Lighters Days vs. Complete Rest

Lighter Training Day

In a recent entry, I stated that it’s rare for me to not perform some type of exercise on any given day. Following that statement, I received several questions from people asking if or why I’m against complete rest. Many seem to believe that we all need at least one rest day per week to facilitate recovery. Personally, my own experience tells me otherwise. That doesn’t mean I’m opposed to complete rest however. I’ve simply found what works best for my body and encourage everyone else to do the same.

Know Your Body

As a young athlete, I was always told to rest on Sunday. As a result, Sunday became my rest day for many years. I never questioned or second guessed the idea that we all need a rest day each week. It’s what everyone did. We’d rest on Sunday and be back in the gym on Monday.

Ironically though, Monday was never my best day of training. I always seemed a bit flat at the start of the week. Tuesday was almost always a better day for me. I felt better after a day of training than after a day of rest.

As time passed, I began to experiment with moving my rest day to another day in the week. It didn’t matter which day I rested though. The result was always the same. I never felt quite as sharp the next day. The only solution that worked for me was to make my rest day a lighter day of training and/or movement.

Sample Day

As for what I do on a “rest” day, it all depends on how I feel. It’s not something I can predict in advance. I don’t have a crystal ball that tells me how I’ll feel tomorrow. Therefore, it’s important for me to make real time decisions based on the feedback my body provides.

Typically speaking, a lighter day for me may include activities such as:

  • Hand-eye coordination training
  • Calisthenics
  • Jump rope
  • Shadow boxing
  • Light bag work (ex. speed bag and double end bag)
  • Light conditioning
  • Hiking

The video below shows a sample of my most recent “rest” day from the weekend. I was feeling quite good that day so I wanted to push myself.

A post shared by Ross Enamait (@rosstraining) on

After posting the video, I had a few people question my sanity for working so hard on a so-called rest day. Once again though, I’m just listening to my body and pushing myself when I’m up for the challenge. If I was feeling run down, I may have just opted for a walk or some light hand-eye coordination drills. What I do depends on how I feel. I’m not locked in to any paper plan.

Furthermore, my lighter days consist of exercises that I’m comfortable performing. For example, I’ve been skipping rope for over 30 years and I’ve swung a sledgehammer for over 20. I’m not going to run myself into the ground by working with either for 10 or 15 minutes on any given day. My body is acclimated to these exercises so I can use them regularly (with success) without fear of burnout.

You Do You

When I write this type of entry, it’s important to understand that I am not making a universal recommendation. There are plenty of people who prefer full rest days (without exercise). If that’s what works for you, I am all for it. I am only sharing my own experience. It might not work for you, and you certainly don’t need to agree with me. I’m just providing another option that some might wish to try.

Ultimately, we are all unique so there will never be a one-size-fits-all approach that satisfies the masses. It is important to find what works for you. And what works for you now, might differ from what works for you in the future. Always be willing and ready to adapt and evolve when necessary.

Final Thoughts

If nothing else, I hope this entry serves as a reminder that the conventional school of thought doesn’t always make sense. It took me a long time to realize that my personality and temperament weren’t built for complete rest. As a result, I had to go against the grain and find what worked for me.

As I’ve said before, I’m not here to tell you how to train. Instead, I’d rather give you ideas while encouraging you to think for yourself. That’s the only way you’ll ever get to truly know your body and what is best for it.

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“Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical physical exercise save it and preserve it.” – Plato

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13 comments:

  1. I remember reading about extremely energetic, Jack LaLanne, how he would get up 5:00 AM every morning and do his routine. For many years he challenged others to try and keep up with him and not many, if any, could.

    He lived to 96, daily training seemed to work for him!

  2. Another great post. I love that Ross sticks to the topic and doesn’t get bogged down in politics or other topics that have nothing to do with becoming Superman. I too feel sluggish when I take a full day off.

  3. Over the last few years i’ve come to similar conclusion, for myself anyway. Although I don’t rest, my weekends are often spent doing very different styles of exercise from the week and it really works for me.

    The week has more strength work and the weekend is more leisure such as mountain biking. This works well for me as I feel rested from heavy work and mentally refreshed and itching to get back into the gym for more physical work.

    Like the old saying “a change is as good as a rest”.

  4. In the great words of bodybuilder Dave Draper “what works for me might not work for you. What works for you might not work for me. That work for you? Works for me.”

    1. Love Dave Draper! He’s got great experience, wisdom and always grounded in common sense. In fact I could be describing Ross as well. I feel Ross and Dave are kindred sprits!

  5. I love the comment concerning Jack Lalanne! One of my hero’s! I like to do some light excercise even on rest days. I ran 4 miles the other day. People ask me how I would consider that rest? Running at a steady pace makes me feel better . I’ve been running since I was in the military many years ago. I only run a couple of times a week. Some days I will run hill sprints. Those I consider work days.

  6. The term “Active Rest” comes to mind. On the days I mow lawns (about 2 hrs. effort), I usually don’t do a workout. But some type of movement daily…Great article as always, Ross, thanks.

    1. Come on, you want to tell me that 20mins of a mobility circuit @HR 120 (easy bloodflow session) will kill and not improve your recovery? lol

  7. Yup, Ross, I too agreed with you, not to rest for a whole day, it really feels so sluggish, even me too never take whole day rest,
    Great article Ross, as always, thanks for sharing.

  8. I like to follow a similar philosophy in my own strength training. When I make a program for myself, I like to reduce the volume per workout and increase the workout frequency, doing up to five workouts a week for the same muscle groups. I found that this helps me get stronger a lot faster. I’m more training my nervous system rather than breaking down muscle. Of course, this is only for relative strength and speed, not hypertrophy.

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