Rest is essential -Reuben Mcilrath PT

Everyone knows that rest from training is important, but not that many people actually know why or what it is that happens during rest to influence muscle growth.

Muscles don’t grow while your smashing out a set, it is just the spark that has the potential to start the process.

During training is when the fibres are broken down and anabolic hormones are released but it is during rest that the fibres are repaired and the hormones and nutrition play their part!


Rest days give the body a break from the destructive processes of fibre breakdown. It begins to adapt to the training that has gone before. Resistance training and fibre breakdown is a stress on the body, a stress it doesn’t like – as signalled by the pain in your muscles post training (DOMS).

The body doesn’t have goals, it doesn’t plan to gain muscle for the sake of aesthetics or competition, and it just knows stress and how to deal with it.

• Delayed
• Onset
• Muscle
• Soreness

Like any adaptive organism, it takes steps to avoid this stress in the future (when the right nutrition is available.

This is the actual hypertrophy event so to speak and it occurs in two potential ways, either the body will repair the present muscle fibres and make them thicker and thus stronger, or it will create new muscle fibres, thus also increasing the potential strength of the muscle.

A simple, rough illustration being, if you wanted to tow a car up a hill you would use a towrope. If the rope snapped, you would not tie a rope of the same thickness around again as it can’t handle the load. You would either get a second rope or you would get a thicker rope. The body adapts to repeated stress in much the same way.

This all occurs during your rest periods, thus to forgo rest and continue to train without it, is to severely limit or even stop this process.


Though it’s a big part of it, rest does not mean sleep, but in general terms it is a break from the activity you are resting from. This could be going to play some football with friends or taking a cycle. Light cardio won’t ‘kill your gains’.

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