On the seventh day, I didn't rest (from the weight workout)
July 15, 2007 5:14 AM   Subscribe

What's the optimum rest period between full-body weightlifting workouts?

For the past couple of years, I've been alternating full-body weight workouts with a few days of cardio (mainly intermediate-distance running).

Usually, I'll put in a hard, hour-and-a-half workout in the weightroom, then switch to cardio for the next five days, then hit the weight pile again. This gives the muscles a five-day rest period to heal -- and, hopefully, increase in size.

Lately, I've found that a seven day rest period seems to produce even greater gains. (Note that by gains, we're talking millimeters here. I'm no juiced up Ronnie Coleman, or even nanogenarian Jack La Lanne.) What's more, I seem to be able to lift harder and longer after the seven day break from the weight room.

Is this possible, or am I imagining things? Seven days seems overly long as a rest interval. Do any other weightlifters rest for a period of this length? Are there any pros and cons I should be thinking about?
posted by Gordion Knott to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You may indeed be getting the gains you think you are. Remember that your body will adapt to whatever regime you put it throught to some degree, so a completely fresh aproach is often enough to shock it into growth. Ultimately, you will find the seven day rest period will stop giving you these gains and you will need to switch up again...and it probably won't take very long to see this.

As far as whole body workouts go, a day of rest between lifting seems to be what one hears most often. I am assuming that you are using mostly compound movements and are balancing between upper and lower, push and pull?

Another thing to consider is that if you are doing cardio on all of your days that you are not lifting you are still taxing your body and CNS as well as buring calories which your body needs to grow. If you predominantly lifting to build muscle (versus increase fitness, burn fat, increase strength etc) then I would cut some of your cardio out.
posted by pazoozoo at 7:15 AM on July 15, 2007

48 hours is normally touted as the "minimum" amount of rest needed before working the same set of muscles again.

Sadly I don't have any links to the studies themselves but I have read that a set of muscles worked one once a week both directly or indirectly produces less results compared to when worked on twice or more.

There are many other factors to take into consideration like your diet and genetics. Depending on your dietary intake, it's possible you could be gaining fat at a slightly faster rate then muscle which could explain the greater growth rate, but without knowing more this might not be the case at all. If you are "bulking" it's good to monitor your weight, BF% along with girth measurements to make sure you are seeing good overall muscle growth.
posted by Hates_ at 7:33 AM on July 15, 2007

There seems to be a it of contention out there about this. As I understand it, hardgainers advocate a once a week workout to failure for each muscle group for most people.

Personally I've found that it varies with intensity of the workout, the muscle group being worked, the amount of sleep and side activity I engage in, and my age. I used to be able to train the whole body to failure once every three days. Now it is once every four. I can supplement the smaller muscle groups at the midpoint in between.

One way to prevent overtraining is to use a heart rate monitor to track your resting heart rate. It should be elevated after an intense session, and return to normal when you are fully recovered. Generally I use the feeling you describe of being "able to lift harder and longer" as my guide.
posted by Manjusri at 11:55 AM on July 15, 2007

It sounds like you're lifting with size as a goal. My experience tweaking my rest times was with strength as the goal, but it might be the same situation. I found that I made much better gains on squat, standing press, and bench press when I rested a full week between workouts (heavy weights, sets of 3 or 5, but not to failure). Training these lifts 2-3 times per week, as seems to be more commonly recommended, slowed my progress quite a bit.

Especially if you're spreading out lifts or muscle groups (e.g. squats on Monday, bench on Wednesday), which should keep your metabolism up through the week, I would say try the weekly thing.
posted by rxrfrx at 12:19 PM on July 15, 2007

i've looked through quite a few books on this and generally 48 hours is minimum. you may also consider the wait between sets, lots of debate about it, but usually i've found consenus is around a minute or so. btw, i've never read of using a full seven days to rest. i suggest picking up something like "the idiot's guide to weight training". i found those are the most helpful and least tainted by fads or someone hawking some gimmicky crap. you may want to look into switching up your workout. your muscles have "memory" and doing the same thing all the time you'll see less growth and may even lose some. it gets complicated the more you get into it all, circuits, pyramids, etc. oh, all the talk of packing protein is crap.
posted by andywolf at 4:36 PM on July 15, 2007

If you want a book that's not tainted by fads or gimmicky crap, I highly recommend "Starting Strength" by Rippetoe. The form instruction is excellent. Oddly, his recommended program involves squatting three times a week, which isn't only very difficult, but (in my experience) hampers progress.
posted by rxrfrx at 4:48 PM on July 15, 2007

I think the answer very much depends on what you are trying to do, and how intensely you are training.

I have noticed that those who advocate shorter rest periods (less than 48 hours) whether for growth or for strength also advocate not going hard out most of the time.

Eg, if you read up on HST, which has you rest on alternate days, you only do maximal lifts near the end of a cycle. And the little I've read of Pavel Tsatsouline's approach to strength training recommends frequent training -- up to several times a day-- but not to failure. Conversely the hardgainer, HIT crowd recommend up to week between workouts, but they also attempt to go to failure with a maximum lift each time.

If you follow that link I posted on HST, maybe what you've inadvertently discovered is "strategic deconditioning".
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 5:41 PM on July 15, 2007

« Older Copying Webpages with Embedded Links   |   somewhere other than the hot & muggy mid... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.