Why You Still Need Rest Days Between Bodyweight Workouts

By May 15, 2020 Blog

“The concept of resting or recovering between bouts of physical activity is important to consider when thinking about any type of workout, regardless of intensity,” says Chris Gagliardi, a personal trainer and scientific education content manager for the American Council on Exercise. “If proper recovery does not take place and your muscles don’t recover, stored forms of energy may not be replenished.”

This not only means you may not be able to reach your full, give-it-your-all potential the next session, but you also risk overtraining and injury. All of this could lead to missing out on reaching your fitness and health goals.

To ensure you stay on track, here’s everything you need to know about rest days when you’re following a bodyweight training program.

HOW OFTEN SHOULD I REST?

Gagliardi recommends resting 48 hours between resistance sessions. However, keep in mind your workout protocol. If you train your entire body, take 48 hours between workouts. If you do a split routine — training your upper body one day and your lower body another — you can do those workouts on back-to-back days, since you are resting one group of muscles while working another group.

While bodyweight workouts don’t seem as “hard” as lifting weights, you still need rest. “The thought of doing bodyweight exercise may seem like an easier workout, but often this is because people are not as familiar with as many exercise options, and they associate less options with less challenge,” Gagliardi says. Don’t forget you can make bodyweight exercises harder by:

  • Slowing down
  • Using explosive movements (like jump squats and plyometric pushups)
  • Using only one leg or arm at a time
  • Changing the angle (such as pushups with your feet on a box)
  • Pulsing at the bottom of a movement
  • Combining exercises (for example, lateral lunge to curtsy lunge)
  • Decreasing your rest between exercises
  • Increasing your reps

Additionally, in a study published in Current Biology by researchers in France, overtraining led to mental fatigue. This caused the participants to act more impulsively. So don’t forget sometimes we need not only a physical break from exercise but a mental break to allow our brains to relax and recharge.

On the other hand, you might want to work out more if you’re doing bodyweight exercises. This can be an appropriate option only if you decrease the intensity of your workouts to ensure proper recovery takes place, Gagliardi says. “Every workout cannot be the hardest workout you ever completed if you are training every day,” he adds.

WHAT KIND OF REST IS BEST?

Whatever kind of rest you like is best. You could foam roll and do some gentle stretching. Or you could try active recovery like walking, playing a sport or game or doing a lower-intensity workout like yoga. In a small study of 15 participants by the American Council on Exercise, researchers compared active and passive recovery. They found active recovery was superior for maintaining endurance performance and power output. Keep in mind that any active recovery should be performed at no more than moderate intensity to see these benefits, Gagliardi adds.

Whatever you do, “there may be some experimentation when it comes to recovery to find out what works best for you and to understand that different types of workouts and workout intensities may require different recovery strategies,” he says. So try different things and see what leads to feeling and performing at your best.