In this article, we explain to you how to optimally plan your rest days so that your muscles and your mind can properly recover and be fresh enough for you to absolutely smash your next workout. As you already know, rest is one of the pillars of fitness and bodybuilding, the other two being training and nutrition.
Sometimes rest days might seem like you are slacking and often times make feel guilty that you’re just wasting your time, instead of being in the gym building muscle. They can also make you worry that you’ll quickly lose your hard-earned muscle and strength. The fact is that taking some time off actually allows your mind and body to fully recuperate and grow.
Just think about how you usually feel after a lousy night’s rest: you experience brain fog and your body quickly starts to enter catabolism (muscle tissue breakdown), which can further increase stress, decrease muscle size and strength and trigger mood swings. Similar fatigue happens when you don’t allow the body to properly recover from high-intensity training. If you never take a day off you set the body up for a total breakdown.
You start experiencing a lot more muscle soreness, your immune system gets suppressed, your quality of sleep decreases, as well as your strength and performance, and your risk of injury is increased too. Rest days are very beneficial for your mental state as well. When you schedule a mandatory pause in your training, it will help you get excited to go back to the gym and train.
How often should you take a rest?
If you’re just starting out with a new training program or are a newbie, you should rest every third day. This means train two consecutive days and rest on the third. More experienced lifters should take a day of active recovery once a week. Additionally, every 8 weeks you should do a “de-load” week, where you drastically reduce the training load or take a break from the gym altogether.
What does “rest” consist of?
The level of inactivity on your rest day primarily depends on how intense your workouts were leading up to it. So, if you are absolutely killing every workout, your rest day should be nothing but lying on the couch. This will let your body fully recover. The most you could do is to take a stroll in the park, but there should be no significant physical effort. However, if you have been training with a light to moderate intensity during the week or you are a beginner at lifting weights, you can take a more active rest day. This may involve playing a sport outside, doing some yoga or going for a long walk.
During the “de-load” week that you’ll do every 8 weeks, reduce the overall training intensity and do more stretching. You can also use this time off to try out some new exercises you may want to incorporate into your program. And you should not forget that any type of activity that you do on the rest day should also entail rest for your mind.
Whether it’s a short walk in the park, yoga or walking your dog, do something that will help you clear your head and let you for a while forget about your worries, not to mention thinking about counting reps and sets. After a while, you will be aching to get back in the gym again and smash those weights.
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