Before we talk about what "enough" recovery time is, I think we first need to understand what recovery is and why it is so necessary for training gains.
Recovery, or recuperation, is the process your body undergoes, at rest, to refresh itself and to regain energy after intense exertion. It is during your recuperation time that the bulk of muscle growth and fat loss occur. It is of critical importance to pay as much attention to the recuperation process as it is to the training process.
There are actually three phases of recuperation:
-Recovery during training
Pre-training recovery techniques are used to enhance your training sessions and to aid in giving you a more effective post-training recovery. We will not cover these techniques in this article.
Recovery during training involves the rest periods between sets during your training session. Again, we will not cover this here but realize that rest times will vary due to the type of training, the intensity of training and the duration of a training session.
Post-training recovery is broken down into two phases; the first few hours immediately after training and 24 -72 hours after training. This is the recuperation process that I will be addressing.
In order to recuperate, you need to rest. Rest comes in many forms. It can be actual sleep, days off from exercise or just doing anything that is relaxing to you and which relieves stress. This rest is important for your entire being. Not only is it necessary for your body (cells, tissues, fluids, skeletal and nervous systems) but is is necessary for your mind and soul because all of these components are involved in the training process. Your body needs to heal from the breakdown of muscle tissue that occurs during intense exercise and it needs to replenish all that it has expended. Your mind needs to be rested so that it can focus, react quickly and fire the proper neurons when needed. And your soul needs to be at peace so that you can maintain a positive attitude which will sustain your motivation and keep you moving forward. There are times when you may rest particular parts of your body, but other times that you must take whole body rest so that you will ensure quicker and more effective recovery as well as continued health and growth. Along with rest, proper nutrition must be observed or complete recovery and growth will not be achieved.
Within the first few hours after training, it is important that you replenish the fluid and energy stores that your body has lost during training. This is accomplished by eating your post exercise meal. The proper nutritional make-up of this meal will enhance protein synthesis which is responsible for building muscle.
Now to Craig's question, "What is enough recovery time?"
Each one of us is unique and therefore recovery times will be different for each of us. The amount of recovery time we need is dependent upon our genetics, nutrition, sleep quality, current health, age and other factors. It is also directly related to the frequency, duration and intensity of our training. Frequency is how often we train, duration is how long we train in a single session and intensity is how much work we put out over a specific period of time. Naturally, the more intensely we train, the more recuperation time we will need.
Part of training is learning to understand your body. As you progress with your training you will begin to discover how your body reacts to different types of stress and how much rest you will need for total recuperation. If you are training hard and stop seeing improvements then you may not be getting the proper rest and/or nutrition that you need. You will need to continually monitor how your body reacts since it will begin to react differently as it changes.
For the casual trainee, a good rule of thumb is to rest a body part until all muscle soreness is gone from the previous workout. Also, it is a good idea to have at least two days rest for a particular muscle group before exercising it again. That means that if you work arms on a Monday, you shouldn't train them again until Thursday. You should also take at least one full day off for rest each week.
If you are working out intensely, rest requirements change drastically. First of all, you will not be able to train at full intensity day in and day out and continue to make gains. Your body is not built for that type of punishment. Instead, you will need to cycle your workouts, meaning that you train light on some days and heavy on others. As long as you are getting the proper nutrition and sleep, you should have no problem doing your lighter workouts on several consecutive days. But as soon as you start adding the intense workouts, especially with the larger muscle groups (legs, chest and lats) you will quickly realize the need for days off.
I'm sorry to say that there is not a one-size-fits-all answer to this question. As you can see, there are some general guidelines to follow but it is mostly about gaining an understanding of what your body can and can't handle. As we age, because of bodily changes (mostly hormonal), the recovery process naturally takes a bit longer but it can be hastened with proper nutrition and rest. Personally, I am always searching for better and faster ways to recover...because a faster recovery means faster progress and growth!
To a speedy recovery,