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, the opposite is usually true. Your muscles need rest to get strong and perform at their peak.
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Ironically, training your muscles every day is one of the worst ways to build muscle. Muscles grow during the rest periods between sessions, says trainer and nutrition expert Damien Mase on the Muscle and Strength website. 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.
Too many workouts in a row 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.
If your muscles are tired and sore from overuse, your technique can get sloppy, reducing the effectiveness of your workout. To ensure 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, whereas one of Mase’s basic rules is to 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 movement.
Mase recommends at least two rest days between training sessions for any given muscle group. Even then, if muscles are still sore from the previous workout, avoid training them until they have recovered. Overall, two training sessions a week is usually enough for most muscle groups. Organize your sessions so you work a combination of upper and lower muscle groups on varying days. For example, on day one you might train muscles in the lower body -- abdominal, quadricep, hamstring and calf muscles -- and the next day, while these muscles are resting and rebuilding, train your chest, back, shoulders, triceps and biceps.