If you're looking to get a toned body and improve your fitness fast, you could be forgiven for thinking the harder and more often you train, the quicker you will see results.
In fact, however, the opposite is usually true. Your muscles actually need rest to grow, build strength and perform at their peak.
How Muscle Is Built
Ironically, training your muscles every day is one of the worst ways to build muscle. In addition, training the same muscle every day often results in injury. Muscles grow during the rest periods between sessions. When you strength train, tiny tears form in the working muscles.
It's when you're not working out that your body repairs this temporary damage by pumping extra blood into the affected muscles. This results in new tissue growth and therefore bigger muscles. If you don't factor recovery time into your exercise routine, this process won't take place and your muscles will not grow.
Save Your Energy
Training the same body part every day can leave you tired and lacking in motivation. If you hit the gym without enthusiasm, it's unlikely you're going to give 100 percent. And if you don't give your best effort in each session, you won't get optimum results. Resting muscle groups between sessions allows you to work at a higher intensity.
Essentially, working at a higher intensity means you create more tears in the muscles, which causes them to grow back even stronger and become more defined.
Watch Your Form
Working out the same muscles every day can lead to pain. If your muscles are tired and sore from overuse, your technique can get sloppy, reducing the effectiveness of your workout. To ensure that you get the most out of each session — and, just as important, avoid injury — you need to focus on the action of the muscle group you are working and perform every part of a given exercise with good technique.
If you're tired, you may rush through the workout, so keep repetitions slow and controlled. It's very important to work through each muscle's full range of motion, which is difficult to do if soreness is limiting your movement.
Schedule Some Rest
Schedule at least two rest days between training sessions for any given muscle group. Even then, if your muscles are still sore from the previous workout, avoid training them until they have recovered. In general, a minimum of two strength training workouts per week is recommended in the second edition of Health.gov's Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.
Organize your sessions so you work a combination of upper and lower muscle groups on varying days. For example, on the first day, you might train the muscles of the lower body — abdominal, quadriceps, hamstrings and calf muscles — and the next day, while these muscles are resting and rebuilding, you might train your chest, back, shoulders, triceps and biceps.