It’s both amazing and revealing to me that there aren’t more Internet searches among natural bodybuilders for this keyword combination: “rest days between workouts.” Its low search volume relative to other advice for successful bodybuilding is what’s most striking. Yet it’s also very revealing: inter-workout recuperation being low in relative importance in the minds of many natural bodybuilders is exactly what keeps these aspiring physique builders barking up the wrong trees of advice in a quest for elusive muscle gains.
'Rest days between workouts' are as important to muscle gains as the effectiveness of the workouts themselves
Let’s get something straight: Nothing is more important than the combination of ‘rest days between workouts’ and the actual workload we apply to the muscles. No amount of creatine or whey protein or nitric oxide or ‘testosterone boosters’ will compensate for a mismatch of this vitally important ratio. If you work your muscles with adequate intensity and then short-change them with inadequate recovery, you won’t make muscle building gains and your bodybuilding routine will be a waste of time and energy.
‘Rest Days between Workouts’: Inadequate for most bodybuilding routines
Successful bodybuilding is a two step process: ‘working out’ (tissue breakdown/catabolism) and ‘rest days between workouts’ (tissue recuperation/anabolism). The number of rest days between workouts is as important to success as the workouts themselves. Yet many natural bodybuilding enthusiasts treat the rest days between workouts almost as an afterthought. First they arbitrarily choose a random number of sets to complete for the workout of a particular muscle. Then they spontaneously apply an intensity of effort during that workout with as much randomness as the decision on how many sets to complete. And the number of rest days following the workout? It’s decided by bodybuilding’s conventional wisdom and adhered to regardless of the random factors that went into the workout.
No wonder disappointing results are so prevalent in natural bodybuilding.
What I’ve discovered through a lot of experimentation with rest days between workouts is that most routines don’t provide nearly enough of them. The standard “seventy-two to ninety-six hours for a muscle to recuperate” is an utter joke. I’ve even found the now common one week’s rest for a worked muscle to be a bit of a stretch. In fact, my advice to those who aren’t making muscle gains is this: Give your muscles a bit more than one week’s rest between workouts and then ADD rest days as needed.
What do I mean by “as needed?” I mean that if the additional rest days don’t get your body gaining muscle, then incrementally add more of them until bodybuilding gains resume. Again, what have you got to lose? You know that regressing back to fewer rest days will result in only more of the same – little to no muscle gains. So give it a chance with the realization that experimenting can’t leave you any worse off than you are when progress is stultified due to the most common error in natural bodybuilding – overtraining.
‘Rest Days between Workouts’: Where’d conventional wisdom come from?
Here are some good questions to ask yourself if you haven’t yet contemplated them:
In the contexts of both bodybuilding and general fitness, who decided that a few days of rest between the working of each body part is ideal or even effective? By what criteria has it been decided that working a muscle every four or five days is the right schedule? Likewise, what makes the perfect calendar-divided time-span of one week’s rest for each muscle group the optimal period of recuperation for muscles that have been broken down with arbitrarily varying amounts of intensity during bodybuilding workouts?
Since adequate inter-workout recuperation is half the success equation in bodybuilding, these are questions that should be seriously asked before allowing apprehension to adding more rest days between workouts to set in. Adding even more legitimacy to these questions is the fact that conventional wisdom for bodybuilding workout schedules have oftentimes been arrived at by observation of steroid-using bodybuilders by industry magazine journalists. Since steroids greatly speed up protein synthesis and recuperation of muscle tissue, these “conventional wisdom” schedules are rarely effective for natural bodybuilders with average genetics.
Bottom line: If you think the widely accepted number of rest days between workouts have been arrived at “scientifically” – think again.
And assuming you work out intensely, try adding rest days to your workout schedule until you break any time-wasting bodybuilding plateaus that are so common to natural bodybuilders due to training too often.