In 1999, I was a rookie with the Detroit Tigers. After a game, I strode confidently into the Kansas City Royals’ weight room, rested the weight bar on my shoulders and settled in for some heavy squats. I rocked my hips back and dropped into my form, feeling totally in control. On the way back up, I got stuck. I leaned forward and the bar spilled over my neck. More than 500 pounds went violently crashing to the floor and members of both teams turned to look.
Luckily, nothing was injured that day other than my pride. It could have been much worse. I was over-trained; I had an intense weight training session the day before and was just coming off playing nine innings. “More is better” was my mantra, but I was naïve.
At 23, I lifted heavy weights every day. At 38, I lift three days a week. I’m not quite as strong, but I’m inching closer to that 500 pound threshold now that I understand the importance of rest and recovery. If I understood how the body repairs itself when I was a rookie, I would have been stronger, healthier, and a better baseball player.
It’s essential to incorporate recovery days into your program so your muscles can adequately repair themselves, grow and become stronger. When we train with weights, we actually create small tears in our muscle fibers. Those fibers then repair and rebuild bigger and stronger while we rest. If you don’t build in that downtime, you break the muscle fibers down further reducing the chance for solid growth and increasing the risk of injury.
If your ultimate goal is size and strength, avoid weight training, even targeting separate muscle groups, on consecutive days.
Your body only builds muscle when you are not weight training. Trust the process, believe in the value of rest, and you’ll be significantly stronger as a result.