Active or passive rest: which one suits you best for your training?

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Recovery is an undervalued aspect among those who exercise, but it is essential to perform and avoid injuries

With summer approaching, many people begin to put a greater pace to training. But, did you know that rest planning is as necessary as exercise planning? If so, you have probably heard of the two options for doing it: active and passive. But … which one best suits your needs?

Experts advise that not by exercising without stopping you will reach your goal faster. “Most people are more concerned with lack of training than with overtraining or for not getting enough rest “, says Helios Pareja Galeano, professor of Sports Sciences at the European University of Madrid.” However – he continues – rest, along with nutrition and training itself, is one of the three fundamental legs of good physical performance in any sports specialty “.

“The topic is interesting considering the famous mantra associated with training No pain no gain (If it doesn’t hurt, it doesn’t work) “, says Sergio Jiménez, professor at the Rey Juan Carlos University and coach of the ACB league. Recovery is a very little valued aspect among people who do physical exercise. But rest, on the contrary than many think, it is so fundamental like any other training variable (volume, intensity, frequency, density), emphasizes Jiménez.

As Helios Pareja explains, breaks allow the athlete to start or maintain high exercise intensities which improve physical performance because they allow, for example, lowered levels of phosphagens or glycogen, which are energy substrates, to be regenerated in the muscles. If these substrates or deposits are not replaced, the training quality levels are not reached and there is a tendency to fatigue and muscle pain, and even in extreme cases it can cause acute responses of muscle breakage or injury. “All this without forgetting the positive effect that rest entails on psychological variables that have such an impact on the performance of an athlete,” says the expert.

That is why we should ask ourselves whether the recovery we are making is sufficient. “Rest planning is as important as training, insists Javier Alonso – a teacher at the Spanish Federation of Directed Activities and Fitness (FEDA) -” and within that rest, a fundamental factor is the hours of sleep, “he points out.

It is also important that this rest is adapted to the physical training of each person. An elite athlete, who trains six times a week and needs a day of rest because he has a better tolerance to exercise and recovers much faster, is not the same as a person who starts training and may need three days rest after each training day. Must individualize recoveryexplains Alonso, who is a fitness advisor and trainer.

Any type of physical exercise stresses the body, explains Sergio Jiménez. “Through rest,” he continues, “tissues can overcome this stress, generating adaptations as diverse as the repair of micro-tears produced in the muscle, the production of their own antioxidant defenses, regenerating energy sources such as glycogen or making cells muscles are more efficient consuming oxygen and thus become more and more resistant to fatigue ”.

The consequences of not getting enough rest are highly dependent on the person and their circumstances, but can range from fatigue, decreased performance, worsening of the immune system, moodiness or sleep problems, even injuries and a wide range of negative consequences for performance and health, adds Helios Pareja.

At a general level, a passive rest It is one that implies stopping doing any type of exercise the day after a training session, that is, we stay sitting, reading, watching TV or playing a video game, says Javier Alonso.

Then there is the active rest, which consists of doing another exercise the next day of much less intensity and duration compared to a regular workout to improve physical condition, says the FEDA expert.

However, specialists introduce another nuance: the distinction between active and passive breaks between reps and sets, and those that occur between training days or sessions.

According to Alonso, a clear example of the first step is when we are on a machine in a gym and between series and series of repetitions we start walking. And the second case would be when we train Monday and Wednesday and rest on Tuesday. “And what do we do that day? Active or passive rest? We can go for a walk or jog or stay at home all day, the rest will depend on the type of activity we do, “he says.

Sergio Jiménez and Helios Pareja provide us with some keys to understand and distinguish what each type of physical pause entails:

Active rest between reps. It means doing it in movement, with activities of less intensity, which produces incomplete recovery, without reducing to initial physiological levels and mobilizing the metabolic wastes caused by exercise.

Passive rest between repetitions. It involves a complete pause, without movement, which causes full recovery to improve more quickly, but falling to initial physiological levels in each series.

Active rest between training days. It consists of performing a lighter physical activity, of less intensity than that required by a training session, which can help a more efficient recovery of blood and intramuscular pH, which in turn allows the correct functioning of glycolytic enzymes such as phosphorylase and phosphofructokinase.


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