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Muscle Recovery Time After Weight Lifting

author image Chelsea Nowlin
Chelsea Nowlin is a writer whose passion for literary expression began as a method of self-reflection. Working as an AFPA certified wellness coach, personal trainer and nutrition consultant since 2009, she finds it extremely rewarding to help people create healthier lifestyles.
Muscle Recovery Time After Weight Lifting
Man rests at gym Photo Credit matthiasdrobeck/iStock/Getty Images

The benefits of weight training can be addicting to anyone who works out with machines, free weights or even their own body weight. Often overlooked, though, is the necessity of rest between sessions. Muscle adaptions occur during recovery, and should be looked at as a part of your training. Whether you are just starting, or you're an advanced athlete, taking time to recover will maximize your strength and help prevent injury.

Realities of Over-training

Fatigue and decreased strength occurs when the body doesn't get enough rest between weight-training sessions, or when the muscles haven't fully recovered their glycogen stores. High-intensity resistance exercise can cuase damage to skeletal muscle and connective tissues. When muscle trauma occurs, it impairs the transport of blood glucose into the skeletal muscle cells, inevitably leading to soreness and pain. Strength and fitness may regress if planned recovery time isn't a part of your program. Over-training can lead to injuries, insomnia, weight and strength fluctuations, mood-swings, declining endurance, prolonged bouts of sickness, tendinitis and reduced concentration. If you feel you have reached a plateau and are no longer furthering your improvements, it may be caused by over-training.

Rest and Recuperation

Without proper recovery time, weight lifting can be counterproductive. On the other hand, excessive recovery time prevents you from reaching your goals. According to American Fitness Professionals and Associates, after 96 hours changes associated with muscle atrophy begin, and after a week of not training you can lose up to 10 percent of your strength. Your training history, the weight lifted and sets performed determine how much recovery time you need. Beginners performing a full-body workout should take one to two days of rest between each session. More experienced athletes may require splitting opposing muscle groups on consecutive days and need two to three days before training the same muscles. Although a split session targets each area twice per week, more time and higher intensities can be used.

Maximize Your Recovery

Recovery from working out is necessary, but it doesn't mean you should sit in front of the television with a bowl of ice cream. Low-impact cardiovascular exercise, such as walking, may be an option. You can also choose to take a yoga class or play a recreational game. The key is to go light so the body adequately recovers from the previous workout. Seven to eight hours of sleep a night, balanced nutrition and a minimum of 64 ounces of water are also necessary for your body to recover completely. Consuming complex carbohydrates increases the glycogen levels and should be consumed after a strenuous workout.

Lingering Muscle Aches

Any activity that puts an unusual load on the muscles may lead to delayed onset muscle soreness. This soreness typically begins 12 to 24 hours after the exercise is performed, but may produce the greatest tenderness and stiffness after 24 to 72 hours. Higher reps with more weight causes the soreness if your body is not used to the exercise. Warming up, stretching and taking your time when using new intensities during weight training reduces the likelihood of DOMS. Performing exercises while experiencing muscle pain or joint stiffness will only worsen matters. Usually it takes three to five days of rest for your muscle's recovery. The American College of Sports Medicine advises to refrain from the activity until the symptoms subside.

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