pulling muscles the next (back, biceps, forearms, abs), and lower body (quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves' w/ abs) on the next day. Add in rest days where needed, all while you don't miss any days.
“Overtraining can lead to overuse injuries such as muscle strains, stress fractures or tendon injuries.” Plus, when you exercise too much, you may lose your motivation or simply no longer enjoy your sports or workouts,” said Amy Jo Overlin, MD, a sports medicine physician at Banner Health in Phoenix, AZ.
Don't exercise if your signs and symptoms are "below the neck," such as chest congestion, a hacking cough or upset stomach. Don't exercise with people if you have COVID-19 or other contagious illnesses. Don't exercise if you have a fever, fatigue or widespread muscle aches.
Your rest day nutrition should include plenty of protein from a variety of sources, complex carbohydrates to fuel recovery, and healthy fats to help bring down inflammation created by training. Aim for 20-30g protein every 2-4 hours throughout the day.
One study found that it took 72 hours of rest — or 3 days — between strength training sessions for full muscle recovery, while research from the ACE Scientific Advisory Panel says that a recovery period could be anywhere from two days up to a week depending on the type of exercise.