Okay, we’ve all heard about taking a rest day, but some of us (even me at my early bodybuilding career) wonder if those rest days are even needed. Like, doesn’t it make sense- if you don’t go to the gym, you’re not building muscle right?
Well, wrong. Here’s a quote I want you to remember forever: “You don’t grow muscle in the gym. You grow muscle outside of the gym”.
- Read: Top 10 Rest Day Quotes
That quote basically means that while you’re working out, your muscles don’t recover, it’s impossible for them too. They need adequate time to rebuild.
Centrally, rest days are so important because it allows your muscles to grow back even stronger after all the work you’ve put in all week- because their growth is uninterrupted. Furthermore, your nervous system has a full day to catch up and prepare for a better workout. If you don’t have a rest day, you will start LOSING muscle, not gaining any!
So, let’s talk 15 reasons why rest days are important. Today, I’m bringing you the science and the truth why us bodybuilders need to be taking more rest days. (1 rest day a month isn’t enough!)
#1 – Rest is how your muscles grow and recover.
As I mentioned earlier, rest is how your muscles grow and recover. When you’re lifting those weights in the gym, your muscles are actually being broken down- not growing!
Every rep you do literally tears your muscles apart, and they need to be repaired. When your body comes around to repair these muscles, they grow in size to handle that increased stimulus.
The whole mechanism behind this is called ‘progressive overload’- if your muscles can’t handle that weight, they will grow slowly so your body can handle it without damaging itself.
The thing most people forget is that your body needs to repair this muscle. You can’t build a house if a tornado keeps knocking it over every hour! The same thing applies here, your body cannot and will not repair that muscle if you are constantly breaking it down every single hour. It’s just not possible.
So, give yourself a rest, and let your body’s workers (ribosomes, etcetera) start building those muscles up.
#2 – Your body needs it to continue pushing heavy weight in the gym!
We talked a little bit about why rest days are important for your muscle growth above, but there’s something bad that will happen if you don’t listen- you will LOSE muscle, and fail your reps.
Simply put, when you have a ton of muscles that need to be repaired, and none of them are getting repaired…your muscles will start to fail massively.
You can’t live in a house that has no roof or walls, and the same thing applies here. Your muscles will not have the power, strength, or even literal energy behind them to keep pushing those heavy weights or doing that hard work in the gym without significant and critical rest.
That’s why whenever any of my friends come to me, “Tommy! my bench max won’t go up no matter what! I’ve been benching every day for 2 weeks”- I cut them off right there. I tell them to dirty bulk a little bit, rest for two days, then try to hit their max. They always come back in two days incredibly surprised, because it worked.
#3 – Gives time for your joints, tendons, and other tissues to heal.
When you’re constantly working out and testing your body’s strength and fitness, your joints, tendons, and other tissues get broken down, damaged, and stressed.
These need time to heal! Otherwise you can get into really bad realms of life (tearing an ACL) where you might not even be able to walk.
The tough part is, healing for joints, ligaments, and a lot of these tissues are often very slow. So, if you’re going to be stressing them every single day for months on end, they will literally not be able to heal at all and you will be in a very bad position.
For most people that are working out 4-5 days a week, even just 1-2 rest days a week can save you drastically on this end. Your joints, tendons, ligaments, etcetera will all use this day to actually heal a lot of the damage that was sustained.
If you’re able to have this critical time of rest, you probably won’t have to worry about a massive tendon/ligament/joint injury. While it’s not impossible, it greatly reduces your chances.
This might be one of the most important reasons why rest days are important. If you’re ever suffered a tendon tear or something- you know what I’m talking about, you want to avoid it at all costs.
#4 – Builds your cardiovascular system.
Everybody always forgets the cardiovascular system, when in reality it is one of the most important parts of building muscle.
Yeah, you might not be able to see your heart, but it grows when you work out. In fact, to support your body lifting weights, your heart builds specific muscle that allows it to give more blood flow over longer periods of time.
That’s why I always recommend doing cardio while bulking, you get this incredible heart muscle growth that can supercharge your gym experience.
But, the same thing applies here. If you aren’t resting, your heart can’t grow its’ own muscle because it is being stressed so much.
Plus, if you give your heart some rest time, your work outs in the gym will be far better. With the expanded capacity to pump more blood to your muscles, you’ll be stronger.
