Rest days actually aid muscle growth, here's how

Taking a day off from training for recovery helps repairs your muscles so you can get stronger

Runner recoving after exercise
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Train more, and you'll get faster results, right? Well, not necessarily. Planning your workouts and scheduling rest days could be the key to building muscle, improving performance, and recovering quicker.

While the best foam rollers massage your muscles and promote blood flow for recovery, taking some downtime and giving your body a break may be just what you need to get fitter and stronger.

Many healthcare providers and public health institutions recommend taking a rest day between sessions, especially if you train a specific muscle group instead of a full-body workout.

But it doesn't feel logical that taking a day off could help you reach your goals, which is why many people skip rest days and exercise across all days of the week. So, what's really best for your body?

According to the analysis of one study, the chemical markers of resistance training found in your blood return to their normal state after 24 hours. This research aimed to explore the effect of training on consecutive and non-consecutive days.

Man in a wheelchair using dumbbells

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The team found that strength and lean body mass, essentially weight gain without fat, increased by the same amount whether you train three days in a row or with days off in between.

They suggest this is because if you stick to a routine for your training, then even the consecutive group do get a 24-hour break between sessions. Similarly, exercising three times a week means you have four rest days either way.

Recovery plays a vital role in muscle growth, as you're causing small tears in the muscle fiber during exercise, which need time to repair. That's why fueling your body with protein is a crucial part how to build muscle.

One of the other problems with rest days is that it sounds like you'd be sitting on the couch all day catching up on your favorite TV shows and movies, but you can still be active on rest days.

Taking a short jog or brisk walk can keep the muscles moving, promote blood flow for faster recovery, and reduce the effects of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), particularly when coupled with the best protein powder for women.

Likewise, using some stretching exercises on your rest days can have a similar positive effect, especially if you've been working your upper body. Or you could roll out one of the best yoga mats and develop a regular practice.

James Frew
Fitness Editor

James is a London-based journalist and Fitness Editor at Fit&Well. He has over five years experience in fitness tech, including time spent as the Buyer’s Guide Editor and Staff Writer at technology publication MakeUseOf. In 2014 he was diagnosed with a chronic health condition, which spurred his interest in health, fitness, and lifestyle management.

In the years since, he has become a devoted meditator, experimented with workout styles and exercises, and used various gadgets to monitor his health. In recent times, James has been absorbed by the intersection between mental health, fitness, sustainability, and environmentalism. When not concerning himself with health and technology, James can be found excitedly checking out each week’s New Music Friday releases.