Rest and Recovery: Essential for Optimal Muscle Growth

Not building muscle? How’s your recovery? This page continues from here: The Optimal Approach to Training for Muscle Building Progress

Recovery is When Your Muscles Grow. Rest Days Are Mandatory!

While it’s important that you always work hard in the gym, it is also important to recover from the gym.

rest and recovery muscle

Quiet! I’m trying to grow my muscles!

Your muscles don’t grow in the gym. They get broken down in the gym. Yes, they may look pumped, but that is only temporary. You need to let them recover. The real growth happens outside of the gym and when you go to bed.

Having rest days gives your muscles the time off they need to recover and grow bigger and stronger.

For optimal recovery, you need to make sure you’re getting enough sleep (look to get 7 hours a night, minimum).

Any of the programs I’ve mentioned and described include adequate rest days. If you’re going it alone and making up your own program (which I don’t recommend unless you’re advanced), then make sure you give yourself enough rest days. The vast majority of us need at least two rest days per week. Beginners should have three or four rest days per week. Only very advanced trainers can get away with only one rest day per week for long.

If you don’t have enough rest days, you’ll find yourself hitting plateaus quickly. You will struggle to progress beyond the weights/volume you’re currently lifting because your muscles still won’t have recovered from the last workout.

While it might feel counter intuitive to stay out of the gym for 2-3 days per week, you actually NEED to do this to keep progressing and getting stronger.

If you keep trying to push your workouts and get stronger without ever having rest days, you’re just going to get injured, sick or burnt out.

In addition to rest days, you also need deloads.

Deloads are an essential part of any good training program

A deload performs a similar function to a rest day, except it usually takes place over a whole training week.

To perform a deload, you basically cut the volume of weight you’re lifting in half for one cycle of your training. If your program repeats every week (as most do) then you take a whole week of training at reduced volume.

Reduced volume means you’ll either drop the weight to half of what you usually lift, but lift for the same sets and reps. Alternatively, you can keep the weight the same on all your lifts, but cut down the total number of reps to half of what you usually lift.

deloading with some light weights

During your deloads lift lighter weights and cut volume in half

Naturally this means the workouts will be very easy. This is kind of the point. Deloads are there to help you recover from all of the fatigue you’ve accumulated over weeks of hard training and breaking down your muscles.

Good programs also focus on optimal recovery and will have deloads scheduled in every 4 to 6 weeks. Alternatively, you can just take a week off from the gym completely.

As with rest days, it might seem counter-intuitive to take it easy in the gym for a whole week. DELOADS DO BENEFIT YOU OVER THE LONG TERM! They’ll stop you from developing nagging injuries that become chronic, and unless you’re some kind of superman (you’re not) then you’ll probably progress more by taking scheduled deload weeks than you would just trying to constantly push yourself.

After a deload you will often find yourself feeling stronger and breaking new ground with your lifts.

Do them!


I can’t stress this enough. Even more important than rest and recovery is nutrition. What you eat and how much of it is going to be the difference between you:

  • Staying the same
  • Getting fat
  • Losing weight (not what you want if you want to build muscle!)
  • Building muscle optimallly.

If you don’t pay attention to nutrition, you won’t have good (or any) results. If you pay really close attention to your nutrition, you can have unbelievable results instead of average results.

Read it here, now: Optimal Nutrition for Building Muscle

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