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Bodybuilding Rest and Sleep

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Bodybuilding and Fitness Newsletter 4/20/2022

You Must Have Sufficient Rest and Sleep

by Bradley J. Steiner

My own experience with bodybuilders and lifters has taught me that when a weight trainee fails to respond satisfactorily to his training program, any one or any combination of the following three factors is usually accountable:

  1. The bodybuilder is eating like a parakeet;
  2. He is either training too often and too long, or not training hard enough at each workout, or finally...
  3. Sufficient rest and sleep are not being had, and particularly among the younger trainees, the bodybuilder's idea of a "rest day" is an evening spent bowling, going 'out with the guys' until two in the morning, or an hour or so of street fighting.

Rest and sleep are as essential to building large, powerful muscles as are vigorous progressive workouts. Not too long ago I spoke with a young fellow who had taken up barbell training and was dissatisfied with his progress. We talked for a long time, and what I found to be the cause of his failure might well prove to be the cause of yours - insufficient sleep.

"I've been killing myself on my workouts," my friend complained, "yet I'm getting nowhere fast. In fact," he added, "I seem to be experiencing my training sessions more as a test of my staying power, rather than as a means of building up. I'm wondering whether or not I should quit altogether."

"George," I said, "weight training - sensible, progressive weight training - is always worth the effort and the discipline that it takes to stick with it. Don't ever consider giving it up. Believe me, your health, fitness and well-being are three of the most important things in life. If you're not getting where you'd like to go with the weights, then you're doing something wrong. Let's find out what it is and we'll set you straight."

"But I don't even know where to begin," he said

"Well,"I asked him, "are you working hard?"

"Yep," he said.

"Are you drinking lots of milk and eating plenty of good food?"


"How often are you working out?"

"Three times a week. EVery Monday, Wednesday and Friday evening, like clock work."

"Well, George, you say that your workouts are more of chore than a satisfying challenge, and since your diet is O. K., since you do train hard buy you don't work out too often, then I strongly suspect that the cause of your problem is a lack of proper rest and sleep. When the time comes for a workout, your body isn't well rested and ready for the effort."

"But you said yourself that I don't over train," he interrupted.

"That's true; there's nothing wrong with your program. But you don't provide your system with a chance to rebuild itself between workouts. You don't get enough sleep and rest and your training sessions have become simply a hard task that requires unusual determination to complete. Remember this: if your body isn't fully prepared for a heavy workout, you CANNOT POSSIBLY BENEFIT FROM ONE. And the way you get 'prepared'," I said, "is by resting between training sessions. If you keep on the way you're going you're assured of losing your muscles or your marbles, or both."

"Aw," he said, "I sleep enough."

"ON the average, George, how much sleep do you get a night?"

"Oh I manage about six or seven hours a night during the week; but when the weekend rolls around, man, I lie in bed until noon."

"George." I explained, 'your body needs rest like it requires food; in REGULAR, BALANCED amounts. YOU just can't make up for sleep that you didn't get. You must get enough - every night. Mother nature doesn't like to be bullied."

"But I can't do that."

"Why not?"


"I said, 'Why not?'"

"Well, I've got homework to do, and I've got to get up early for classes, and heck, I want to have some fun, too."

"Do you want big muscles?"

"Sure, but."

"Then you'll have to discipline yourself to say goodnight to your friends in time to get a good night's sleep. And from what I've seen of some of your friends," I added, "you won't be missing too much."

"Very funny," he muttered, "So just how much sleep do I need?"

"That's a tough one to answer," I said, "But common sense should tell you that if you wake up feeling like a sack of dirty laundry, you're not well rested. On the other hand, if you get up feeling refreshed and ready-to-go, then you've had enough sleep. And another very important point: if you find that you're looking forward to your workouts and you feel ready to train on your scheduled exercise days, this is a fine indication that you're getting the proper amount of rest."

'But how many hours of sleep should I get a night?"

"Well, since you're still growing, and since you're coupling your training with a heavy schedule at school, I'd strongly advise you to get a minimum of nine hours of sleep a night. Ten is even better. If you can't fall asleep, just lie there and think about how your muscles are growing."

"And you think this will make a difference in my training progress?"

"George, your head is thicker than a fifty-pound barbell plate. YES I think that it will make a difference - a BIG DIFFERENCE - O. K.? I'll assure it. I promise."

George smiled, "O. K." he said. He took the advice. He began to make sure that he got enough sleep every night, and he started to grow. He found that the increased rest made his strength and ambition shoot up rapidly. He packed on eleven pounds of pure muscle in five weeks. The only change that he made was in the amount to sleep that he got. His training schedule remained the same. Rest made the difference; and if you're not gaining like you feel you should be, it might very well make the difference with you.

A heavy workout results in an enormous breakdown of muscle fibers. It is during the rest periods between workouts that your body recuperates, if you give it the chance, and it is then that the blood carries tissue-building nutrients throughout your system to replenish the worn-out muscle tissue. The more sleep and relaxation that you get, without going to the imbecilic extreme of enforced idleness, the greater will be the tissue build-up and repair. The greater and faster will be your muscular growth, both is size and in strength.

If you're over twenty years of age you probably need a good eight hours of sleep a night. That's an average figure and it's applicable to most people. Anyone desiring to bulk up or gain weight quickly would do better to get ten hours of sleep a night ...REGARDLESS of his age, until the desired gains are made. In addition to sleep, rest and relaxation are important between heavy training sessions. You need not and should not become a loafing bum, but if you're a beginner you should not engage in any other physical activities besides your barbell training. This rule goes for the first four to six months of bodybuilding unless you happen to be a spectacularly easy gainer.

If you train hard, which is the only way to train for results, then accept the fact that without sufficient sleep you're defeating your own purpose. If you expect to combine a heavy training schedule with a full-time hob, or school work, or both, then you must see to it that your body receives the rest that it requires to carry you through your activities, and to leave you with plenty of "steam" so you can profit form your workouts.

Start keeping sensible hours, and you'll find that you will really be able to go full blast in your workouts. And fellows, THAT is what will give you the build that you're after.

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