Whenever we think of getting bigger muscles, obtaining improved vascularity, or even just losing weight, the first things that come to mind are hard work, exercise and diet. Very rarely do we discuss the importance of sleep and rest, but today, I’m going to tell you why we shouldn’t overlook it.
As a personal trainer in Coventry I understand the importance of heathy eating, exercise and sleep.
Sleep and rest is one of the most underrated factors that contribute to muscle growth and this is most commonly because the correction between that and healthy gains, is unintuitive. If you think about it realistically, we associate rest with laziness, which in turn is directly linked with a sedentary inactive lifestyle, one of the most common causes of obesity. It is clear to see why we rarely consider the value of sleep and rest for achieving muscular growth, but if you want to achieve optimal muscular hypertrophic gains, you need to consider the science behind sleep and rest.
So why is sleep and rest so important?
- Enables Energy Recovery
This is an obvious one and it’s the one we are all aware of. Of course, we all know that sleep helps you to recharge your batteries, but why does this help muscle growth? The key lies with the ability to perform at higher intensities for longer. A recharged body, fuelled ready to go with active and prepared mitochondria, which provide power to the cells, is much more likely to perform at more optimal levels. Not only will you be able to cope with more intense levels of training, but you will also be able to maintain performance for longer periods of time. To put in to context, humans are very much like a car going out on to a race track. When the car first goes out fresh, refuelled and with brand new tires, it will likely last much longer than a car that has been out for 100 laps, not to mention that it’s lap times will be much lower. However, sleep and rest provides much more than just physical recovery and preparation.
2. Mentally Recover and Prepare
Sleep and rest also improves your training performance by raising the level of mental stimulation, focus and drive. I’m sure you’ve been in a situation before when you need to focus, but your not able to, whether it be at school, work or in the gym. Whilst there are many reason behind this lack of focus, a key driver of it is tiredness. Now, it is naive to consider tiredness in the form of ‘feeling tired’, we must also consider the subconscious form of tired, that will occur often without us realising. It is the combination of these two forms of mental tiredness that cause a lack of focus and drive, 2 key components of optimal training. Now, it’s all well and good improving your training, but sleep and rest goes way beyond just this; sleep and rest is where muscle growth at repair is at it’s peak.
3. Repair Muscles Optimally
Firstly, let’s consider muscle repair. In order for muscle to grow, they are required to experience minor tears within their muscle fibres, which is the reasoning behind the aching sensation after a tough session. It goes without saying, that repairing your muscles faster will mean they are ready for training quicker, meaning you can train them more frequently. But, what if you don’t wan to train more frequently? Well, if you think about most exercises in the gym, it is rare that you will go more than a single session without engaging most if not all of your major muscle groups, with the exception of legs. Take the following, very basic, training regime:
- Day 1: Chest & Triceps
- Day 2: Back & Biceps
- Day 3: Legs & Core
- Day 4: Shoulders
While you may think that this training split means that recovery is not much of a factor, being as each muscle group has a week to recover, you are very much mistaken. The key misunderstanding here is the unnoticed engagement that occurs between muscle pairs, that work in conjunction with each other; such pairs include Chest & Back, Biceps & Ticeps, Back & Core, Shoulders & Back. It is clear now to see the importance of recovery, with every single day, apart from legs, engaging much more than just the targeted muscles.
4. Muscular Hypertrophy
Muscular hypertrophy is the growing of the muscle or increasing of it’s cross sectional area (size). Optimal muscular growth hypertrophy occurs when sleeping and this is because the body is at rest. The body is exerting extremely low levels of energy, meaning it can focus on repairing. If you think back to when you’ve ever been ill in your life and all you want to do is rest and sleep, you will realise it’s importance. It is the act of repairing that causes muscle growth. As discussed earlier muscles grow by tearing fibres and repairing them. When they are being repaired the fibres are vulnerable to repairing in greater size, not to mention in greater quantities. Being as the optimal levels of repair occur when sleeping, and repair is the acting force behind muscular growth, you can clearly see how this will help you improve.