Oh, rest days. Are they even necessary? If so, how many do you need to take? And if you wish you could take all the rest days, how many can you take without setting yourself back?
These are common questions and obstacles, and there’s a lot of debate surrounding the subject.
That’s why I’ll hit you with some clarity so you can maximize both maintaining lean muscle mass, and burning fat by utilizing rest days so you can avoid feeling fatigued all the time. So, keep reading.
My Powerful Journey From Team “No Rest Day” to “More Sleep Please”
Once upon a time, I belonged to the “no rest days” team. I was always lean, but often extremely fatigued, and worse, wasn’t growing.
I knew that rest days were critical for building lean muscle, had read the science behind it, and understood how beneficial it might be. At least, on paper. When it came to putting resting for recovery into practice, my inner critics all jumped on the mic, interrupting logic with their “words of wisdom.”
- If you take a rest day, you’ll get fat
- If you’re not training, then you’re not growing
- Someone is training while you’re resting
- You’ll never be good enough
I’m sure you’ve heard these same things before, likely from your own self-critiquing voices. Needless to say, those voices beat my logic into submission.
Fast forward about four months…
Serendipity and coincidence are weird. A bunch of things all sorta came together at the same time to finally teach me the error of my ways. Those things:
- A good friend of mine with the typical skinny hipster build had recently begun his fitness quest. He hit a plateau and asked if I could help out. I told him I’d be game if I could use him as a guinea pig. He agreed. So I wrote him a lifting routine that was totally different than what we’re accustomed to. One day lifting, one day resting. Basically…tear and repair.
- My ex-wife continued trying to advise me that I’d benefit from “balance” (typically in response to my complaints of fatigue) and even convinced me to join her for this Myofascial Release class she attended every week.
- Age was catching up with me; Tendinitis, and other such overuse injuries came knocking at the proverbial anatomical door (right shoulder was jacked, wrists constantly hurt, tennis-elbow, and constantly throbbing knees [which I’d had double knee surgery on two years prior])
- I stumbled onto the teachings of Mike Mentzer, as well as some other even older school guys like Leroy Colbert, Arthur Jones (who coached Casey Viator and created Nautilus machines), Steve Reeves. One thing I noticed they all had in common was that they took way more rest days than we do in modern “bodybuilding.” (I’ll get more into their science in a second.)
Anyway, all that came together. And I cautiously added one rest day a week into my regimen. Then, a mere two months later, summer came around and…remember that friend I animorphed into a guinea pig (lab rat)?
Well, I’d seen him making some gains, but because we were coworkers always wearing baggy-ish servants — I mean, server — outfits I didn’t realize just how much muscle he’d built. But one particularly hot summer day when a group of us were all playing volleyball, he took off his shirt. I still remember how everyone fell silent as they first witnessed his transformation.
I was shocked.
He went from looking like a softer version of Brad Pitt’s Tyler Durden to something that resembled a hybrid of Achilles (Troy) and Mickey (Snatch).
Naturally, I had to ask him what the hell he’d been doing. He gave me this sort of “are you stupid” look, and answered: “Just the routine you wrote for me. Training one day. Resting the next. And, I added in some of your nutrition advice too, so I think that might have helped.”
And that was the moment that even my inner critics shut up and let me guinea pig for myself. I adjusted only one or two things to my already keto-ish diet, like not letting myself have cheese or peanut butter on rest days. Other than that, I kept the diet the same; I maintained a caloric deficit 90% of the time.
And the results (about five months later)…
Well, they blew my mind. I got bigger. And leaner.
People started asking if I’d started using steroids. Some of them wouldn’t even believe me when I answered I wasn’t (which is even more flattering).
But the best part was…okay, actually the best part was the extra half-inch on my upper arms, but the second best part was that, between the added rest days, the weekly Myofascial Release Classes, and a few other changes to my volume and frequency, my injuries were almost nonexistent now. And I had energy.
In other words, I’m a firm believer in utilizing rest days to your advantage. We have been taught that resting is for sloths. It’s not. If you’re programming in your rest days (instead of just not going because you don’t feel like it) you will see some epic evolutions in your physique.
