Why do I need rest days?
How am I going to improve if I am just resting? These are common questions for any athlete to ask, and often a section of training that isn’t taken as seriously as it should be. Resting and recuperating is an essential part of any training programme, whether that is a strength-based, endurance-based or game-based athlete at any level. Rest days allow the replenishment of the body’s glycogen stores, gives the chance for the body to remove excess lactate from muscle and also to prevent injury by avoiding overtraining. Research shows that following a maximum strength / explosive strength session (>80-85% 1RM), it can take up to 48 hours for the full recovery of muscle force output. Similarly, following lactate / speed endurance / intensive endurance sessions, force output levels return to baseline after 24 hours. Exercising daily and without rest days can cause both physical and mental exhaustion and can detriment training availability.
This doesn’t mean that strength training should be used alone to improve performance; it must be done alongside endurance training in a method known commonly as concurrent training.
How many rest days should I take a week?
Coaches can prescribe an ideal programme for an athlete based on current research and practices, however the best programmes are those which fit with your normal routine. A split of 4:3 and 5:2 (training:rest) are seen as ideal splits for someone who has the availability to train. Despite training 4-5 times per week as a competitive athlete is ideal, this can be unachievable for most individuals due to time constraints and other responsibilities. Current research shows that even training 2-3 times per week is enough to see performance benefits in a training environment, with a ratio of (2:5 and 3:4) being appropriate for recovery.