Rest days may seem simple, but many bodybuilders can have trouble taking a day to let their body recover. Resting does not mean running for two miles and doing a light workout when you usually run 5 miles and put in an intense training session. You might like to call it active recovery, but it still isn’t rest. As much as you might want to put on your bodybuilding apparel and not skip a single day of training, it’s important to give your body time to recuperate so you can get back to making gains in the gym. Here’s everything you need to know about rest days as a bodybuilder.
Why Bother with Rest Days?
Your body needs rest days. You can’t train at such a high level of intensity day after day, or you are likely to burn out. If you are training using peaks or tapers for competition, you might actually experience decreased strength if you don’t give your body the rest it needs. On the other hand, if you are training every day of the week and don’t feel like you need to rest, you may not be training hard enough. However, you shouldn’t be lifting to failure on every set. That can lead to non-functional overtraining, which could set you back with an injury.
When to Take a Rest Day
Knowing when to rest is subjective, but one way to know when you should incorporate a rest day into your schedule is by your rate of perceived exertion or RPE. It’s a scale of 1-10 of how hard you feel you are working. If you are taking the time to throw on your bodybuilding clothes and head to the gym, you’ll want to give at least a 5 to maximize improvements in hypertrophy and strength. In contrast, a rest day should have you rating your RPE at no more than 2. Anything above that level of exertion, and it might not really be a rest day.
Creating Your Ideal Rest Day
The ideal rest day can translate to more gains the next time you hit the gym. You don’t have to take special supplements or use specific machines during your rest day. Instead, create a handful of good habits. Get a good night’s sleep to help you recover, and then take a walk in the fresh air to get your blood flowing and warm your muscles. Sit down with a good book to work your mind while giving your body a rest. Hit the sauna and then do contrast therapy with an ice bath to help relieve muscle soreness. Zen out by cooking yourself a hearty, nourishing meal. In short, your perfect day can simply consist of relaxing and letting your body recover.
With Consistent Rest Comes Consistent Gains
You can’t have a consistent training routine without consistent rest days. Much like leg day, you don’t want to skip it. You can treat a day off from the gym like any other skill to practice and master—take it slow and see what works best for you. Discover your own rest day rituals and check off each activity just like you would during sets of a training session.
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