Muscles do not grow during your actual workout period.You don't get stronger while you lift a heavy thing over your head. The process of repetitively striking the ground with your feet does little to make your muscles more acclimated to repetitively striking the ground with your feet again.
In fact, working out tears down your muscle – literally.
Exercise causes what's known as microtrauma in your muscles. This is what gives you the DOMS, or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. The DOMS are what make it tough to drive after leg day, or bend over to pull your socks up after a day of shredding abs. The DOMS are your body's way of letting you know that your muscles are all torn up.
What makes you stronger is recovery. This is a lesson that every aspiring athlete should learn early on in the body-sculpting process.Working out without recovery not only hurts your gains, it hurts your body. Too little recovery can lead to stress-related injuries and all kinds of nasty muscle tears. Pain is not a bad thing. Pain is your body's adaptation that lets you know there's damage done.
So, seeing as your body's sense of pain is the culmination of eons of Darwin-tested chemical signaling, it's time you start listening to it.
Many young fools venture into the gym in hopes of large arms. They spurn leg day like a text from their mother telling them their bank account is overdrawn.They do bicep curls until they can't think straight and head home to call it a night. The next day, they are forlorn to find that alas, they can bicep-curl no more. What happened to all of the work they did the day before? They tore down the house, but didn't rebuild it properly. They are forced to wait until their arms stop throbbing to once again pay homage to the dumbbells.
A way to avoid these dead days is to practice what's known as muscle cycling. Muscle cycling is essentially rotating through different muscle groups throughout the week. Depending on your diet, muscle rotations can happen differently. Let's look at three common ones.Some gym-goers enjoy a ONE A DAY type muscle cycle. This usually goes something like Day 1 – Legs; Day 2 – Back; Day 3 – Chest; Day 4 – Shoulders; Day 5 – Biceps; Day 6 – Triceps; Day 7 – Rest. People cite schedules like these for shorter, daily workouts, as well as the ability to focus on one muscle group at a time.
Other lifters tend toward a TWO A DAY AUXILIARY muscle cycle. This allows for extension days (push muscles), flexion days (pull muscles) and the pairing of legs and shoulders, which many enjoy. A schedule of this sort could look like: Day 1 – Back and Biceps (pull muscles); Day 2 – Chest and Triceps (push muscles); Day 3 – Legs and Shoulders; Day 4 – Back and Biceps (pull muscles); Day 5 – Chest and Triceps (push muscles); Day 6 – Legs and Shoulders; Day 7 – Rest. This allows for the pairing of similarly used muscle groups, as well as more frequent workouts for each group.
The third cycle I've encountered is a PUSH-PULL TWO A DAY muscle cycle. This pairs antagonistic muscle groups rather that complimentary, leading to a see-saw type workout. This could look like Day 1 – Chest and Back (Push and Pull); Day 2 – Triceps and Biceps (Push and Pull); Day 3 – Legs and Shoulders; Day 4 – Chest and Back (Push and Pull); Day 5 – Triceps and Biceps (Push and Pull); Day 6 – Legs and Shoulders; Day 7 – Rest.
In the end, it's all about what feels right. The important thing to remember is to fuel your recoveries properly with significant amounts of protein.Recovery is incredibly important to gaining strength, speed, tone or whatever else you're looking for out of your workout, as well as preventing injury. Respect the DOMS to make gains.
Andrew Fleming is a junior in neuroscience. He can be reached at email@example.com.