12 Ways To Maximize Your Rest Day

While many individuals struggle to make it TO the gym, many of us also struggle to STAY out. Rest days are critical for performance, with some sports and ability levels needing more and/or less of them.

When your rest day comes around, you may find you have so much time on your hands, seeing that you unlocked a 1-2 hour block in your day (or longer). Taking the time to rest can allow the brain and body to recharge, create new muscle tissue (protein synthesis), and recover from high intensity loading and/or volume faster.

Below are 12 ways you can maximize your rest day, so that you can ultimately maximize your training.

1. Sleep

As cliche as this may sound, athletes NEED to sleep. While there is no “magical” amount of hours that you should sleep, I do feel most of us could benefit from an hour or so more each day. While that may not be doable (often, it is easier than you think), taking a nap and/or sleeping in (if you are an early morning warrior) can help your body create new adaptations (muscles, nerve conduction, etc) and ultimately recover faster.

2. Meal Prep

Not only are abs make in the kitchen, so are your long-term results. Learning to meal prep for a few days at a time can make a huge difference in your eating habits. Take the time you would be training to shop for top notch nutritional food, prep them, and even cook in larger batches. That way, as the week gets more hectic, you will have plenty of high octane fuel to pack for lunch, snacks, and pre/post workout meals.

3. Educate Thyself

The next best thing to actually training is to watch and listen to others talk about training or workout. Maybe that means surfing the most current and trending powerlifting news, watching videos on no foot cleans, or how to start including jump training in your program. Whatever you do, know taking some time to educate yourself on the deeper aspects of your sport can be highly rewarding.

4. Read a Book

Brain gains. Increase your mental capacity or get swept away in a fiction novel. Reading things that aren’t related to fitness or your training can really help you de-stress and strike better balance in your life.

5. Spend More Time with Family

Your family and close friends are hopefully your biggest supporters. When you go to the gym on Christmas Eve, they are the ones that get you. They have seen your ugly side at times (like when you are on the verge of over-training) and may have even been there for weekend long lifting competitions. Rest days are the perfect time to catch up and spend time with your biggest supporters.

6. Absolutely Nothing

Literally, don’t do anything. Do whatever you want or nothing at all. Learn to detach your mind and senses from your phone, television, and even your own thoughts. Simple meditation or just “vegging out” is completely within the realm of a rest day.

7. Eat Clean

A rest day doesn’t mean you get to fall off the wagon, eating and drinking everything in sight. Similar to training days, rest day nutrition is key to your long-term progress and development. Poor nutrition and alcohol can affect your bodies ability to fully recover, potentially compiling residual fatigue week after week after week.

8. Stretch

Simple static stretching can be a good way to get some movement in on your rest day, while not adding any additional stress. Weightlifters, as well as many athletes, can benefit from static stretching for performance and recovery purposes, and they can literally be done anywhere (watching Netflix, listening to music, at work, etc).

9. Take a Bath

Whether you decide to do cold plunges or soak in a hot bath with epsom salt, just make sure that you are able to relax. Many bathhouses allow you to even do contrast bathing (hot, cold, hot, cold…), which is very relaxing for both the body and mind. Remember, the goal of today is to minimize stress and recover like a champ.

10. Catch Up on Chores

Cleaning may be therapeutic (for those who have allowed themselves to accept their fate and clean, they may agree), and it will minimize stresses that are caused throughout the week, such as; dirty dishes, doing the laundry, or picking up your random stuff lying around the apartment (pretty accurate on my end). Not only will this help you cross things off your to-do-list (which is very uplifting), it can make your spouse/partner/ happier, which in the end means you will be too.

11. Call Loved Ones

We already spend so much time in the gym, making your rest days a great time to detach and catch up with family and/or friends who may not live near you. This will not only give you some “feel good” feeling, it can help you keep balance in your life between your training, work, and family/friends.

12. Whatever the Heck You Want

Honestly, some of the best days are those that are unplanned. If you feel like taking a bath while watching YouTube training montages and drinking a protein shake, so be it. If you want to shoot some hoops by the pool, go for it. Do what makes you happy, and do it well.

Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.

Featured Image: @mikejdewar on Instagram


Mike Dewar :Mike holds a Master's in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor's in Exercise Science. Currently, Mike has been with BarBend since 2016, where he covers Olympic weightlifting, sports performance training, and functional fitness. He's a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and is the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at New York University, in which he works primarily with baseball, softball, track and field, cross country. Mike is also the Founder of J2FIT, a strength and conditioning brand in New York City that offers personal training, online programs for sports performance, and has an established USAW Olympic Weightlifting club. In his first two years writing with BarBend, Mike has published over 500+ articles related to strength and conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, strength development, and fitness. Mike’s passion for fitness, strength training, and athletics was inspired by his athletic career in both football and baseball, in which he developed a deep respect for the barbell, speed training, and the acquisition on muscle. Mike has extensive education and real-world experience in the realms of strength development, advanced sports conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, and human movement. He has a deep passion for Olympic weightlifting as well as functional fitness, old-school bodybuilding, and strength sports. Outside of the gym, Mike is an avid outdoorsman and traveller, who takes annual hunting and fishing trips to Canada and other parts of the Midwest, and has made it a personal goal of his to travel to one new country, every year (he has made it to 10 in the past 3 years). Lastly, Mike runs Rugged Self, which is dedicated to enjoying the finer things in life; like a nice glass of whiskey (and a medium to full-bodied cigar) after a hard day of squatting with great conversations with his close friends and family.