This is dependent on a number of factors. What your goals are as well as what level of athlete you are. What we do know is that rest is a critical part of the growth process. Working out breaks down your body tissues, the act of repairing the torn tissue is how our muscles grow. If we do not allow our muscles to repair, we continue to tear down the muscle, but not repair. As a result, we lose strength until our body can fully repair the muscle.
The more quickly we allow muscle to repair, the more rapidly we increase our strength and see the gains. Many of you might have thought, ‘Why is the Wendler 5-3-1 program so effective when there are so many days in between repeating the movement?’ While we do assist work (i.e. MetCons), we do not put the heavy stress on the muscles because we give them time to rest and repair.
Too many athletes believe that the more time they spend in the gym will equate to an equal amount of gains. It just isn’t that straight forward. If you are just starting out on your fitness QUEST, then you should see gains quickly by working out no more than three days in a row. Three days on and one day off allows your body time to heal and repair itself. Of course, it also matters what you do in those three days. Three days of back squats in a row will invariably lead to decreased strength as well as an increased risk of injury.
So, if you think that frantically working out 5 days in a row, or doing doubles in a day is going to make up for the 30 days you weren’t in the gym, the opposite is the case. However, if you are a top athlete with highly trained muscles and a goal to reach elite status, then it will take higher intensity, higher reps, and heavier weight to see gains. Even with that, rest days are still required to repair muscle.
So, if you have been to the gym three days in a row and just can’t stay away on day four, then feel free to come by and stretch, roll-out, or do some light cardio such as bike, row, or run. Remember, we are all different, but we all need rest.