Two things are required for muscle growth: the first is optimal load during your training sessions and the second is quite long intervals between them because the process of muscle growth and recovery is taking place not during workouts but after them, during rest periods. That’s why you ‘go on’ doing bodybuilding even when you are sleeping because your muscles continue to grow.
The recovery process also consists of two parts: the first is deliverance from fatigue and micro-lacerations that occur in muscles after each training session. During this stage your muscles try to regain the state of strength and integrity they had before the workout. Fatigue of particular muscles appears to be just a part of the organism fatigue in common. Hard but the most effective workout exercises such as Barbell Squats, Dead Lifts or Bench Presses lead to higher level of fatigue than isolation exercises such as Dumbbell Triceps Extensions or Cable Crossovers. After each training session it is most of all important for the organism to overcome this purely physical fatigue. Only after this your organism can switch to the second part of recovery process – muscle growth and strength increase (to the so-called ‘super-compensation’).
That’s why I advise that you never go to a gym if you feel that you hadn’t rested enough after a previous training session. Never aggravate your fatigue by new load. Give your muscle chance to rest and grow!
How many days does one need to rest?
If you are young, very energetic, if you sleep well and aren’t nervous a lot then you, most probably, will need only 3-4 days to recover after each training session.
However, if you are on the bad side of your thirties, if you have small kids and life full of stress – don’t expect your muscles to recover just in 3-4 days. You’ll have to workout each muscle group no more often that once a week.
So if we are beginners…We are going to act like this: let’s divide our body in two parts (for two workouts) and train each of them in turn with reasonable rest periods between them. We are going to consider a reasonable rest period one or two days after each of two training sessions. Due to this split-system workout frequency for each muscle group will be four or six days. You should consider yourself for how long you need to rest (depending on your age and the level of life stress). Don’t be afraid to add one more rest day if you feel that your muscles require it.
Thanks to the proposed split-system (body divided in two parts) you have a unique opportunity to workout more and rest longer. It is obvious that this system greatly increases general dynamics of muscle mass growth.
The effect of muscle recovery and muscle growth after each workout session can be reduced by the following most common mistakes of amateur bodybuilders:
Overstated loads. Resources of muscle recovery are limited by genetic features of organism of each particular bodybuilder.
Long workout. Any prolonged training session leads to emptying of muscle ‘fuel’ reserves – glycogen in liver and muscles, which resynthesis takes very long time. Such energy shortage leads to muscle weakness that does not allow us to train adequately. The growth, by the way, in this case is no option at all; and this is one additional reason to have short (30-40 minutes) trainings.
Short sleep. Sleep is the main recovery tool of any bodybuilder. It is vitally important for muscle growth; that is why you should try to use the required amount of this natural ‘anabolic’ (at least 10 hours a day). If you have possibility to sleep 1-2 hours in the day-time it will additionally increase your growth and recovery rate.
Poor nutrition. Muscles grow only under condition of their adequate provision with construction materials – with proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and trace elements. Natural and full-value food products should be the basis of your meals; all food supplements (proteins, amino acids, etc.) are just additions to your natural ration that is to be composed of abundant and high-quality meals. Balanced nutrition presupposes the following proportions: 25% of proteins, 55-60% of carbohydrates and 10-15% of fats. Daily caloric content of your ration should not be less than 3000-3500 calories; you need to divide the process of their consumption in 4-6 times and try to eat each 2-3 hours.
In the light of all the information covered above it becomes clear that rest is much more important than workouts. Exactly rest leads to muscle growth while workout give just the primary stimulus for this process. Let your muscles rest and grow!