Do you need rest days? Do you need days where you do absolutely nothing? We’ve been told that rest days are necessary, and your body certainly does need to recover, but I think we’ve been going about this entirely the wrong way.
What images pop into your head when you think about a rest day? Is it going for a nice walk in the park or the beach or is it you laying on the couch with dried cheese snack powder (you know the one) and a soda the color of radioactive sludge? Whatever the case is, it’s probably not what you should be thinking.
You’ve got this perfectly good day andyou’re not training? That’s a damn shame.
At this point, I’ve probably got you wanting to comment or write me a nasty e-mail telling me about Overtraining Syndrome, DOMS, lactic acid, and micro-tears in the muscles. That’s fine. Write the e-mail if you need to: I’ll be here when you get back. However, wait to push send until you hear me out okay?
Recovery is Important
I’m not saying that recovery is not important. Of course recovery is important. We eat the right amounts of good, nutritious foods and drink a river of water to recover properly, relax when it’s time to relax during the day, and sleep like a baby for 8-10 hours a night (if you’re not sleeping, you’re not recovering). That’s not even counting things like massage, ice baths, supplements, PEDs, compression, foam rolling, and however many additional things people do to speed recovery on a daily basis. You have all of those things and you’re telling me that I need to skip a day where I could be training?
I'mma go ahead and say, “No.”
If you are doing all of those things, there should be no reason for you to take a day off from training, as long as you are doing the appropriate amount of work at the appropriate intensity. Obviously, if you train to the point that you can’t even move the following day, you’re going to have to take a day off. However, if you’ve pushed your body to such a point, you’re no longer training effectively. The purpose of training is to stimulate growth, not annihilate your body to the point that you can no longer use it. Acute overtraining keeps you from being able to continue your training and improving.
And the entire point is to continue improving.
One time, in middle school, I remember that I did legs so hard that I literally couldn’t walk the next day. It was some stupid amount of volume like 6 sets of Squats, 8 sets of Leg Press, 4 Super-sets of Leg Extensions and Leg Curls, 4 sets of Calf Raises, 4 Sets of Weighted Bench Step-ups, and all of these were like 10-12 reps sets. I wasn’t prepared for the volume by any means, but more must be better in a single training session, right?
Not at all. Unfortunately, because of that training session, I couldn’t train at all for two or three days. How much of a set back is that?! I want to have the opportunity to improve something every single day.
Always Be Improving
There is always something that you can be working on. Think about all of the things you can improve during your training: strength, endurance, flexibility, mobility, technical skills, agility, balance, stamina, accuracy, coordination, and power. You don’t need a rest day, you need to work on something else. It really depends one what type of athlete you are or what your goals are that will determine how you change up your routine. The times when you feel as though you’ve done too much of one thing, you need to work on other aspects of your fitness that falls into line with your goals. Having an easy day of working on something is not the same thing as a “rest day,” in my opinion, because you’re still drilling motor patterns and working out the stiffness in the muscles and joints. You don’t need rest, you need to stop skipping important training days.
Athletes have been doing this for decades. Training splits where an athlete trains different body parts is something that is seen in bodybuilding and various strength sports. In team sports, athletes split up speed work, agility training, strength training, and skill work to develop every aspect of whatever game they are playing. With the every day athlete, however, you have so many more options, because you’re not limited to improving performance for a game. If you find that a training session leaves you incapable of working on some aspect of your fitness, either by accident or design, merely switch to a different component of your fitness and train that.
Splitting up body parts and changing up the components of fitness are two ways that you can continue to improve while pushing your limits on a daily basis, but they are not the only ways. And that’s where the next part comes in:
The Daily Grind
If you are specializing in something to any degree, be it strength, skill, or whatever, you would do well to adopt the concept of “The Daily Grind.” You see it in the training methodology of the Shaolin Temple and martial arts around the world and in various strength training camps from powerlifting to Olympic lifting. The concept of day-in day-out physical exertion bringing about an increase physical abilities is not a new concept.
I remember working on construction sites during summer and winter breaks throughout high school and college. Even though I stayed in shape during the school year, the first week back doing hard framing or roofing was always hell. Everything hurt and you just felt beat up. Two weeks into it, though, you didn’t even notice anymore and you’re already back to doing your normal workouts on top of hard 10 hour days in the hot sun. Your body is enormously adaptive and capable of so much more than we give it credit for, as long as we give it the tools and the time necessary to improve.
There are things that you could do every day that seem hard right now, but in a few weeks will just become another routine part of your life. In order to push yourself in your training, think about what things you could do. I’ll give you some examples of training programs and workouts:
Cory Gregory’s Squat Every Day- At first glance, this sounds insane. Squatting heavy, in some form or another, every day of the week. And, yet, there are athletes around the world who do just that and make monumental gains in strength, size, and mobility from doing just that. The argument is that the squat is a primal human movement and we were made to do it, just like walking. It follows a plan of using 11 variations of the barbell squat in a relatively short session every day. It really is quite amazing how your legs feel. Cory Gregory did not invent the idea of squatting heavy every day, but he’s certainly spreading the news about it. If you’re a strength athlete, I recommend you look into it. I’ve recently begun adapting it to the Gravity Room Method, myself.
Narushimo Ryo’s Basic Training- If you are a martial artist and not practicing your techniques every day, you are doing yourself a disservice. That doesn’t mean that you have to practice them all or that you have to be beat up all the time, but it does mean that you should be training them. Starting off with a smaller number every day and then gradually adding volume to your skill work is a great way to improve without overdoing it by trying to jam 100,000 reps into two hours. Life is not a montage. These things take time.
Kamishiro Yuu’s Basic Training- Drilling your techniques will make you better. Drilling them tens of thousands of times will make you a master. You will have to start slowly, but you’ll be able to do more and more over weeks and months of training.
Saitama’s Training- There are some basic movement patterns that we just do all the time. Push-ing yourself off the ground, sitting up from laying down, squatting down, and running are some of the most basic things that we can do. As a beginner, those things can be a little daunting, but in just a few months, those movement become as natural as breathing and you wonder how you ever lived your life so sedentary. Here’s a video to show you options to increase the variety of your training.
The 72 Arts of Shaolin- (Look under “Retsu Kaioh”) These specialized exercises are the pinnacle of the Daily Grind. Taking a very simple exercise and using it to gradually turn your body into a weapon is trademark of the Shaolin Temple, kung fu, and martial arts in general. The author of the “72 Arts” recommends that you do not try to do them all, but instead commit yourself fully to two or three training methods to achieve greatness. (I’ve not yet posted all of the parts to this.)
The Self-Imposed Rule- Pushing yourself in your daily training comes in many forms. The Self-Imposed Rule is a way to push yourself when you aren’t meeting your own standards of performance. Your mental and physical prowess can become much greater when you set your mind to the idea that you can always train yourself beyond your failings and limitations.
Using these methods directly or as an example, you can take your normal program and push it into the realm of extraordinary. Starting gradually and adding volume and intensity over time will allow you to take simple movements and techniques and absorb them into your very being. Bruce Lee said, “If you always put a limit on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.”
You don’t need a rest day: You need consistency, proper nutrition and sleep, and the drive to always be improving, even if it’s just by one more rep. If you push yourself a little too hard in a training session, remember that you can always train another aspect of your fitness.
That’s all for today! Until next time, good luck and train hard!