#5 – Can stop bone density loss and in fact make your bones stronger.
One of the things I wrote extensively about was how a lot of athletes actually have really weak bones. I wrote a lot in this post called How to get rid of Shin Splints using Calcium.
- Do I have a Stress Fracture or Shin Splints Quiz?
Bones are critical in supporting the weight you lift in the gym. With weak bones, your arm would literally snap in half when you try to bench or even curl.
A huge thing is for a lot of us that like to run (or do any form of intensive exercise) is that our bones deteriorate without proper calcium supplementation.
But, when these bones don’t get a rest day, they can’t grow either. It is critical to keep a good amount of calcium coming in throughout the year, and give your bones time to rest.
Trust me, if you’re broken a bone, you’ll know why rest days are important. If you keep moving that arm or don’t let it rest, you’re in for a long and tough recovery.
#6 – Gives you time to catch up in school, work, or with friends.
While you spend a lot of time in the gym, the world outside the gym is important too.
This is one of the most important reasons why rest days are important to me, it’s my way to study and catch up with friends.
On average, I spend anywhere from 10-14 hours in the gym a week minimum. This is a LOT of time, and unfortunately, it usually doesn’t let me hang out with friends. When you consider school and work, it just seems like I never have time.
When a rest day comes around, I always take advantage and sit down to study and catch up in school- or relax with some of my friends.
Truthfully, the time inside the gym isn’t always the ‘time-consuming part’. It’s the time you spend driving there, dieting, showering after your work out, timing your pre-workout, etcetera that really almost make the gym another part-time job.
So use this time to catch up with some friends and relax.
#7 – Stops burn out from happening, which keeps you lifting longer in the end.
A huge thing that people always run into when starting their bodybuilding career is burn out.
Now I know what you’re thinking, I was there too. You start working out and you feel like rambo. You never want to leave the gym, you love all of it, you get that massive beginner muscle growth, you start feeling stronger and healthier- it’s great.
It’s literally euphoria, but most people don’t realize this high actually ends. Sure, for the first year or so you might be able to maintain it, but after that, the gym turns into a serious grind.
A lot of your usual muscle growth diminishes as you grow less and less muscle every year (law of diminishing returns) and a lot of people quit at this phase.
The trick to staying with bodybuilding is taking those rest days.
It’s the same thing if you see your wife every day and get sick of her (i hope my wife emma isn’t reading this haha). But, when you don’t see her for a few days, you want to immediately see her again. (She totally isn’t standing behind me while I write this)
But seriously, when you take a day or two off from the gym, you’ll want to get back in there right away.
Plus, it gets rid of that whole ‘grindiness’ feel of the gym and makes you more motivated.
Trust me, if you are starting to hate the repetitiveness of the gym, switch programs and take a few rest days, you’ll thank me later.
#8 – Reduces your chance of injury.
I’ve been mentioning injury a lot in this post, but you don’t need one of your tendons or bones to be broken to get hurt in the gym.
You can be seriously injured by severe muscle failure while lifting. Imagine you haven’t given your shoulders a rest in over 3 weeks and you’re going for an overhead press max.
Your shoulders will literally just give out completely on you. There will be no warning or reaction as you receive a severe concussion and possible cranial bleeding.
Hopefully, it never gets that severe. But, it happened to me. I was benching everyday with anorexia, so literally no food or rest to fix any muscles. And the last thing I remembered was pushing that bench up and waking up to three people pulling the bar off of me.
Thankfully, I didn’t die or have any severe injures, just extreme bruising on my chest.
If I had simply eaten and rested, that whole incident could’ve been avoided.
#9 – Helps your sleep by resetting your hormones.
Who doesn’t love sleep? I can barely get out of the bed in the morning without falling asleep 3 more times.
Something notable is how your body reacts to constant exercise and working out. While most of us can agree that a good workout boosts our mental health and helps reset us, it can put a lot of your hormones out of balance.
Plus, all the inflammation from all those sore muscles, the central nervous system pain, etcetera all contribute to bad sleep if you aren’t able to get a good rest day in soon.
Having a good rest day with a good amount of food in you can do wonders for your hormones and make you feel 1000x better and ready to hit the gym even harder.
