Rest days are just as important as your active workout days.
But, some of us can feel like our rest days aren’t productive enough- or that we aren’t doing anything that is helping our bodybuilding career.
So, here are 7 things to do on rest days in bodybuilding to make sure your rest days are productive.
#1 – EAT!
This one may sound obvious, but so many people underestimate how important eating on a rest day is.
In fact, many bodybuilders UNDEREAT on their rest days, and this can seriously ruin your physique. I think this is the biggest mistake new bodybuilders make.
Many new bodybuilders have that mindset of, “Well, I didn’t work out today, so I shouldn’t eat as much”. Also, a big part of it is that you simply don’t have the same appetite on a rest day that you do after smashing a leg workout for 3 hours.
But, this ends up being a big problem. Remember, we do NOT grow muscle inside of the gym, we grow muscle OUTSIDE of the gym.
That sounds confusing- but remember: your muscle only grows when you’re resting and sleeping. NOT when you’re actively working out. This is super important to know and here’s why:
The moment you start internalizing that eating correctly on rest days is your ticket to having a successful bodybuilding career- is the moment you start on the real path to becoming a serious bodybuilder.
#2 – Stretch, Like a Pro Bodybuilder Would
Normally when you hear ‘stretch’ you think of the simple stuff you do in middle school PE class.
But, you need to stretch like a pro bodybuilder would.
To have a good physique, you need to work out tons of tiny little accessory muscles to make the whole thing come together.
Because of this, you need to stretch like a pro bodybuilder would to activate and target some of those smallest accessory muscles in your body.
Additionally, stretching in the ‘pro’ way reduces the chance of injury significantly and allows you to lift way more weight.
The best advice I’d give for someone looking to stretch like a pro bodybuilder is to read “The Art of Becoming a Supple Leopard”.
This book is hands down the best book you can read for stretching. You’ll be surprised at how much this stretching can do for you.
In fact, most people have to deload their squat by nearly 20% after following this book. This is actually good, this is because the stretching is working. This means it trained your body to FINALLY activate your tiny accessory muscles.
What does this mean? Well, your physique is going to change significantly, and you now have a ton of more muscle to activate when you keep lifting. So, in the short term- you take a hit. But in the long run, you become so much stronger.
#3 – Hydrate – Seriously, It Actually Boosts Muscle Growth
Okay, on every single fitness thing ever everybody and their mother is always saying, “stay hydrated!”.
But, let’s be honest- most of us don’t really follow that.
In fact, I didn’t either. I drank diet coke all day and never really thought twice about water intake.
Well, that was until I discovered that being dehydrated actually seriously hinders your muscle growth AND energy in the gym.
This honestly doesn’t sound too surprising, but the reality is that being dehydrated can seriously change your physique. It’s not that being dehydrated only causes 1% slower muscle growth, it’s much bigger.
Just for starters, being dehydrated causes a significant strength decrease in the gym.
But, since we are focused on rest days here, let’s talk about how dehydration affects your muscle growth.
Water is, in a way, part of the ‘highway’ in your body. Water helps your bloodstream move along. When you are dehydrated, fewer nutrients, vitamins, and protein reach your muscles. Plus, your ‘rest and digest’ phase where you grow muscle is improved with proper hydration.
If you’re more interested in reading more about this, you can read my post “Does Water Help Build Muscle”? – but I’ll save you the time if you’re not trying to read another novel in this article.
#4 – Sleep Like a Baby
If you’ve got nothing planned for your rest day, sleep in.
So many people do their work out, buy their protein shakes, but don’t see results. I ask them about their routine, and they think they are doing everything right- yet, there’s one problem:
They only sleep 5-6 hours a night. Sometimes, even less.
Look, I get it. I’ve had those days where I don’t sleep for well… days. Depression hits all of us sometimes.
But, if you’re someone that regularly sleeps less than 8 hours a night, that is the missing ingredient in growing your physique.
If you’ve got a rest day coming up with nothing planned, now you’ve got a good reason to sleep in.
Sleep is single-handedly the most important thing for bodybuilding. It’s the time where MOST of your muscle growth happens.
The less sleep you get, the less muscle growth you have.
And conversely, the MORE sleep you get, the more muscle growth you have.
So, on your rest day- get comfy in your bed and close your eyes just a bit longer. It will really help in the long run.
#5 – Hangout with Friends, Do Something Fun – Seriously, It Helps Your Gains
This is something people never really talk about in the bodybuilding world- burnout.