Now that I’ve finished that lengthy anecdote, here’s the Overview
By the time you finish reading, you will know certain important answers such as:
- How often to train
- How many rest days to take
- My favorite “Split” Routine
- Top 3 Recovery Supplements
How often should I train?
This varies from person to person, based on your job, your genetics, age, your goals, your training intensity, etc.
I can’t speak to your genetics, and more often than not, fitness questers use genetics the same way astrologists use mercurial retrogrades — as an excuse.
Regarding your goals, if your aim is to build lean muscle mass before anything else, then you’ll want to add in an extra rest day. If your primary goal is to burn as much fat as humanly possible, then you really want to keep those rest days to a minimum, and train frequently.
Resistance training can increase your nutrient uptake by a massive amount, meaning you’ll make better use of the nutrients you ingest. Even just a 30-minute pump session can push you further toward your goals. That being said, lifting every day can take a toll on your central nervous system, metabolic function, and other hormones, so don’t fall into the team no rest days bandwagon.
Another way to continue progressing is to switch off between resistance training and low-to-moderate intensity cardio. Emphasis on low-to-moderate. Sorry HIIT lovers, High-Intensity Interval Training might be effective for fat loss, but when it comes to being used as a way to continue fat loss without dealing additional damage to performance-affecting variables (CNS, metabolism, hormones), HIIT can seriously hold you back.
On the note of HIIT…the other factor with how often to train is level of intensity. If you are training like a maniac, going until muscle failure on as many sets as possible, pushing past muscle fatigue, throwing in intensity techniques like drop sets, rest-pause training, etc. then chances are you will require an additional rest day.
With all that being said, a safe (but effective) pace to start is 4-5 days a week of resistance training, then 1 day a week of low-to-moderate intensity cardio.
Do I really need rest days?
I’ll just be short here. Yes. And frankly, if you try to respond that you don’t need any rest days, I’m just going to be blunt. You’re not training hard enough.
Sure, you could simply be a genetic freak, but my guess is you’re as human as the rest of us. And if that’s the case, then my previous answer stands. Take a rest day. Just make sure you earn it with a brutal workout the day before.
How many rest days should I take?
This ties largely into the section about how often to train, with a few minor differences. Again, it’s up to your goals. My previous statement about 1-2 rest days a week stands for most people.
For the Team “No Rest Day” Folks
Now, some people really struggle with taking rest days. It’s the mindset of not knowing what to do if you’re not training, and feeling like if you’re not at the gym, you’re not progressing. This can be a detrimental mindset, for several reasons.
If this is you, and you feel like you’ll go crazy if you’re not training, then my suggestion is to plan your rest on days you know you’ll be extremely busy anyway.
For the Team “Every day is Rest Day” Folks
If you fall into this category, then chances are you struggle to get to the gym in the first place. In which case you might look for any excuse not to train.
- Oh, the dog peed on the floor. That’s gonna take at least 3 minutes! I better take today off.
- It’s raining outside?! Who could possibly train in these conditions?!
- I stubbed my toe! No way I can do seated lateral raises now. Ugh. Tomorrow, for sure.
- My favorite shirt is dirty! I better stay home and do laundry so I can train tomorrow.
You get the idea. For you, they aren’t rest days. They’re lazy days.
If this is you, here’s the advice that I’m giving because I’m working on being nice (instead of the advice I’d rather offer): Give yourself a very achievable workout schedule. Something that won’t stress you out too much.
Then, on your scheduled training days, the only acceptable reason for “taking a rest day” is if the damn world is ending. And I mean actually ending, like, currently. Climate change and polar ice caps melting and what not might suggest the world is on its way to ending, but that doesn’t mean it’s doomsday. Because it’s not. It’s just another Monday; in other words, legs day. Duh.
My Favorite Split Routine: “Rotational Triplets”
The following routine, which I’ve called Rotational Triplets, is built to optimize fat loss and muscle growth, equally. You see, rest days empower and accelerate physique goals in many ways, but the two simplest is:
- First day back from the gym, you’ll often feel your most powerful
- Second day is often a good balance.
- Third day is typically the lift you’ll start feeling sluggish. Although that sucks, whatever muscle group lifted on this day will also get the most optimal rest and recovery.
The reason this is so powerful is that because of the rotating muscle groups, one day is always receiving one of those benefits of the rest day.
