6 Ways Weightlifters Can Maximize Rest Days

by Mike DeWar -

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Recovery is a big factor that separates good lifters from great ones. While recovery is dependent on a number of variables (such as training program, training age, stress, lifestyle, nutrition, and hydration), there are some ways we can try to boost our recovery and maximize our rest days.

Below are five ways weightlifters can maximize rest days and boost recovery to build strength for upcoming training sessions.

6 Ways Weightlifters Can Maximize Rest Days 

1. Sleep

One of the most important aspects of recovery is sleep, and while this should be an emphasis every night, many lifters may find that their lifestyle, work, and family obligations can impede getting 8-10 hours of sleep a night (what some high level lifters can get). 

You may not be able to pay back large amounts of sleep debt accrued throughout the week, however you may be able to make a small payment back if you can find some time to sleep in a little more than usual.

Another option is to take a nap in place of your standard workout time, especially if your rest day is not on the weekend. I find even sneaking in a 30 minute nap on rest days AND training days can help make a difference in the ability to push harder in a workout session and still be able to balance work, life, and family stressors.

2. Sauna, Ice Bath, or Contrast

If you are looking for something more proactive to do on a rest day to help pump blood and improve recovery, you can look to do things like the sauna, warm salt baths, or ice baths (you can even do contrast heat and cold therapy). 

I prefer to do sauna and ice baths when I have the chance, doing a few rounds of a few minutes in the sauna followed by a quick dip or plunge is cold water. If you don't have access to anything of that sort, you can take a relaxing bath with some epsom salt and relaxing music, anything to help your mind and muscles relax.

3. Do Some Low Impact, Low Intensity Movement

The key here is to not turn this into a workout. I often tell lifters that they should not be going to a gym on a rest day (but if you have to, be sure to stick to low intensity recovery sessions), as most lifters end up turning an “active recovery” session into a low-intensity workout. 

Activities like walking, biking, light jogging, or taking a stroll through the woods are just a few things you can do to get the body moving, blood pumping, and find some mental clarity. Just be sure that whatever it is you are doing, you enjoy it. I am a firm believer that if you are doing things on your rest day you do not like or want to do, that defeats the purpose of not taking on a lot of stressors.

And to be clear, there is nothing wrong with doing absolutely nothing on a rest day.

4. Doing Nothing

There is something blissful about doing absolutely nothing. Maybe it's lying on the couch, or sitting outside reading a book. Whatever your day may hold, having nothing to do and time on your side is something most people would PAY to have.

Doing nothing is something. And doing nothing on a rest day may be the best thing you can do for your mind, willpower, and motivation to attack each week knowing you can end with a day you don’t have to do anything you do not feel like doing (unless of course you want to train, then, you cannot do that).

The key here is that you should have the control to choose what you want to do, which again, could be some of the other things on this list, or absolutely nothing.

5. Eat Clean and Stay Hydrated

It’s not the end of the world if you eat slightly less clean on rest days than training days, however it can be an issue if you wake up feeling bloated, uncomfortable, and unable to resume your diet and training cycle on the following day. 

Many lifters may make the mistake of letting a rest day be a day that they eat whatever (or on the contrary, they struggle to eat enough food due to low appetites), and forget about calories or staying hydrated. If this is you, try to understand that your rest day is there to allow your body to recover, not to add extra stress from overeating, undereating, or indulging a little too much.

Lastly, be sure to stay hydrated. I know personally I can forget to drink enough water on rest days, and even struggle to eat enough on rest days simply because my appetite and thirst is not as strong as it is when I am training. This is where it is helpful to have a dietary framework and water goal for every day of the week.

One More Thing…

If you find yourself struggling to stay out of the gym on a rest day, just know they are vital to your long term success in the gym. I find that if lifters rest, they are able to dial in and push things harder, and achieve higher quality training sessions, which means better lifts and less injury (hopefully). If you find you are feeling run down, sore, or have joint stiffness and body aches (especially if they are more than usual or have been slowly worsening), there is a good chance your recovery is suboptimal (which let’s face it, most lifters could recover better, even myself).

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