Going to the gym for the first few months may be the most exciting thing you ever do. I think all bodybuilders can relate and say that those first few months in the gym almost feel magical.
But, that’s when the burnout comes in.
You start hitting plateaus, you start realizing how much time this is taking up, you realize that you’re hitting setbacks, et cetera.
It makes it hard, and this is why most bodybuilders end their whole career at that 2-3 month mark. The few that survive go on to become absolutely massive- but this is why this sport is so brutal. I’d say that nearly 95% of people coming into the gym never come back.
(Anecdotal, but over the past few years I’ve seen thousands of people come in one to three times, but never come back after that)
Point is, this is a tough sport to routinely continue.
On your rest day, you need to try and have fun. Treat it almost as a ‘vacation’ from bodybuilding. I don’t want you to sit there and worry about your macros or when your next workout is, I want you to have fun and reap the rewards of your physique.
Go clubbing, go play sports- hang out with the boys- whatever- have fun!
I see people all the time posting things like, “If you care about bodybuilding, you wouldn’t be out partying on a Friday night”. No- that’s a good way to start HATING bodybuilding instead of caring about it.
You’ll start looking at bodybuilding as a ‘restriction’- something holding you back from having fun. Eventually, you’ll stop going to the gym and working out because you aren’t having fun anymore since it’s restricting your life.
#6 – Get a Massage (This is HUGE!)
Ask any pro bodybuilder out there, and they will tell you how important massages are.
While there isn’t really any scientific evidence behind a massage helping muscle growth directly, we want this massage for other reasons:
- A massage helps loosen up really tight muscles which can indirectly help your physique in the long run.
- A massage can help remove knots in your muscles which can in the long term help prevent injury.
- These massages really help in the long run of calming you down and helping you sleep easier.
I mean, the truth is- there is really no downside to these massages.
You don’t have to necessarily get a super expensive $100 massage. I am a big fan of the hydromassage at Planet Fitness, but they also have the hydromassage at other gyms too!
Even those massage chairs at the mall that are like $1 can do a lot for you too.
I used to have a really tight back, in fact- my first mall chair massage was incredibly difficult as my back was so tense I could barely relax. The massage almost hurt from how sensitive my back was.
After that massage, sleeping was like a night and day difference. Plus, my back workouts felt so much easier to do, and I really felt like my range of motion was extended.
Now, I had a bigger impact because I really had never got a massage before. But, even pro bodybuilders claim the important of a regular massage for serious lifters.
And honestly, there’s no good reason to not get a good massage. It’s the highlight of my day, I feel like a whole new person or something after I swear.
#7 – Study Bodybuilding
On your rest days, it’s a good idea to study bodybuilding.
Hop on YouTube, or hop over to your favorite bodybuilding forum and read some of the new sciences or programs coming out.
See if there’s something that’s relevant to your training, or if there’s something you can incorporate into your training.
Bodybuilding is getting new research done every day. I mean, seriously, like legitimately nobody was really doing any research into bodybuilding until this last decade.
(So, we are quite literally heading into another Golden Era of bodybuilding, the golden era of training- where everybody is training efficiently as possible!)
Back in the day, all those famous bodybuilders on stage were quite literally doing trial and error and talking with each other to see what worked. They had legitimately no science to work with, and they really only had some ramblings from the father of bodybuilding, Eugen Sandow, to work with.
A rest day is a good time to get yourself caught up to date with the new trends in bodybuilding and set up a plan for your next workout to incorporate them.
My personal favorite way to do this is by watching Jeff Nippard on YouTube. He does super short, but in-depth, SCIENCE ONLY videos about bodybuilding. This means he isn’t just spitting broscience at you, he quite literally shows all of the scientific studies behind everything. Plus his videos are just so entertaining.
Wrap Up Of The 7 Things To Do On A Rest Day Bodybuilding
So, there you have it. The 7 things to do on a rest day for bodybuilding.
- Eat a ton of food!
- Stretch like a pro bodybuilder.
- Hydrate as it actually helps muscle growth.
- Sleep in.
- Hangout with friends.
- Get a massage.
- Study the new trends and science in bodybuilding to alter your training!
Hopefully, this list helped you! Keep in mind, everybody is a little different, so listen to your body and figure out what’s right for you on your rest days and adjust accordingly.
Tell me in the comments below, what do you do on your rest days?