In the world of sport, and especially in bodybuilding, one of the most recurring debates concerns the frequency of training. Do you have to train every day to get the best results, or is it better to plan rest days between sessions?
The answer, as often, is not as simple as a “yes” or “no”. There are pros and cons to exercising every day, and the best approach depends on several factors!
Sports practice: 2 very different approaches
Before answering the main question of whether it is possible to exercise every day, it is important to remember that there are many ways to exercise. Depending on your goals and the intensity of your training, we can differentiate 2 types of profiles:
This practice aims above all to maintain or improve health and general well-being through sport. The goal is therefore not to break records or win competitions, but rather to stay active, maintain good physical condition and prevent disease.
In this context, exercising every day will be beneficial as long as the intensity and duration of training are appropriate and there is variation in the types of exercise.
2. Sport for performance
If you play sports to achieve specific goals, physical progress and/or performance, then planning a training program will be necessary.
Because your training sessions are more intensive and more specific, they require greater discipline: they must be structured around training, recovery and delay cycles.
In this case, daily training is possible, and sometimes even necessary if you compete, but it must be carefully planned to include sufficient rest and recovery periods to avoid overexertion.
You have to know how to listen to your body and respect your limits. Some people can train every day without a problem, while others need more rest.
The importance of recovery in sport
Recovery is an essential part of any sports training program. It allows the body to rest, repair and strengthen after exercise. Ignoring recovery can not only decrease the effectiveness of your training, but also increase the risk of injury and fatigue (more on the risks of overtraining later in this article) .
➜ Repair and strengthen muscles
During training, muscle fibers undergo micro tears. It is during the recovery phase that these fibers repair and strengthen, leading to increased muscle mass and strength.
➜ Energy restoration
Exercise uses the glycogen stores in your muscles. During recovery, these reserves are replenished, allowing you to have enough energy for your next training session.
➜ Injury prevention
Training without sufficient recovery can lead to excessive fatigue, which increases the risk of injury due to poor form or lack of concentration.
➜ Improved performance
Proper recovery allows your body to adapt to the stresses imposed by training, which can lead to improved long-term performance.
The notion of recovery does not necessarily mean the total absence of activity. Active rest days, where you do light activity (like walking, swimming, or yoga) can be just as beneficial as full rest days. The important thing is to give your body the time it needs to rest and repair itself.
Good practices for exercising every day
As long as your body isn’t sending you negative signals, it’s totally possible to train every day. But to make good progress, you absolutely must have a specific program and plan your sessions intelligently. Here are our recommendations, depending on your objective:
Goal: weight loss
- Vary the exercises : we advise you to alternate between cardio sessions to burn calories, muscle strengthening to maintain your muscle mass and increase basal metabolism, + possibly flexibility exercises: stretching, yoga, etc.
- Include high-intensity workouts : High-intensity interval training ( HIIT ) can be particularly effective at burning calories. These sessions, which alternate between periods of intense effort and periods of rest, can also increase your post-workout metabolism.
- Don’t neglect recovery : even if the goal is to exercise every day, it is essential to include active recovery days, with lighter activities.
- Pay attention to diet : exercise alone is not enough to lose weight. You should eat a healthy, balanced diet (rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains) and limit processed and high-sugar foods.
- Be constant : to lose weight, regularity is the key! It is better to do moderate activity every day than to train intensely for a few days and then stop.
Goal: gain muscle mass
- Alternate muscle groups : to avoid overtraining and injuries, work different muscle groups from one session to another, always leaving at least 48 hours of recovery between 2 sessions for the same group (this is a minimum, at you then adapt according to your feelings, aches, etc.). See also: which bodybuilding program to choose?
- Include moderate cardio exercises : although muscle building is your priority, cardio should not be completely neglected, essential for good cardiovascular health. Choose low-impact activities that won’t put too much strain on your muscles, such as running, biking, or swimming (rather than HIIT-type exercises).
- Respect your sleep times : a good rest being mandatory for muscle mass gain, if you want to train every day you will have to recover as much as possible during the night, respecting your sleep hours! And if you have the opportunity to take a nap after lunch, take this opportunity to promote better recovery.
- Incorporate active recovery techniques like stretching, yoga, or massage (even self-massage, using a roller or massage gun).
- Take care of your diet : eating well also allows you to recover well. Eat a rich, balanced diet (and drink plenty of water!). Pay special attention to proteins, they are essential for muscle repair and growth.
- Food supplements: supplementation, for example with BCAAs or with whey, can promote better recovery. See also: what is the best whey protein?
- Plan your training : A structured training program is essential. It should include a variety of training – strength, endurance, speed, agility – specific to your sport, as well as recovery periods.
- Follow a cycle of progression : training should progress in intensity, duration and complexity as you get closer to the competition date. This allows your body to adapt to the demands of training.
