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How many days of rest is good after workout?

Getting adequate rest is crucial for recovery and performance after exercise. The optimal number of rest days largely depends on the type, duration and intensity of your workouts. While light exercise may require only 1-2 rest days per week, intense training often demands 2-4 rest days to allow your body to fully recover. Here is a detailed look at how to determine your ideal rest schedule based on your fitness goals and training habits.

Why Rest Days Are Important

Rest days give your body time to adapt to exercise and rebuild muscles stronger than before. Without adequate rest between workouts, you miss out on these key benefits:

  • Muscle repair and growth: Intense exercise causes small tears in muscle fibers. Rest days give cells time to patch these tears and reinforce the muscles.
  • Energy restoration: Your body needs downtime to replenish its energy stores after a tough workout.
  • Injury prevention: Rest allows pain and inflammation to subside, helping prevent overuse injuries.
  • Mental recovery: Breaks can restore motivation and focus, helping you avoid burnout.
  • Performance improvements: Recovery days are when your fitness actually increases as your body adapts to exercise.

In short, rest is when the real muscle building and conditioning occurs. Without enough downtime, your body can’t keep up with the demands of exercise, leading to fatigue, decreased performance and higher injury risk.

Factors That Determine Ideal Rest Time

There are several factors that impact how much rest you need between exercise sessions:

Workout Intensity

Higher intensity workouts require more recovery time. This includes activities like:

  • Heavy strength training
  • High-intensity interval training (HIIT)
  • Sprinting or plyometrics
  • Endurance exercises like running for over an hour

These put greater mechanical and metabolic stress on the body compared to easier, slower exercises. Thus, they create more muscle damage and demand additional rest.

Type of Exercise

Full-body workouts require more recovery time than exercises working smaller muscle groups. For example, a heavy leg day may need 48-72 hours of rest while an upper body-focused session may need just 24-48 hours.

Also, certain muscle groups tend to need more recovery time. These include:

  • Legs
  • Back
  • Shoulders

Multi-joint exercises like squats, deadlifts and overhead presses tend to be more demanding than isolation moves like bicep curls. Plan extra rest days after training these larger muscle groups.

Volume and Frequency

The total weekly training volume and workout frequency impacts rest needs. Volume refers to the number of hard sets performed per muscle group. Frequency is how often you train each muscle per week.

Higher training volume and frequency demand more recovery between sessions. For example, completing 20 intense sets per muscle group twice a week generally requires 48-72 hours of rest. Just 10 sets once per week may need only 24-48 hours.

Age and Fitness Level

Younger athletes and those new to exercise can recover faster. Muscle repair slows with age so older adults need more rest days. Advanced lifters also require longer recovery periods compared to beginners.

Nutrition and Lifestyle Factors

Poor nutrition and lifestyle habits can impair recovery. Dehydration, calorie deficit, lack of protein and poor sleep make it harder to bounce back from exercise. To optimize your rate of recovery, focus on:

  • Meeting calorie needs
  • Consuming plenty of protein
  • Staying hydrated
  • Getting enough sleep


Overtraining occurs when you lack adequate recovery between intense, frequent workouts. This can actually set you back by decreasing performance, motivation and immunity. Signs of overtraining include:

  • Fatigue and declining performance
  • Increased injury risk
  • Elevated resting heart rate
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Muscle soreness that persists for days
  • Apathy and irritability

Scheduling proper rest days prevents overtraining so you can keep progressing safely.

General Rest Day Recommendations

Unless you are a beginner, 1 rest day per week is generally inadequate – especially if you engage in intense exercise several days per week.

Here are general recommendations based on workout intensity and frequency:

Workout Intensity Workout Frequency Recommended Rest Days
Light 3 days per week 1-2 rest days
Moderate 3 days per week 2 rest days
Intense 3 days per week 2-3 rest days
Very intense 4-5 days per week 3-4 rest days
Extremely intense 5-6 days per week 4+ rest days

Listen to your body and err on the side of more rest if needed. Increase rest days during periods of high stress or when feeling very fatigued.

Sample Rest Schedules

Here are examples of appropriate rest schedules for different training frequencies and intensities:

Moderate Intensity, 4 Days Per Week

Workout routine: Moderate intensity strength training or HIIT 4 days per week

Rest days per week: 3 rest days

Example schedule:

  • Monday: Workout
  • Tuesday: Workout
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: Workout
  • Friday: Workout
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Rest

High Intensity, 5 Days Per Week

Workout routine: Challenging strength training and metabolic conditioning 5 days per week

Rest days per week: 2 rest days

Example schedule:

  • Monday: Workout
  • Tuesday: Workout
  • Wednesday: Workout
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: Workout
  • Saturday: Workout
  • Sunday: Rest

Very High Intensity, 6 Days Per Week

Workout routine: Very intense strength training and cardio 6 days per week

Rest days per week: 1 rest day

Example schedule:

  • Monday: Workout
  • Tuesday: Workout
  • Wednesday: Workout
  • Thursday: Workout
  • Friday: Workout
  • Saturday: Workout
  • Sunday: Rest

One rest day is adequate for highly conditioned athletes. Less fit individuals should take at least two rest days with this training frequency.

Active Recovery

Active recovery involves light exercise on rest days to enhance circulation and range of motion. Low intensity activities can help reduce muscle soreness without impeding recovery. Examples include:

  • Walking
  • Yoga
  • Easy cycling
  • Swimming
  • Light calisthenics

Aim for 15-30 minutes of gentle movement. However, very sore or exhausted muscles still need complete rest.

How to Determine If You Need More Rest

Here are signs indicating you should schedule extra rest days:

  • Difficulty completing workouts or lifts failing
  • Elevated resting heart rate
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Muscle soreness persists for several days
  • Increased stress and irritability
  • No progress in strength or fitness
  • Fatigue when at rest
  • Decreased motivation
  • Frequent illnesses or infections

Increase your rest days until these symptoms resolve. Preventing overtraining is crucial to maintain progress.

Recovery Practices to Enhance Rest

Certain strategies can amplify the benefits of rest days:


Drink enough fluid to replace sweat losses. Proper hydration reduces inflammation and speeds muscle repair.


Focus on protein intake and ensure you meet calorie needs. Protein and calories aid tissue repair and building muscles.


Prioritize getting 7-9 hours of quality sleep to allow your body to fully recuperate.

Soft Tissue Work

Massage, foam rolling and lacrosse ball release help muscles unwind after demanding workouts.

Contrast Baths or Showers

Alternating hot and cold water immersion facilitates blood flow and reduces soreness.

Compression Gear

Compression garments worn on rest days can help muscles recover by improving circulation.

Key Takeaways

The ideal number of rest days largely depends on your fitness level, training volume and workout intensity. Here are key takeaways on rest and recovery:

  • 1 day per week is inadequate recovery for intense training
  • 2-4 rest days per week is typical for challenging exercise
  • Allow 48-72 hours between intense, full body sessions
  • Legs, back and shoulders need more recovery time than other muscle groups
  • Increase rest days if you have symptoms of overtraining
  • Active recovery enhances rest days when you feel up for light exercise
  • Prioritize nutrition, sleep and hydration to optimize recovery

Rest and recovery is when your body adapts and fitness improves. Allow enough downtime between workouts based on your training habits and goals.


Rest days are crucial to get stronger, fitter and prevent injury. While beginning exercisers may only need 1-2 rest days per week, intense training demands 2-4 or more. Monitor your energy, soreness and performance levels to gauge if you need more recovery time. Take a day off when you feel fatigued and employ active recovery techniques to accelerate recuperation. Rest allows your body to reinforce muscles and restore energy so you can keep progressing safely.