A rest period is a length of time after a workout during which the exerciser will rest and otherwise avoid any strenuous physical activity. Experienced weightlifters and other athletes schedule these periods of rest regularly to prevent overtraining as well as injuries. Overtraining occurs when a person does not take part in an adequate rest period and the muscles of the body are not allowed enough time to recover thoroughly. This can lead to injury, a plateau in training, or even a loss of muscle mass and overall strength.
Some athletes and other people participating in an exercise program will allow for a rest period between sets of an exercise as well. This allows blood to flow to the muscles and helps them prepare for more strain during the next set of exercise. These rest stops are usually fairly short, ranging anywhere from 30 seconds to ten minutes or more. During this time, it is advisable to drink fluids and avoid strenuous activity until the next exercise is to be performed.
A rest period that lasts a day or more is often scheduled into a normal workout routine that may last a week. The rest day allows the muscles of the body to recover enough for more training on subsequent days and helps prevent overtraining. If overtraining occurs, the muscles may actually lose mass and become weaker, and an athlete is likely to plateau in his training, or hit a limit of exercise that he or she cannot overcome. Rest days help avoid overtraining, which can also lead to injury from overuse.
Injuries are quite common in athletics, and if a workout or series of workouts do not include a rest period, an athlete greatly increases the likelihood that an injury will occur. Tired muscles tend to tighten, and when muscles tighten, they can lead to pain or injury. Muscle strains occur when the muscle is used beyond its means and the tiny fibers that make up the muscles begin to tear. This can be mildly uncomfortable or quite painful depending on the severity of the tear, and tired muscles are far more likely to incur such injuries. If a muscle tears completely from itself or from the tendons that secure it to bone, a rupture has occurred and medical attention will be necessary. While a rest period cannot guarantee these injuries will not occur, it can reduce the chances of such an injury affecting one's workout routine.