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Monday, October 22, 2012

Rest, Repair, and Recovery - By Joe Aben

Originally Posted on NaturalStrength.com on July 29, 2002

One of the most frequent mistakes I encounter with someone who initiates a strength training (weight training) program is not getting proper rest and recovery between workouts. It is a fantastic feeling to be motivated and have a “gung-ho” attitude when beginning a program, but some control and moderation must be included with that eagerness in order to see results. Maintaining motivation to work out through one’s lifetime is a challenge in itself. However, there is nothing more discouraging to a beginner than being so sore from his first workout that he can hardly sit down (or stand up). The following article will hopefully assist you in understanding how and why rest and recovery are very important factors in implementing a strength-training program.

One should keep in mind some basic principles of training when starting a program. The Overload Principle – For physical improvement to take place, workloads must impose a demand on the body’s systems. When the body becomes accustomed to existing work loads, new work loads must be added to keep the body challenged. The overload principle is closely related to The Principle of Super-Compensation – Super-Compensation is the period in which overload is needed to insure proper growth and progression. These principles can vary according to individuals’ genetics, body type, sex, age, present condition, type of stimulus, intensity of stimulus, and duration.

The overload principle is responsible for producing hypertrophy. Hypertrophy is the term used to indicate the existence of muscle growth (increased muscle size). When a muscle is forced to respond to increasing demands, it will gain strength and grow in size in order to protect itself. This brings up an interesting point - Growth (progress) occurs during your rest period, NOT during the training. Although it may appear that an increase in size occurs during training, this is actually brief and it is what some strength athletes refer to as the “pump.” This happens as a result of the increased blood flow “pumping” into the muscle(s) being exercised. What one is actually doing to the muscle(s) when training is creating very small tears in the muscle fibers. These small tears breakdown muscle tissue and if proper rest is achieved before the next time that muscle tissue is broken down --- progress and growth are the results. The muscle tissue creates scar tissue (i.e. repairs itself) over the small tears in order to protect itself and prepare for the increasing demands being imposed on it ---HYPERTROPHY. But if the muscle tissue is broken down again before it has been given sufficient time to recover and repair then the principles of Overtraining and Diminishing Returns take effect.

As a general rule, 48 to 72 hours is usually the time it takes for a given muscle or body part to fully recover and repair from an exercise IF one is applying the principle of overload. Keep in mind though, as stated previously, there are many factors that may change the recovery time. There are many people who, because of their fitness level, age, intensity, etc., may require more or less rest and recovery. I have found that most of my clientele need a minimum of 72 hours to fully recover from a total body strength-training workout.

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is common when exercising. DOMS usually peaks at 24 hours following a workout. Muscle soreness, however, should not be the only component to consider when choosing to exercise next. Temper dedication with judgment and moderation. Too much of anything can be bad for your health. If you train too hard, too long, and too fast without proper rest and recovery, the body rejects progress and deteriorates. Strength train within your own capabilities and you will enjoy your exercise experiences and reap the benefits of life long health, strength, and fitness.


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