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Should you strength train every day? The importance of rest days, explained by expert fitness trainerss

Posted by for Strength

Expert fitness trainers say that you need rest days from your weight training. 

If you find something you love, it’s easy to want to overdo it. That might be treating yourself to a daily takeaway flat white from the local coffee shop or ordering from the same restaurant every weekend because it’s just. so. good. It can also be true for your exercise routine – discovering a sport or training style that you’re passionate about can mean that you want to find time for it every day. 

Many of us want to (or think we should) go to the gym every day. But, just as you might suddenly develop an aversion to pad Thai if you have it every weekend, there can be too much of a good thing. 

If you started a new training programme at the start of the year, you might be reaching the point of burnout but tempted to push through. So how do we balance our love of fitness with all important rest days? 

“Can I weight train every day?”

“It’s best not to. The average person doesn’t need to train every day, and for general health and fitness I think around four sessions a week is absolutely fine. You can also complement your weight training with something else that you enjoy like yoga or running. Unless you have a physically demanding sport or you’re competing in something and you have to train, you don’t need to do more,” says strength coach Alice Miller. 

Emma Obayuvana, trainer from the Strong Women Training Club, agrees. “I actually don’t think it’s a good idea to weight train every day because your body needs recovery. Sometimes, recovery is even more important than the training itself,” she says. That’s because, during training, we create tears in our muscles. In order for them to rebuild and grow back stronger, we need rest, good nutrition and sleep. 

Alice Miller weight training
Alice Miller explains why we shouldn't weight train every day

“What happens if I weight train every day?”

Simply, you’ll burn out. “If you train too much, it just doesn’t give your body enough time to recover. The body can only truly recover during that rest time, when we’re sleeping, eating and drinking enough. Our non-training days are as important as our training days and without them the body’s just going to fatigue and struggle with progressing. Because of that, we can also get injured,” says Miller. 

Don’t think you can outwit your body by dividing your training into an upper/lower split. Just because your legs may rest when your upper body trains, your body still needs time to rebuild tissue which it can’t do if you are constantly creating more damage. 

“Overtraining will lead to fatigued muscles and you won’t see the results that you actually want from your training sessions because you just haven’t had a chance to recover,” adds Obayuvana. “For me, overtraining means my sleep doesn’t quite follow its normal pattern and I don’t feel refreshed.” 

Women walking
Only go for walks or do light stretches on rest days

“How many rest days should I take?”

“Take at least two rest days a week,” advises Miller. “I wouldn’t do them back to back, but usually break them up so you have days throughout the week to allow your body to refuel and feel good for the next session.”

Both Obayuvana and Miller opt for ‘active rest days’. “For example, you might play tennis or swim, so you’re resting from the activity of weight training but still moving your body. It’s about low-impact and low-intensity movement. I also think it’s important to have at least one day of complete rest, where you do nothing other than walk,” says Obayuvana. 

For more advice on getting the most from your training, sign up to the Strong Women Training Club

Images: Getty / Benjamin Youd 

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Chloe Gray

Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).