Rest days: why and how

When you’re gung-ho about training, it’s hard to take a break. More training = more results, doesn’t it? Well actually, no. Having a rest day can be just as beneficial to muscle building as your actual gym sessions. One thing to bear in mind, though, is that it should be a rest day from your workout plan, not a rest week, month or year…! You only deserve a rest day if you’ve worked your butt off all week – here’s why.

Prevent injury and fatigue

Every time you work your muscles to fatigue, you are damaging them. Because our bodies are so darn clever, this isn’t bad for them – our bodies will repair muscle and in doing so build more of it! However, when you don’t give your body enough time to sort itself out after training, the tiny injuries that we aim to make (in order to improve muscles) can develop into large injuries. These can prevent you from training for long periods of time. There is actually a condition called Overtrianing Syndrome (OTS) which is when you overwork your body so much, it damages the body’s central nervous system.

The symptoms of this are your strength gains reduce and your immune system suffers. You’ll also notice your mood changes and no doubt you’ll have muscular and joint pain, too. To avoid this, make sure you rest sufficiently!

Boost motivation

Going to the gym everyday can get tedious, even you’re a gym bunny! So give yourself some down time – it’s OK, even good, to have a day off. Do something different to take your mind off booty gains and bicep curls. You’ll benefit from it mentally as much as you do physically.

It’s important not to burn out after a month of intense exercise. This is much more likely to happen if you don’t give yourself time off working out. If you overtrain for an extended period of time, your morale will take the hit and your motivation will plummet.

Build muscle

There’s a reason why training professionals build in a rest day for optimum muscle gain. Weight training is just the starting point of the muscle toning process. It’s the part where you damage your muscle tissue so that it can adapt for the level of strength you require. But in order for your muscles to actually grow back stronger, you need to let them rest and feed them correctly. A major part of recovery happens during deep sleep, so make sure you get enough of it!


There’s no right answer to this question. You need to listen to your body. Generally, people need one or two days off training per week. But if you’re feeling under the weather, ill or extremely tired, have some more time off until you’re feeling sparkly again. There’s no point training hard if you’re not feeling great because you’ll delay your recovery from illness. If you’re injured, seek advice from your doctor – you might not have to completely stop training, but they’ll give you some exercises that wouldn’t put strain on your injury.

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