#10 – Can reset your mental health.
A good rest day and just reset your mental health.
Yes, a good workout can help your health a lot, but also having your worries go away and just relaxing and watching TV can be a serious game changer too.
I’ve been open in my website about my past struggles with mental health issues, and sometimes you need to take a rest day otherwise you won’t ever be going to the gym or anywhere ever again.
Please, if you need a break, take it. And if you need help, you aren’t alone, please call a friend or even this hotline: 800-273-8255
#11 – Builds and reset your immune system
Working out is like a double edged sword for our immune system.
A lot of inflammation can happen, our immune system can be overwhelmed by hormone changes, and the energy expelled can also stress your fighting force.
Additionally, when you’re in the gym, you are exposed to a lot of people that are heavy breathing and touching all the other gym equipment as you. So you’re introduced to a ton of new viruses and germs you normally aren’t exposed to.
A good rest day can give your immune system the ‘reset’ day it needs to get everything under control and keep your health good.
If you find yourself getting sick a lot while working out, you might want to add another rest day in there and consider supplementing some Zinc.
To me, this is one of my favorite reasons on why rest days are important. I HATE being sick, I HATE IT!!
#12 – Reduces muscle soreness.
Agh, we ALL hate muscle soreness. In fact, it’s gotten so bad at times when I’m on Smolov’s Bench Program or Smolov’s Squat Program (the leg soreness is even worse) that I’m forced to take a rest day. Like, my legs will be so sore I can’t even squat my own bodyweight.
A good rest day with proper nutrition is sure to take away most of that soreness. If you find yourself getting extremely sore as you work out, you might want to add another rest day in your program.
This is one of the most important reasons why rest days are important. That muscle soreness can seriously ruin your workouts.
#13 – Resets your glycogen stores.
If you’ve ever played a sport your life you know all about this. Chances are, you’ve done the good old famous ‘pasta feed’. The dinner designed to put a ton of carbs in you the night before a big competition or game to make sure you have a ton of energy at game day.
Your coaches weren’t working for ‘big pasta’ and scamming you into buying noodles. There’s actual real science behind this.
The truth is, most of your ‘fast-acting’ energy comes from carbohydrates, which are easily obtained in pasta. When you go to the gym, a lot of those heavy compound lifts rely on your glycogen stores.
If you’re getting super tired at the gym all the time, there’s a chance you don’t have enough carbs in you to keep going. That’s why I always recommend something like a chobani flip before your workout, as it has enough carbs and protein to keep you going, but it’s also small enough to not make you vomit in the gym.
When you’re taking this rest day, basically none of your glycogen stores are being used. This means that they can fill up with everything you’re eating and get prepared for the week of tough work ahead.
#14 – Let’s you find weaknesses in your physique.
Something nice about rest days is that your body will almost ‘deflate’. You see, when you go to the gym everyday, your muscles stay in this ‘pumped-like’ state.
When you take that away, you see how your real physique looks.
I personally take all my photos on rest day to see how my ‘real’ physique looks and fix my weaknesses.
For instance, I might notice maybe I’m putting on too much fat, or maybe my back is falling behind compared to my chest and I need to work it out more.
#15 – Supercharges muscle growth compared to normal rest time.
A lot of people just go around and say, ‘well you don’t need a rest day, since you rest outside of the gym anyways’.
While this is true and muscle growth occurs when you go home after the gym and really in-between your next gym session, you can supercharge it with a rest day.
Think of the analogy like this, if you have employees working on a house 8 hours a day, it will surely have progress done, right? But, if you have two different teams come in after them and work 16 hours, more of the house will be built. It’s the same thing with a full rest day.
Now, don’t get this confused and take a rest day every day. Because otherwise, you run into inefficiency since there won’t be as much muscle to break down.
The idea is after 3-4 days of working out, you have a lot of muscle growth that needs to be caught up. It’s like building that house, maybe a few workers called in sick, so you need another crew to come in on the weekend and catch up.
Conclusion of 15 Reasons Why Rest Days Are Important
Hopefully these 15 reasons why rest days are important spoke to you. I used to be super anti-rest days when I started lifting, but I learned that they are a necessity if you plan on staying consistent with the gym for the rest of your life.
Tell me why you think rest days are important in the comments below!