Why do I have to wait to lift weights?
August 17, 2005 9:50 AM   Subscribe

Everybody always says I need to wait a day or two after lifting weights in one muscle group before doing it again in order to "let the muscles heal". But what if I don't wait? Will I damage my body?

I treat my weight-lifting more as an adapted cardio - I do it rapidly with light weights and I'm never sore afterwards. I would like to lift every day and I don't understand why this would be bad other than everyone telling me "the muscles have to heal". But I don't feel like I'm damaging them at all. And if I do, won't they heal on their own?
posted by Moral Animal to Health & Fitness (14 answers total)
Some good answers in this thread.
posted by cribcage at 9:56 AM on August 17, 2005

They need time to heal, even if they are just doing light work. But, I would say that if you don't feel pain, it's ok to lift again the next day. You might find that after a few days you do get sore, in which case you can take a day off then.
posted by OmieWise at 9:58 AM on August 17, 2005

From what I have read, the time to heal is to avoid overuse injuries. Lifting weights destroys muscles -- that's the point, actually, as they rebuild stronger. If you allow no time to heal, you interfere with your ability to get stronger, and risk injury. Your body, of course, has ways to deal with it. One time probably won't hurt you. Make a habit of it, and you will get problems (*grabs aching shoulder that is now screwed up because I ignored pain while training to rock climb*).

That said, the time it takes to heal is widely varied. Olympic athletes can give a herculean muscle effort and heal in a day. A couch potato can get a light work out, and need a week for their muscles to recover.

So you also need to figure out what time is right for your current level of conditioning.
posted by teece at 10:05 AM on August 17, 2005

As long as you're not in pain, or feeling uncharacteristically tired or weak (meaning you're overtraining), you should be fine to lift light weights every day. If you're lifting light weights for high reps, and not working to exhaustion, I wouldn't worry too much about needing rest for repair. You probably won't get (much) bigger or stronger with this sort of routine, although it doesn't sound that you're after that. But, as everyone else has said, you have to listen to your body. If it hurts, give it a rest. Muscle soreness is okay, but you don't want to damage connective tissue.
posted by uncleozzy at 10:26 AM on August 17, 2005

The problem is two fold. As mentioned above, if you're working out hard, to exhaustion, there will probably be pain/difficulty/discomfort. This is actually not that big of a deal. If you can successfully work out while your muscles are still sore, sometimes you will get better results.

The second is a big one though. The muscles you've used need to rebuild their glycogen stores. Otherwise, they won't have the energy to work hard enough to reach exhaustion properly -- you'll get tired before you get a chance to push hard enough to do any good.

You need 48 hours to rebuild glycogen stores. Ideally, you work all the muscles in your body on one day, wait 2 days, do it again. This doesn't work for all people. Not quite as ideal, but perfectly ok, is to circuit train: work muscle groups A on day 1, B on day 2, A on day 3, B on day 4, etc.
posted by RustyBrooks at 10:37 AM on August 17, 2005

If it hurts, give it a rest. Muscle soreness is okay, but you don't want to damage connective tissue.

If I could piggy-back on this question for a second. I have this bowflex machine (I know, I know... but it does sort of work). I was noticing some pain in my knees particularly when going up and down stairs that seemed to be correlated to use of the bowflex. So, I stopped doing any kind of leg work and just focused on upper-body.

Are there any exercises or foods that will strengthen/lubricate knees and not make them so "grindy" when taking stairs? There isn't a lot of pain, but I'm concerned about it getting worse.
posted by willnot at 10:45 AM on August 17, 2005

willnot: There are two issues here. First is that leg exercises on a Bowflex are probably of the quad extension / ham curl variety... am I right? Lots of lifters don't do these because they feel that the potentially uneven load (you won't lift evenly with both legs) combined with the lack of freedom to move can be hard on the ligaments. I tend to agree, particularly about quad extensions. You'd be better off getting some dumbbells and doing lunges for your legs if you don't want to go to the gym and do some squats.

Second, though, some people do just have bad knees. A friend of mine with a similar problem started taking glucosamine supplements, and she says the difference is astounding. Give it a try, your knees might appreciate it.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:07 AM on August 17, 2005

RustyBrooks : "Not quite as ideal, but perfectly ok, is to circuit train: work muscle groups A on day 1, B on day 2"

Is there a good list of the complementary groups with respect to dumbbells? Because it seems many of the dumbbell exercises are compound and e.g. triceps get used for chest and triceps and shoulders..etc
posted by Gyan at 11:07 AM on August 17, 2005

There is a school of thought (Bryan Haycock's "Hypertrophy Specific Training") that suggests one day rest is best for maximum growth, ie, that there is more growth effect from training again before full recovery.

If you're using light enough weights that it's more or less aerobic, I can't see that it can hurt you to do it every day.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:26 AM on August 17, 2005

Don't worry about the compound exercises for the most part. For example, chest and back exercises utilize your arms, but you don't count that towards your arms workout.

I've done a routine in which I lift 3x a week for a couple years now with some decent results. But it depends on your goals. I was initially in it to lose weight (used to be 315 pounds), but now I'm in it to tone up and slim down. After that, I plan to do some bulking routines. If you want to lift every day, just focus on one group per day. But a good workout can be gotten in 3 days.

This is the schedule I typically follow:

Day 1 - Chest and Back
Day 2 - Arms and Shoulders
Day 3 - Legs

Typically at least one day in between each workout, doing cardio 5-6x a week. I don't run on Legs days, for obvious reasons.
posted by benjh at 11:30 AM on August 17, 2005

uncleozzy: no extensions, but yes on the curls. It's a weird curl though. You're sitting on a seat the moves, you have a belt attached to the weight that goes around you, you hook your heels over the front of the machine and pull yourself forward.

Mostly it's leg presses, either under very heavy weight as just a leg press or under very low weight as part of an aerobic rowing movement.
posted by willnot at 11:42 AM on August 17, 2005

I tend to circuit train in 2 groups, upper and lower body.

Note that it's also important to do your excercises in the proper order. You want to make sure that the primary muscle being excercised gets fully to exhaustion. So, my last excercise for upper body is my forearms/wrists: if I excercised these first many other excercises which use those muscles for stabilization would be hampered by those muscles being tired. No need to go nuts figuring out the order, in generally I just work on the largest groups first, then the next largest, etc. If something uses both chest and arms, I do the chest excercises first, then the armsones.
posted by RustyBrooks at 11:44 AM on August 17, 2005

If you are strength training, the day your muscles get stronger is on the day you are RESTING them. Lifting every day is counterproductive.

If you simply must do weights every day, then do your upper body weights one day, then your lower the next.
posted by konolia at 5:50 PM on August 17, 2005

For cardio exercises you can go every day, but even then if you go far into oxygen debt one day you should really relax the next. That does not mean no workout, although it could, but at least a very light one that mostly gets your pulse up and some blood flowing through the hurting muscles without really taxing yourself. The equivalent of a brisk walk. If you are strength training and really stressing the muscles then you need to let them rest a day or more inbetween. Even then an easy non-strength workout is fine, at a brisk walk pace for that muscle.
posted by caddis at 6:12 PM on August 17, 2005

« Older Minivans & parking lights. Why? Why? Why?   |   Mac browser stats? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.