Muscles and Recovery: How Long Should You Rest Between Training Sessions

Muscles and Recovery: How Long Should You Rest Between Training Sessions

Muscular strength is one essential component underlying optimal athletic performance. The development of strength typically involves high-resistance, low-repetition exercises using larger muscle masses to increase the maximal force generation by a muscle or muscle group. 

Careful consideration must be given to volume and intensity as well as time between sessions to develop optimal strength. If these variables are not properly programmed, post-session fatigue may develop and hinder results. Many studies have discussed these variables. 

A paper (1) looking at the bench press used a 5-rep max testing protocol and 4 hour, 24 hour, and 48 hour recovery times.

Fatigue was defined as "the inability of a muscle or muscle group to generate maximal force/torque." Strength recovered faster in women than men, 4 hours as compared to 24-48 hours.

The study authors stated, "Postexercise fatigue may limit the effectiveness of the resistance training program as an adaptive physiologic stimulus for strength gains.6–8 This study shows that determining the optimal recovery time between resistance training sessions may depend upon the gender of the participants....In females, the distribution of the volume of high resistance training into two daily sessions may take advantage of their shorter postexercise recovery times to optimize their strength development.29 In males, optimal strength development may occur with one daily session that is followed by a postexercise recovery period of 48 h."

Another recent paper (2) looked specifically at training frequency. The authors studied 21 men and used a 1RM max for squat and bench press. A two day per week vs 4 day per week training protocol was used but total volume was the same. A key limitation of the study was that it was only 8 weeks long. That said, the researchers found that "training with a frequency of two and four sessions per muscle group are both viable approaches to increase muscle strength in the barbell back squat and bench press for trained males, as long as the total weekly training volume is equal."

As you can see from these studies, there are many variables to consider. Maybe the most important thing you can do is to keep a training log and make notes on how you feel with different training volumes, frequencies, and rest intervals. Determine what works for you.

Recover Like a God and Hammer It Out!

PS: Yes, the image is Dr. Steve Horwitz, our co-founder.