- Include active recovery : Active recovery days, where you do light activity, should be kept to allow your body to repair and strengthen.
- Appropriate diet : balanced, rich in protein for muscle recovery, and in carbohydrates for energy.
- Monitor your form and state of health : if you feel pain, excessive fatigue or signs of overtraining, modify your program accordingly.
- Follow your program to the letter : as an athlete, it is often difficult to channel yourself. We can think that the more we do, the better it is… Or we want to always go further by following the famous quote “No pain, no gain”. In reality, too much effort during a session is not necessarily a sign of progress, and above all can penalize your future sessions and your recovery.
How do you know if you are exercising too much?
Burnout can occur when the training load exceeds the body’s ability to recover. It’s important to watch for signs of overtraining before it’s too late. Here are the main signs to look out for:
- Persistent fatigue : Fatigue that does not go away even after several days of rest can be a sign of overtraining.
- Decreased performance : if you notice a decline in your sports performance despite regular training.
- Recurrent pain and injury : muscle or joint pain that lasts longer than usual, or injuries that seem to reoccur.
- Sleep problems : if you have trouble falling asleep or if you wake up often during the night.
- Mood changes : irritability, depression, loss of motivation or interest in sports.
- Changes in heart rate : a higher resting heart rate than usual, or a heart rate that takes longer to return to normal after exercise.
- Immune issues : If you get sick more often than usual, it could be a sign that your immune system is weakened from over-training.
If you have more than one of these symptoms, it’s likely you need to reduce the training load, include more recovery time, or change your diet or sleep routine.
What are the risks of overtraining?
Overtraining, when left unmanaged, can have serious repercussions on your physical, and even mental, health!
- Injuries : When you overtrain, your body doesn’t have time to repair and strengthen itself properly, increasing the risk of injuries, ranging from pulled muscles to stress fractures.
- Sleep disturbances : Overtraining can lead to sleep disturbances, such as insomnia, which in turn can affect your performance and overall health.
- Immune issues : Excessive training can weaken your immune system, making you more susceptible to infection and disease.
- Hormonal problems : it can disrupt hormonal balance, leading to problems such as loss of menstruation in women, decreased libido, or loss of muscle mass.
- Psychological issues : Physical exhaustion can also lead to psychological issues like anxiety, depression, or loss of interest in sports.
- Cardiovascular issues : Studies have shown that athletes who overtrain can experience heart abnormalities, including an increased risk of atrial fibrillation.
- Alteration of sports performance : paradoxically, while the goal of training is to improve performance, overtraining can actually decrease it. This results in a loss of strength, speed, coordination or endurance.
What to do on a rest day?
If you find it difficult to remain inactive on your rest days, you can opt for what is called active recovery . Active recovery involves engaging in moderate-intensity activities that help your body repair and regenerate after hard training.
Here are some suggested active recovery activities:
- Walking : A walk in the fresh air can help increase blood circulation, thus promoting muscle recovery.
- Yoga or pilates : these disciplines are excellent for stretching the body, improving mobility and promoting relaxation.
- Swimming : Low-intensity swimming is a great active recovery activity. Water supports your weight, which minimizes stress on the joints.
- Low-intensity cycling : Cycling at a slow pace can help reduce muscle stiffness without adding stress to your body.
- Stretching : A stretching routine will improve your flexibility, reduce muscle tension and speed up recovery.
- Meditation and deep breathing : These practices can help reduce stress, promote recovery, and improve mental focus.
Remember that the purpose of these activities is to promote recovery, not to add stress to your body. Care must therefore be taken to practice them at a low to moderate intensity, without adding new challenges related to these practices.
And if you feel particularly tired or in pain, listen to your body and give yourself complete rest!
The final word…
Even if we always associate sport with good health, this is not always the case! Excessive practice can sometimes even be worse for health than lack of exercise. Most top athletes are paradoxically not in good health because they push their bodies too hard.
When you’re young, everything is fine, but it often comes at a price when you get older. It is therefore always good to remember why you do sport, and to succeed in finding the right balance between performance and health.
As a reminder, here is a non-exhaustive list of the benefits of physical activity – regular or even daily – when practiced without excess:
- Work the heart and improve blood circulation, thereby reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Burn calories and increase metabolism, which helps keep you in shape. For some, exercising every day is a way to be able to eat without depriving yourself too much!
- Release endorphins, often called “happiness hormones”, which improve mood, reduce stress and anxiety. Integrating sport into a morning routine, for example, is an excellent way to start the day on the right foot, full of energy and in a good mood.
- Helps regulate sleep cycles, which can make it easier to fall asleep and improve your overall sleep quality.
- Boost the immune system, making you more resistant to infection and disease. Research has shown that physically active people get sick less than more sedentary people.
Finally, several studies have shown that regular physical activity can help increase lifespan! So play sports, but without excess