Here is an interesting belief that seems to have become ingrained in the fitness industry: you should only workout 2 or 3 times a week.
The theory perpetuated around gyms, training studios, doctor’s offices, and just about anywhere else, is that you have to have at least 48-72 hours rest between weight lifting sessions and/or gym workouts. In between these workouts you are supposed to get as much rest as possible to allow the muscles to fully recover.
Failure to abide by these rules will result in terrible injury, rhabdomyolosis, decimated bodies, and many other horrors too atrocious to even mention here.
Don’t do it. Go home. Rest. Keep your workout intensity low. Make sure to not overtax your poor, fragile body.
Lol. Yes, I am being a little dramatic about it. But it’s only because everyone seems so overdramatic about the whole don’t exercise too hard thing.
Where did this come from? Who started it? How and why did it become so ingrained in gym culture? Is t accurate?
Research, which is sporadic at best about this subject, has to be interpreted with a sceptical mind. This is because no one has really ever researched this matter in healthy adults in a gym setting. When you see recovery times for muscles you are seeing full recovery times of specific muscles after isolation training.
Essentially, researchers isolated a specific muscle (let’s say biceps), used an isolation exercise (such as bicep curls) to fatigue that muscle and then measured how long it took that muscle to fully recover. Issues with this? Yes. What is fully recovered? How do you measure recovery? What if the muscle isn’t working in isolation? Does it harm a muscle to train before this so called ‘full recovery’?
I could list on a huge list of questions calling into question any research on this idea of specific recovery times. Suffice it to say – we don’t really know from a research perspective what is necessary or even ideal.
The other source of this myth is a misinterpretation of the bodybuilding world. If you are not already aware, the majority of the fitness industry is based on bodybuilding from the mid 70’s to early 80’s. Yeah, that’s right, you don’t want to look like a bodybuilder but you all want to train like them. What does that mean? Check a big box gym – machines, ‘cardio’ sections, and huge mirrors. This is bodybuilding.
Bodybuilders split their body into different muscle groups, say arms, back, chest, legs, and then train just that particular muscle group on any given day. They then ‘rest’ those muscles and focus on other muscle groups. The theory is the muscles needed to recover to grow as big as possible.
What the take away for the rest of the gym population was that you need to take rest between training days. It seems to have been ignored that bodybuilders train 6-7 days a week, often more than one workout a day. The reason they split their body parts up is because of how often they do train. Because, yes, if you train the same muscle day after day with no breaks, then you will eventually break it down and prevent it from recovering.
What’s the truth then?
The truth is that I believe this myth is perpetually fuelled by lazy fat people attempting to justify their sloth like habits and make themselves feel better about their lack of ability to commit to a fitness program.
For some reason you should only go to the gym 2 or 3 days a week and then make sure to rest on the days in between.
Rest? Isn’t that what we all do all the time? Driving in cars, watching TV at home, sitting at work etc.. Our whole lives are rest. We don’t even cut up our own vegetables anymore. We don’t carry our luggage, hockey bags, or briefcases. All we do is rest!
And did anyone think maybe we better tell athletes that they need to be training only 2 or 3 times a week? I mean, we had better get on that before all their bodies fall apart!
Wait…athletes train like this all the time. Sometimes 2 or three workouts a day! Do they over-train? Sometimes, yes. But in general, no, they don’t.
What do I hear all the time? I want to look like an athlete. I want to perform like an athlete. Ok – then you need to train like one.
Think about the people whose bodies you like the best, your friends, family, and colleagues who are fit and active. Check their fitness habits. I will bet you they exercise more than 2x a week.
THE TRUTH – you should be active every single day. Your body was built for it. It was designed for it. The whole reason you have the body you do is to perform manual labour. That is the reason it exists.
If you can’t be active most of the day most days – then you need a fitness program that can push you hard enough to make up for the time you are forced to rest. Recovery is only important if you are training hard enough to need recovery!
Train daily with a variety of activities. You won’t be fine. You will be awesome!