So you’ve been working on that new dream body and your sore, most people take a day off as soon as they start feeling minor aches and pains. This is why they don’t improve and progress, one of the biggest lessons to learn on your fitness journey is when its time to cuddle up with your estranged ex girlfriend and take a day off from the gym. In this article we will deep dive into how many days to take off from the gym per week and why you need to. The answer should be easy and generic but it isn’t, this is why…
Anabolic State vs. Catabolic State
Okay lets make something clear before we go balls deep into this subject. You grow when you are resting, not when you are working out. When you train with moderate to high intensity your body will release something called Lactic Acid. The release of lactic acid tears down your muscles and puts you in a catabolic state which means your body is breaking down. When you consume protein and rest you are putting your body in an anabolic state which means it’s growing. To make a long story short, rest is extremely important because it helps you build lean muscle and recover. Understanding when to take time off from the gym is extremely important because if it is not done correctly it will hinder your muscle growth.
Understanding when you need rest
If you’ve just started training then you’re going to be sore on day one, this is normal. Your body isn’t used to the lactic acid release and it’s freaking out. In order to properly gauge how much recovery time you’re going to need to man up and be honest with yourself. Taking too many days off is counterproductive and halts your calorie burning. If you don’t take days off, then it’s like trying to fill a water glass with a hole in the bottom, you are wasting your time and energy. When I first started training I was guilty of not taking days off. I wouldn’t take a day off if I was sick and I felt guilty for the time off. This was wrong and ineffective, when I applied the right formula to my rest days I put on muscle faster than ever. Here’s what you need to know to get the results you want.
Strength Training or Powerlifting
So if you love moving heavy ass weight around this is the section for you. Strength training is typically much different than conventional training. A strength athlete cares about getting as strong as possible and doesn’t focus on body fat or muscle appearance. If you fit in this category and are focusing on core lifts like bench press, deadlift and squat then chances are you’re going pretty heavy and taking a few mins between sets. When this is your chosen training method your workouts tend to last 1-2 hours, sometimes more depending on your program. This means for those two hours you are putting your body under a lot of stress and will need more time to recover.
Most strength athletes will train 4 times a week and take 3 days off. Rest is extremely important for strength athletes due to the level of strain they put on their body. So if you are trying to gain size and strength 4 days off is perfect, just make sure you are exhausting your muscle to fatigue each and every workout.
Bodybuilders and Fitness Athletes
Bodybuilding workouts tend to be broken down into 5 day splits. This entails each body part being trained once a week. The most effective method for recovery is going to be taking 2 days off per week. I find that taking two days off in a row works best, this allows you to replace the glycogen and essential nutrients for lean muscle mass while keeping a lean physique.
Now these workouts have a bit more intensity than the previous Strength training program. Your workout should last about an hour, this will limit the time you are in a catabolic state and allow you to spend the rest of the time getting in protein and repairing your newly broken down muscle fibers. These type of programs also require an adequate amount of protein for recovery, you can read more about this here How Much Protein Should I have on the Keto Diet
Chances are if you follow a cross fit program then you’re probably on the verge of puking at the end of every workout. These workouts involve a high volume of cardiovascular activity and moderate strength training. This type of training typically involves 1-2 hour workouts with extremely limited rest periods, because of this strain on your body you’ll need 2-3 days off from the gym to properly recover.
Another side note to this style of training is it is extremely likely you are depleting lots of stored glycogen. Glycogen is the energy source used when you normally consume carbohydrates. If this describes you then it’s best if you have a simple sugar drink with your protein shake immediately after you train to replace lost glycogen and illicit an anabolic state of growth.
If you fit in this category you either used to run high school track or just prefer to jump on a cardio machine for your workout. These workouts involve high cardiovascular activity and involve limited muscle fatigue. Now I’m not saying if you only do cardio you won’t be sore, but your body likely only needs to recover the bottom half of your body. This dynamic means you will likely only need to take 1 day off per week. If you find your legs aren’t recovering fast enough, then I would take an extra day off or alter your workouts to be less intense so you release less lactic acid.
Everyday gym goers
Okay so this is a much more broad style of training, with that being said I want to answer broad questions due to your training likely being in the bigger stages of your fitness journey.
I want to lose weight, how many days off should I take?
Simply put, the less time you take off the better. Working out more allows you to burn more calories which will help you lose weight.
I want to gain weight, how many days off should I take?
If you are trying to gain weight and strength then calorie intake is vital to your goals, taking 2-3 days off is ideal.
I’m not losing weight and I go to the gym everyday, what should I do?
If you’re not losing weight and go to the gym everyday it is best to take a look at your diet or acknowledge your level of intensity while training. Increasing your intensity or following a stricter diet should solve this problem.
Every person and athlete has different requirements when it comes to sleep and time off from the gym. I highly suggest fitting yourself into one of these categories and giving it a shot. Remember, rest and sleep are vital to your progress, accurately gauging your goals and style of training is the first step into making sure you pick the optimal choice for your recovery.