Hey y’all! So today turned into an unexpected rest day for me (could NOT sleep last night). I want to talk a little about different workout splits you can do and the importance of rest days from the gym, and when you should take them. I also want to cover when you should incorporate a rest day and what you can do to help your body recover quicker on rest days!
First I will cover workout splits. There are tons of splits out there that you can do, but, there are a few “rules” you should apply when coming up with your workout split as well! In general do not train shoulders the day before or after chest. It’s also wise to not train back before or after legs (especially if you are doing deadlifts on either of those days). This is obviously because you want to allow muscle groups at least 24 hours to recover in between workouts. As you can see, chest movements (bench press, dumbbell flyes, etc.) also work the shoulder – which is why you don’t want to work those muscle groups back to back (in terms of days) as that can lead to overuse and injury. Same goes for back and legs– deadlifts (especially heavy ones) work the back as well as glutes and hamstrings, so, you don’t want to work legs (i.e. heavy squats that require tons of core stabilization) the day after deadlifts! Your body will need time to recover for sure – heavy squats and deads are quite taxing on the body. Smaller muscle groups recover faster than large ones, e.g., arms and calves will recover quicker than legs or back. In my opinion, you need at least 2-3 days to recover your legs from a heavy session-especially if you can’t walk the day after!
It can be tricky to setup your workout split because of this – especially when you are doing a muscle group twice per week like I do sometimes (legs). It takes careful thought and planning if you are really wanting to improve your body and muscle mass.Since I am so very type-A and obsessed with calendars, I love to plan this sort of thing and do so each week! I am going to lay out a few options you can browse. For the most part (not in this order) you can consider working shoulders, back/biceps, chest/triceps, legs, and then have 1-2 days of either cardio or a full-body workout, and at least 1 rest day mixed in. Or you can do shoulders, legs, arms, chest/back, and then 1-2 days of cardio or a full-body workout, and 1 rest day. Of course, there are other splits you can come up with! Such as working full body 3x per week if you are new to the gym, or doing push days and pull days, or doing upperbody and lowerbody splits every other day! I have done many different splits and it’s definitely wise to switch up things so your body does not get used to a certain method or routine. The body adapts quickly so be sure you are constantly pushing harder, changing the order of exercises and the intensity so you keep getting better and stronger and fitter!
Now I want to address the importance of REST. At least 1 day per week you should rest-meaning no intense activity. It’s OK to do light active-recovery (e.g., walking, hiking, easy swim, etc.) especially if you are already extremely active and your body is used to this. On rest day I highly recommend lots of stretching, drinking tons of water to help repair the muscles, and foam rolling. If you haven’t started to foam roll you are missing out. I own one and I roll at least once per day-it’s like a mini massage. You can basically roll out every body part (especially the spine and back muscles) and it’s very beneficial for sore muscles and overall well-being. Another thing you can do on rest day is take an epsom salt bath soak! I LOVE to do this a few times a week. I fill the tub with hot water, about 2 cups of pure epsom salt, and I add drops of either lavender oil or tea tree oil or eucalyptus oil (the pure oils) and soak for twenty minutes. It’s very relaxing and also detoxifies the body simultaneously while helping your muscles recover!
Other things to consider on rest day include eating healthful foods and SLEEP! Your body cannot repair itself if you aren’t getting adequate amounts of calories/protein/carbs etc. (I will cover macros on another blog). So it’s super important that you take advantage of rest day and EAT (clean) and get tons of rest. I aim for 8+ hours a night of sleep. This will help you feel re-energized for the gym/workout the next day. You simply cannot push yourself hard if you are not eating enough or if you are not sleeping enough.
I personally like to take my rest day before or after leg day as that workout is always the most intense and taxing on my body. When you are doing a lot of heavy lifting for a large muscle group, e.g., legs, you NEED extra calories and lots of energy. And of course, always take a rest if your body is just begging you to rest. Listen to your body. Do what feels right. Yes, sometimes a bad workout is better than no workout at all, however, if you have been pushing hard for days and days and you are hurting, or can’t seem to recover from soreness, take a day off! Do not beat yourself up because of it! Have a rest day, eat CLEAN, and get back to it the next day. Rearrange your schedule if necessary so that you are still getting all your workouts in. Below is an example of this week of workouts:
- Sunday: Shoulders/run
- Monday: rest day
- Tuesday: legs (this was my planned rest day, after leg day, but obviously things changed so I had to rearrange my schedule)
- Wednesday: chest/triceps/row/abs
- Thursday: back/biceps
- Friday: spin class/full body workout/ or rest (i allow for flexibility here and see how I’m feeling)
- Saturday: legs/abs
I take 1 full day of rest and allow for the flexibility of an additional rest day if needed. Usually my weeks rotate between 6-days a week of workouts or 5. I alternate and listen to my body. But I always get at lest 5 workouts in unless I am sick. I also always start my workouts with weightlifting; the only cardio I do is either a spin class or a circuit/crossfit style workout, or finishing a weight session with running/burpees/rowing etc. I prefer high intensity cardio (HIIT) as it’s just the best and most efficient way to do things (will write more about this later).
Happy resting y’all! I plan to go to bed really early tonight and get lots of sleep so I can hit legs hard tomorrow morning!