Rest & Recovery: More is Better Than Less
Igniting muscle growth requires hard and consistent training, but recovery needs to be planned or you’ll end up overtrained
By Brandon Curry, IFBB Pro
[Q] How important is adequate rest to keep gains on track?
[A] Rest and recovery are very important. You don’t really build muscle in the gym. You need to have time to let your nutrition do its work. Getting proper sleep and taking days off from training will increase your productivity in the gym. Without, you’ll run into overuse injuries or possibly overtraining and will have to take time off for those reasons. That means no gains at all during those times, so learning the value of good rest is better than learning the hard lessons of not getting enough.
[Q] When you’re trying to gain size, what’s the right amount of rest between sets and exercises?
[A] First of all, you should make sure you’re always giving a maximal effort. You want every exercise to be as nearly perfect as possible. Sometimes that means pausing between sets. Most guys will train using heavier loads, a little more rest and slightly less volume than when getting ready for a contest. You don’t want to burn too many calories or move at too fast a pace when you’re trying to get strong or add mass. Maximize your strength level with optimum rest. I don’t usually take more than two minutes, but a minute to 90 seconds is a pretty comfortable rest period for me. To some extent your rest period depends on how conditioned you are. If you’re better conditioned, you can get back into your next set faster. This knowledge, of course, improves with experience.
[Q] How often should I be training a bodypart? I’ve heard you should hit lagging bodyparts 2–3 times a week.
[A] A lot of speculation exists about correct training frequency. Basic bodybuilding principles dictate you train once a week. If you opt to train multiple times per week, you need to adjust your nutrition to compensate by increasing your intake of clean calories. Be very careful with your volume too. You have to do a little less when you train more frequently, and you shouldn’t do it for extended periods of time. You need to make sure you’re getting enough rest. I’d advise training each bodypart once per week, pouring as much intensity as you can into every workout. Then let your food and sleep do their job.
[Q] Brandon, have you ever become overtrained? What happened and how did you work your way out of it?
[A] Yes, I’ve run into that problem by failing to get enough rest or sleep, so that my nervous system didn’t recover properly. I couldn’t sleep even though I was dead tired. I was probably also using too many stimulants. As pros, we just try to go hard all the time, usually without taking the proper precautions. I discontinued the stimulants, took a week out of the gym, and changed my diet by adding a lot more fruits and vegetables. That did the trick for me.
Curry’s 4 Tenets of R&R
1) Rest Days. I like to have a couple of days in the week when I don’t go to the gym. This break helps me stay motivated and allows my body the time to recover.
2) Workouts. If you’re training for strength and trying to give a maximal effort, rest longer between sets. If you want to condition yourself to be a little leaner, shorten rest periods a bit.
3) Sleep. I think 7–8 hours minimum is what you should shoot for. As you age, you sleep less, but because of how hard I train, I still try to get eight. Sometimes I take a nap if I need to.
4) Family Time. We like to plan vacations as a family. This is very important. I spend most of my year on the go so whenever I get a break, we always have some dedicated family time.