Bodybuilding is brutally hard 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 level you’ve never reached before. You have to train like a beast - a crazed wild beast.
Going to the gym and getting this work done is serious business.
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 you might already know this, 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.
Here you go: You have to rest.
If you don’t make rest and recovery a priority you’re not going to succeed. It’s not just a nice break from the action, and it’s not optional. Rest is imperative. You have to take days off from the gym to help your body fully recover. And, even more importantly, you have to get enough sleep.
Trust me. When I showed up in Venice Beach, California, to get ready for the Olympia, 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.
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. 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 work-out. 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.
On your day of rest do something special with your loved ones—wife, children, significant other, friends. Do some- thing 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.