How Much Rest Do I Need Between Workouts?

Fitness & Training Tips
By Dan

About Dan

I’m one of our resident Exercise Physiologists, and also an accredited Strength and Conditioning Coach, Personal Trainer and Level 1 Weightlifting Instructor. Outside of the gym, I tend to go in search of good food and great coffee. And yes, Dan’s Shoulder Stretch is mine.
It’s a simple question with a HUGE spectrum of possible answers.
Training works by breaking down the body and inducing mild
damage to muscles, tendons and bones.
Recovery is the body’s way of adapting to this demand. A good length of recovery should leave you feeling strong during your sessions, while inadequate recovery can lead to tendon pain, injury and performance decrease.
Recovery is really dependent on a couple of key principles, along with trial and error:
1) How advanced are you?
A beginner may need only 2x30min sessions a week to see good improvements in health and performance markers. An advanced
CrossFitter may need 8-10 sessions a week to see tiny improvements because they’re so conditioned to exercise. Really strong powerlifters, however, may only lift 3-4 times per week because of the huge tonnage they lift.
2) Size and strength levels
Leading on from the last statement, bigger people and stronger people need more recovery. This is based on the fact that
for a given workout, they will move more tons than someone else and induce more trauma to the body.
3) Sleep, stress and nutrition
Adequate sleep (8-9hrs REGULARLY), plenty of protein and fats and a low stress environment all help to maximise recovery.
No good getting a deep tissue massage if you’re only sleeping four hours per night! These three things MUST be the pillars of your recovery process.

How Do You Know If You’re Recovering Well?

I use a couple of simple markers. For beginners, you should be able to increase weights almost every week, and show significant improvements in any testing every 4-6 weeks.
For intermediates, you’re looking at a 1% increase in performance every week or so. Sounds small, but over a 12 month period that’s 50% improvement.
For advanced athletes, progress will be tiny and incremental (but NOT backwards – that’s not a good sign). Injuries, tendon pain and a general level of fatigue/poor quality sleep can all be indicators that you need more recovery.