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Is a Rest Day Good for Bodybuilders?

author image Toby Pendergrass
Toby Pendergrass began writing and editing in 1998. He has served as editor for numerous custom health publications and physician journals. His work has appeared in publications such as Hospital Corporation of America's "YOU." He enjoys writing about cardiology and cancer care and holds a Bachelor of Arts in communication from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
Is a Rest Day Good for Bodybuilders?
A recovery period is an essential part of any weightlifting regimen. Photo Credit: Zsolt Nyulaszi/Hemera/Getty Images

People who lift weights and perform other bodybuilding exercises are able to prevent a gradual loss of muscle mass that takes place during aging and makes the body more prone to weakness and injury. Bodybuilding workouts offer a variety of other health benefits — including less risk for back pain — although working your muscles too much minimizes your gain and can cause deterioration. Understand how allowing your muscles one or more days of rest is essential to a healthy bodybuilding regimen.

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Bodybuilding for Better Health

While most physical activity benefits your overall wellness, people who perform regular bodybuilding workouts, or strength training, gain muscle and improve their bone strength. Stronger bones help you avoid the fractures caused by osteoporosis and improve your balance. Larger muscles improve your appearance with a toned physique but also help you eliminate unhealthy fat and burn calories more efficiently. Lifting weights to add muscle significantly decreases the likelihood that you’ll suffer from depression, diabetes and even the pain of arthritis.

Mandatory Rest

The Cleveland Clinic reports that one of the most common bodybuilding errors is failure to provide adequate rest time for muscles after a workout. A healthy routine works each muscle group no more than three days weekly — and never on consecutive days. Strength routines require your muscles to work against resistance — weighted barbells, resistance tubing or your own body weight, as when you perform pullups and pushups. An effective workout results in minimal bleeding and tearing of your muscle fibers that often leads to soreness. This damage is an essential part of bodybuilding and indicates that your muscles are repairing and becoming stronger. Muscle repair usually takes two days, which makes 48 hours of rest essential to allow growth and prevent injury that includes muscle deterioration.

A Perfect Balance

You’ll build muscle — and get sufficient rest — by adopting a bodybuilding regimen that alternates activity for different muscle groups. The Merck Manuals Online Medical Library suggests training your lower body during your first weekly workout and reserving the next workout for upper-body routines. You’ll also ensure you work both sides of a muscle and prevent overload by performing both pulling and pushing repetitions. Aim to lift only as long as you can maintain intensity and proper form, as attempting additional repetitions when you are fatigued opens the door to injury and limits the effectiveness of your exercise.

Effective Time Off

Meet with your doctor before starting a bodybuilding routine to ensure your muscles are up for the increased workload, particularly if you have a heart condition. Consider devoting your time away from the gym to aerobic activities like basketball, cycling or swimming. Cardiovascular exercise aids your strength workouts by increasing your stamina, and also lowers your cancer risk.

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