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Weight Lifting Rest and Recovery

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Training Information : Rest & Recuperation

How much R & R do we bodybuilders need? How often can we train and still avoid overtraining? How big a part of the picture is rest and recuperation? Many bodybuilders are unsure of how much rest they need - the many so called experts give highly conflicting advice on this subject. Some say you can't overtrain, you can only undereat whilst at the other end of the scale you have trainers telling us that training a bodypart more frequently than once ever 14 days is overtraining! What is going on!?!

Part of the problem is that the speed with which you recover and grow varies greatly between individuals and also varies greatly on an individual basis. It's almost like asking how long is a piece of string! Let me just outline all the factors that I believe influence your recovery ability and you may see why it's so difficult to give advice on a personal level...

  • Sleep
  • Hydration
  • Nutrition
  • Genetics
  • Lean muscle mass
  • Aerobic fitness
  • Stress
  • Supplementation
  • Performance enhancing drugs
  • Degree of overtraining
  • Intensity and frequency of training

Given a few more minutes I could think of more factors but that's enough to be going on right?! Remember too that you have to bear in mind that it is the variation in the factors over a period of time that plays the biggest part on your recovery, not just your immediate situation. I.e. you have to consistently eat well, sleep well and drink frequently in order to maximise the speed at which you recover and grow from your workouts.

Okay, we all know that we need to get lots of sleep, drink lots of water (the more the merrier) and get in lots of great nutrition (read: tons of protein and carbs!) to recover well and grow so lets look at some of the other influencers.


Those guys who just seem to grow and grow and grow no matter what they do really piss me off! Lucky so and so's eh? We all say to each other that the chap is a genetic freak and if we had their genetics we'd be just as big. Well, whilst this isn't entirely true it does play a part in recovery. You have a genetically predetermined recovery system. As you train and grow this system develops along side your growth. The level at which it begins and subsequently develops plays a role in how quickly you recover from your workouts. Don't use this as an excuse for laziness and lack of discipline however - it's far too easy to use this as a panacea and eat badly. If you take longer to recover than your buddy it just means you are going to have to work that much harder on the other factors - hell, nothing worthwhile is ever easy!

Lean muscle mass

This ties in with the above factor. Muscle gains often outstrip your body's ability to improve your recovery system - i.e. as you get bigger it takes you longer to recover from the stress and strains of the more demanding workouts.

Aerobic fitness

Aerobic fitness plays it's part in recovery from weight training sessions because the rate at which vital nutrients are fed to your muscles depends upon your aerobic fitness - cardiac fitness. The more efficiently the blood gets to your muscles the quicker the muscles can recover.


Stress is a major factor in recovery - it negatively affects your recovery ability. If you are highly stressed then I really recommend you try to reduce your stress levels as much as possible. Simple things such as closing your eyes for a few seconds really helps. If personal problems are causing stress then please look at resolving the problems or getting a clearer view of the issues - often with a clear head you will see the path to solving your problems and just seeing this path helps reduce your state of stress.


Supplements can really aid your recovery. There are now many drinks, pills etc. that are specially designed to be taken after a workout or at other times in order to help you recover quickly from your workouts. Supplement Reviews

Performance enhancing drugs

People taking anabolic steroids will recover faster than normal. This lets them get away with training more frequently or harder than normal. Whether doing so is the most beneficial thing to do is open to debate - you should always remember that in bodybuilding it is the results from our efforts that is what is important (well for competitive bodybuilders certainly), not the actual efforts. Some people get so eat up in their training that they take anabolic steroids and other drugs in order to allow them to train harder and more frequently - often leaving themselves in the same overtrained state as they were before they started taking the drugs. Bit silly really eh? Are you one of these people? Are you not growing as quickly as you thought you should, and your diet and sleep etc. is all spot on? Look at your training if so - you may need to reduce it in either frequency or intensity. Tough, I know but the results are what is important!!

Degree of overtraining

If you are already severely overtrained how well do you think you are going to recover from today's workout? Exactly. Not very well. The further you are into the black hole of overtraining the harder it is for you to recover from each extra workout - in fact each extra workout will move you further and further into the hole, even though you would have been able to fully recover and grow from the same workout if you weren't overtrained. This is a key issue that many trainers ignore - overtraining really will cripple your results and you may not even know or acknowledge that you are overtrained.

Intensity and frequency of training

Back to square one, and the topic that everyone concerns themselves with. Training too hard or too intensely will affect how quickly you recovery. Obviously - you recover far quicker from an easy workout than a balls-out psycho session. The question you may ask is however - how intensely and how frequently do you have to train in order to MAXIMISE your results. Ah, low carb bar to that man!! How long was that piece of string again....? Experimentation and observation....

Hopefully this article has given you some pause for thought. Take time to look at each of the factors I've outlined - if just one of them isn't at peak efficiency then your recovery ability will be impaired and if you train too hard or too frequently you could find yourself on the slippery road of overtraining...

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