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I have heard that muscles need to rest 48-72 hours.

However sometimes even 80 hours after a workout, (the muscles aren't aching, that's for sure, but) I can still feel it, you know feel the strain.

Is this type of strain "ok" in the sense that I can still continue working out and it wouldn't harm the body, or is it that I should rest till all signs of strain is gone before continuing?

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2 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

I highly recommend reading "Practical Programming for Strength Training" by Dr. Kilgore and Mark Rippetoe. The first few chapters will help you better understand what happens in your body as you exercise. The part that applies to this answer is that the 48-72 hours of rest applies to beginners and novices, not to intermediate or higher athletes.

A program designed for each class of athlete has a certain amount of stress applied to cause you to adapt and be better at your exercise. Between each period of adaptation inducing stress is a period of recovery. For beginners and novices, recovery happens in the form of rest. For intermediates and higher, recovery is composed both of rest and "active recovery"--a lighter stress workout to keep the volume up, but not overtax the recovery process.

  • Beginners need 24-48 hours to rest
  • Novices need 48-72 hours to rest
  • Intermediates need up to a week
  • Advanced athletes need up to a month
  • Elites need several months or years

If you are no longer a novice at your sport (or with your training), you may be on your way to becoming an intermediate. If so, you'll have to make some modifications to your training program to help you keep improving.

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sry i don't quite understand the answer. what do you mean that elites need several months of rest ? –  Pacerier Sep 7 '11 at 13:40
    
I think you need to clarify what the athlete is recovering from. It stretches credulity to imagine an elite athlete would need months or years to recovery from a workout, or even from an intense competition, provided they were not injurious. –  silasdavis Sep 7 '11 at 14:03
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Read the book, it's a bit more clear. They need several months of reduced work for active recovery, but they can only hypercompensate (make improvements) after several months. –  Berin Loritsch Sep 7 '11 at 14:04
    
@Berin, that's an expensive book! thanks for the tip, it's on the way. –  Joe Blow Sep 7 '11 at 18:41
    
@Berin please do not hesitate to let us know any other critical books, of that nature. Cheers! –  Joe Blow Sep 7 '11 at 18:44
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This summary article gives a good review of the mechanics of recovery and some plausible guidelines on training frequency.

The prevailing wisdom seems to be:

  • Initial strength gains of a muscle group can be characterized as predominantly 'neurological', relating to recruitment and coordination changes based on changes in the brain and nervous system, providing an increase in strength with a faster recovery time than those arising from muscular hypertrophy.
  • With practice these strength gains tail off and gains from muscle growth dominate. The same exertion that stimulates growth causes damage that recovers over a longer time scale, around a week to a month.
  • At a certain level of strength and development low volume training or 'active recovery' can be a superior replacement for complete rest.
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