Exhaustion, aches and pains are all things we have felt, as active individuals. With any regular training regimen comes wear and tear. As competitors, we push ourselves to the breaking point, all in the pursuit of a perfected physique. We train, and we measure our food to the tenth of an ounce, but we sometimes neglect one of the most important parts of the muscle building equation - rest. This article is all about the how and whys of muscle building, and why rest is just as important as your training and nutrition.
First, a bit on how muscle is built in the first place
A common misconception amongst even the most “hardcore” of athletes, muscle is not actually built during the act of weight training. In fact, what weight training actually does is cause microscopic tears in your muscle fibers. That soreness you feel after a particularly grueling workout (DOMS, anyone?!) is actually the result of localized damage to the muscle, and inflammation as a result of said damage.
So how does rest factor into the equation?
Your body engages muscular hypertrophy (that is, muscular growth) when you are sleeping. During rest, your body produces high levels of GH (Growth Hormone), which is primarily responsible for cell growth and repair. A failure to get adequate amounts of rest is a failure to release growth hormone, which directly results in a failure to repair, regenerate, and essentially grow your muscles.
What happens when you ignore your body, and don't allow for rest days?
Essentially, denying your body the proper rest it needs to repair damaged muscle fibers will become counterproductive in the sense that you're actually creating a catabolic environment. By definition, catabolism is the breakdown of complex molecules in living organisms, and in this application it means that our muscles are being broken down, resulting in decreased size and strength. Clearly, this is the opposite of what we would want as bodybuilders and muscular-gain seekers.
Additionally, not allowing for proper rest and recovery puts you at greater risk of injury, and decreases overall performance.
What about Overtraining?
Damaging, counterproductive, and not necessarily in your best interests, overtraining is when training several consecutive days without rest (or training the same body parts without a 48 hour recovery window) does more harm than good. In constantly putting stress on the muscles without allowing for adequate recovery, you will once again create a catabolic environment.
Just as important (if not even more so) than weight training, rest is the one thing you shouldn't ignore in the quest to increase muscular strength and size. More rest equals greater gains, period.