Health & Fitness, Fitness & Training

The 5:2 rule for optimal muscle recovery

When it comes to exercise, more is not always better and making time in your schedule for muscle recovery is essential. Overtraining can eventually lead to a drop in performance. To balance rest and training, follow the 5:2 rule: plan 5 varied sessions each week and choose your 2 rest days wisely. Find out how to get the most out of your training sessions with this rule.

The risks associated with the “no rest day” trend

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The “no rest day” trend is still alive in the minds of many athletes. Faster muscle growth and increased fat loss: the claims made by the proponents of this practice seem seductive. However, not getting enough rest between sessions can have a negative effect on your health, in addition to the drop in performance caused by overtraining:
Fatigue affects mood, morale and the nervous system, and can cause irritability and stress in everyday life.
Overused muscles, tendons and joints can cause inflammatory pain and are at greater risk of injury.
In a state of intense fatigue, the body secretes more cortisol, a hormone associated with stress, fat storage and reduced immunity.
The beneficial effects of exercise on sleep are cancelled out after a certain level of physical and psychological fatigue: you may well feel exhausted but unable to fall asleep.
As we explained in a previous article, it is essential to include rest periods in your training schedule, as this is when your muscle fibres develop.
However, it is a good idea to spread out your workouts throughout the week so that you are regularly active: this is more effective than doing several hours of physical activity in a row on the weekend, for example. The key is to remember to leave yourself time to recover, especially after the most intense sessions.

The 5:2 rule: An easy-to-remember way to improve performance

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To balance your schedule, adopt the 5:2 rule, i.e., 5 days of training and 2 days of recovery each week. Ideally, vary your workouts throughout the week, alternating between endurance sessions lasting more than 30 minutes, targeted muscle strengthening, stretching and gentle activities, such as yoga or Pilates. Also, include a few interval training sessions to boost your heart rate for short periods of time.

Plan your 5 training days and 2 recovery days

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The WHO recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of more intense activity per week: this corresponds to 5 sessions of about 30 minutes spread out over the week.
When putting together your schedule, consider the intensity of the activities you do. Try to include a rest day after a HIIT or split workout, for example: as well as giving your muscles time to recover, you’ll continue to burn calories for several hours after the session, which is known as the afterburn effect.
One of the 2 recovery days can be devoted to active recovery by moving with gentle activities. Try to plan one recovery day for every 2 to 3 days of training. Except after a competition or a very intense effort, it is ideal to avoid choosing 2 consecutive rest days.
Here is an example of a 5:2 weekly schedule, which can be adapted according to your preferences and the activities you do:
Monday – Lower body strength training
Tuesday – Long endurance training (cycling, running, swimming, rowing, etc.)
Wednesday – Active recovery with gentle movements, such as walking, swimming (for leisure, not for training purposes) or stretching
Thursday – Upper body strength training
Friday – Long endurance session (cycling, running, swimming, rowing, etc.)
Saturday – Circuit training: short session with intense cardio phases
Sunday – Rest (massages)
For workout ideas and workouts designed by professional coaches, check out the iFIT library. You will also find nutritional tips to optimise your muscle recovery.

Check out our Health & Fitness page for more advice.