The only caveat I feel compelled to mention is that on Rotation 3, you will be doing Back the day before Legs. For that particular legs day, I’d advise you to perform more isolation exercises as opposed to heavy deadlifts or squats as your back muscles will already be performing less than optimally. If you do perform compounds like squats on those days, wear a belt, and/or try for some stellar pump (volume) training.
This Recovery Stack That Is A Game Changer
Some people think that supplements aren’t necessary until you have everything else dialed in. I’m not one of those people.
I have seen far too many epic changes in clients, as well as with myself, from adding in a supplement or taking one out. The following three supplements are ones with incredible power, particularly when it comes to accelerating muscle recovery so you can keep the fire alive and the forces of your fat-burning forge going strong.
STAG/DOE Full Spectrum Multivitamin
In order for your body to work at its best, it needs a solid foundation. Whether you think of your physique like a luxury model sports car or a mansion doesn’t really matter. To hit max speeds of goal-attainment or to speed up the remodel for your dream home, you need everything in proper order.
Our full spectrum Multi-Vitamins are that. Times ten. Specifically designed to deliver all the micronutrients and vitamins you might be deficient in, as well as those vitamins that are most difficult to get from nutrition, adding STAG (for men) or DOE (for women) should always be your first step when it comes to supplementation.
Other Multi-Vitamins seriously worth considering:
- Sleep Support: We do our most recovering while we sleep. So, might be wise to optimize that. To discover how a non-habit forming supplement such as Sleep Support can accelerate your recovery…check it.
- Immune Support: Our immune systems benefit from acute stress, as it helps their resiliency stat. However, when our bodies undergo stress on a regular basis (like, for example, lack of nutrients), it can throw off the antioxidant balance within and leave us vulnerable to bacteria, viruses, and worst of all, age-accelerating oxidative damage. To find out everything you need to know about Immune function (and Immune Support), enter my classroom, here.
All Bulk No Bloat
By now it’s no secret that All Bulk No Bloat is my favorite supplement of all time. Yes, it’s considered a mass gaining supplement, but the way it works to increase lean muscle mass is by optimizing the pillars of exercise and aesthetics:
- Hormone Optimization
- Exercise Performance
- Nutrient Utilization
- Muscle Recovery
You can find out more about those pillars in this article. What you need to know now, however, is that ALL BULK NO BLOAT has ZERO CALORIES. So, unlike most recovery shakes that might help you gain size but also add fat, ABNB is designed for those who actually give a shit about their physique.
Not only can it dramatically improve muscle gains for those eating for such goals, ABNB is a super-effective tool to help you maintain muscle mass while cutting, and keep you recovering quickly. This way you don’t have to worry about a wasted workout ever again. Join the All Bulk No Bloat today, using this link which will ritualistically teleport you to our site (we, the ABNB Cult, also take donations in the form of part of your soul)
BCAAs (Branched Chain Amino Acids) are well known for their ability to delay muscle fatigue, increase protein synthesis, and thereby accelerate muscle recovery. Obviously we want all those benefits if our goal is to shred into the best versions of ourselves.
What makes RACKED so revolutionary is that we combined the muscle promoting benefits with a unique non-proprietary blend of fat-loss friendly ingredients. These ingredients prove to be incredibly useful allies in your quest against the dark lords of fat stores.
L-Carnitine and Acetyl L-Carnitine combine to help your body effectively convert fat stores into energy. Doing so makes the aforementioned fat stores highly flammable. In other words…greatly promotes metabolic function so you can lean down.
Additionally, RACKED comes supplied with an ingredient that might as well be kerosene. As a potent thermogenic agent, GBB (gamma butyrate) turns up your internal temperature to optimal fat incineration levels. Word to the wise, don’t take RACKED before bed, because you will sweat. You can find out more about RACKED (and our Original BCAAs) here. Or you can just go stock up…
Now that you know the best way to optimize your rest days so that you can continue trimming down while still building lean muscle and achieving your dream physique, there’s still one question that needs to be answered.
“What the heck do I do with my rest day?”
This is a tough one…
But I think I have the answer you seek.
Read all the articles on our blog. Then equip yourself with the best supplements for fat loss and recovery.
You can find those on our website. Here’s a link.
Now, get some rest and supplement your way to summer shredz!