Resistance training and the importance of recovery
By Melissa Calleja,
Fitness and Sports Instructor, CFB Halifax
Athletes are typically told to allow at least 24-48 hours of rest between training sessions of the same muscle groups, but not to exceed this 48 hours. Have you ever wondered why exactly this is? When we train with resistance, we actually create a type of muscle damage. Fortunately, this damage is what allows us to make our muscles bigger and stronger.
When we place our muscles under the stress of resistance training, micro-tears are created in the muscle tissue. These small tears need to be repaired, but how? This is where rest and recovery comes into play. Luckily, following a single resistance training session, muscle protein synthesis, which is the process involved in building muscle, is elevated for 24-48 hours. During this time, it is important to allow the body to rest so it can repair and rebuild the muscle tissue that was affected by the micro-tears. With this opportunity to rebuild the muscle, our body adapts and creates larger and stronger muscle tissue. Generally, it takes anywhere from 24-48 hours for repairs to happen. However, If the body isn’t given adequate rest and recovery time, these tears will not be full healed. As you continue to resistance train, more tears will be created and, over time, this can lead to larger tears and injuries. This is why the minimum of 24 hours of rest for each muscle group is recommended.
Now, why do we not want to go longer than 48 hours without training the same muscle group? This has to do with how long muscle protein synthesis is elevated following exercise. It generally stays elevated for no longer than 48 hours, so we want to give it another bump around that 48-hour mark so we can continue to keep building muscle. When muscle protein synthesis is not given a boost from a training session, this can lead to muscle protein breakdown exceeding synthesis. When this occurs, we actually begin to lose that muscle we’ve worked so hard to build.
The bottom line is that 24 to 48 hours of rest is critical for the prevention of injuries, and training each muscle group roughly every 48 hours is crucial if you want to build and maintain muscle mass.