Even God rested on the seventh day. You need to rest too.
Building any kind of muscular athletic body is hard work. The more performance you desire, generally the more brutal the work. You not only have to follow a very strict diet and make sure you get all your nutrients in the right combinations, but you also have to take your intensity in the gym up to a higher level than you did the last time you were in there. Some of you take it to a very extreme level and train like a crazed wild animals. Regardless of the level you take it, going to the gym and getting the work done is serious business and, like it or not, it takes its toll.
Training and dieting like a bodybuilder for instance – like me – is really hard work. Its seriously hard work. But, I'm going to let you in on a little secret. An incredibly simple little thing that's a whole lot easier than sticking to your diet and working out like an animal. Pay close attention, because if you ever pay attention to anything I tell you, this is it. I know a lot of hardcore bodybuilders already know this—but, some actually forget it, or ignore it. Unfortunately, it catches up with them after a while, and then it's too late. For some, really too late.
You might already know the secret too. But, if you're like countless others I've trained and counseled over the years, you don’t think it’s a big enough deal and don't pay attention to it. And, while it's probably the easiest thing you could possibly do, it’s still overlooked at every level of bodybuilding and fitness training. You know what it is? Are you ready? Can you handle it? Can you take it on with the same sense of urgency and importance as you do your workout? Here you go - You have to rest. Yes, rest.
If you don't make recovery a priority you're not going to succeed. It’s not just a nice break from the action, and it’s not optional. It’s imperative. You have to take days off from the gym. And, even more importantly, you have to get enough sleep. In fact, I would argue that ignoring the need for sleep is having a devastating effect on our society at large. I have a friend in the medical profession who swears that Americans do serious damage to their health due to lack of sleep.
Trust me, when I showed up in Venice Beach, California, the opportunity to go out and have a good time was everywhere. I was young and single and always happy to go out and have a good time. One of the hardest things in the world was to say no to everyone wanting to go out and hit the clubs, and go home and hit the sack. But, I knew I had to let my body heal. When it came time to compete, I destroyed guys who had a lot more natural size and ability than I had. Why? They worked hard in the gym, but then they went out and partied all night. I know a lot of young people feel it’s their duty to run the streets at least a couple of nights a week. There’s an even bigger temptation to do that as you see your body starting to getting bigger and leaner. The more jacked you look, the more you want to go out and show it off and see what kind of trouble you can get into.
Remember the TV show, Jersey Shore? I grew up there – l was one of those guys (Only bigger, leaner and less of a Guido) I can tell you that what you see on TV is the way it's done there. It's a real lifestyle. And, living it will not make you a champion. Run the streets like those guys and you won’t reach your goals. Period.
I’m not your dad and I can’t tell you what to do. And, I don’t want to. But, I can tell you that your body is not made to be pushed to its limits and not be given a chance to rest. That’s why I recommend you schedule at least TWO off days per week, if you really want to get big and ripped. Lowering your intensity on workout days so you can add in another workout day isn’t going to give you what you want. Get in the gym, go balls to the wall, then get out of there, go home and rest.
When it comes to sleep, you have to get at least eight hours. When I made the jump, at age 22, to be a professional bodybuilder, I knew I needed my sleep. Lee Haney taught me how to get the most out of my workout without destroying my muscles. But no one had to tell me to get to bed at a reasonable hour and let my body recover. Everything I’ve learned in my career has simply been a confirmation of what I already intuitively knew. Especially when it comes to sleep.
Sleep does two things for you. First, it lets your muscles heal from the beating you’ve given them in the gym, allowing them to get bigger, leaner, harder, and more defined. Secondly, it lets you recharge your nervous system so that you don’t drag in the gym during your next workout. Instead, you can go in there with determination on your face, ready to make an assault on the weights.
I get a lot of credit from my peers for having the absolute best work ethic they’ve ever witnessed. I’m proud of that. But what a lot of people don’t realize about my approach to bodybuilding is that I was just as serious about resting. Days off were days off. Nighttime was for sleeping. I even took a solid, half-hour, nap every afternoon to make absolutely sure my body was getting all the rest it needed. I can guarantee you that if I had run around all night like everyone else, I would have accomplished next to nothing as a bodybuilder. And I seriously doubt I'd be the owner and CEO of a $100 million supplement company.
Let me add here that rest isn’t just for bodybuilders and fitness fanatics. It's for businessmen and women; it is for stay-at-home moms; it is for students – particularly in college! I know how tempting it is to stay up studying late at night all week and then hit the clubs and parties all weekend. But, no one is at their best without proper rest. It’s simply not how we were created. There’s a time to work, a time to play, and a time to rest. And, when it's time to rest, you have to actually rest.
On your day of rest do something special with your loved ones—wife, children, significant other, friends. Do something normal. If you're allowed a cheat meal, have it on a rest day. It keeps you well rounded so that you don’t get tired of the gym. It also keeps those who are special to you, if not satisfied, then maybe at least appeased.
I know bad habits are hard to break and changing them can be a real challenge. But, getting adequate rest is absolutely imperative. Start making it a priority to get more rest, even try sneaking in a thirty minute catnap if you can. When it's time for bed, turn off the computer, the television and all your devices, get in bed and close your eyes. If there are things you didn’t get done today, don’t worry about it right now. Get your sleep and you’ll get more done tomorrow—in life and in the gym.
Remember, life is all about choices. You can choose to be like all the other young guys and run around until sunrise, or you can choose to sleep and give your muscles the opportunity to repair the damage you’ve inflicted on them in the gym, so you can keep growing bigger and better. Always remember that you stimulate growth in the gym, but you grow outside the gym, while you're resting, especially while you're asleep. Being diligent about getting the rest you need between workouts is the only way those intense training sessions will ever bear fruit in the form of massive biceps, triceps, pecs, lats, quads, hams, delts, and calves. You simply can’t build your body without proper rest.
Now you know the secret. What are you going to do with it? Why not hit the sack early tonight and sleep on it.....