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Rest Day for Boxing | Ultimate Checklist


How to have a Rest Day in Boxing for Improved Performance, Smarter Training, and Mental Relaxation

There are approximately 20,000 pro boxers all across the world. Did you know that injuries have meant that the average career of an athlete ranges between 3.5 years to 10 years?

Fortunately, sports science has developed massively thanks to an increase in research and technologies that have been used to enhance a boxers game.

In this article, we will cover:

  1. What you should do on your rest days
  2. When should you take rest days?
  3. Where can you go on your rest days?
  4. Why is a rest day important?
  5. How to eat on your rest days

1. What you should do on your rest days

In order to answer what you need to do on your rest day, we need to invert the question. We can do that by asking: What do elite fighters do on their rest day?

Juggling

Juggling is a great exercise that must be taken advantage of on your rest days. If you are sore from a week of training, juggling will take your mind off the pain and into a state of flow.

Do you know how to juggle? If not, it’s one of the best drills to improve your concentration, hand-eye coordination, and brainpower because of how focused and engaged you have to be in the activity.

Did you know that only 21% of the population know how to juggle? It takes failure and patience to learn how to juggle. It is meant to be hard. Because if it was easy, everybody would know how to juggle.

When you juggle, try to think of the balls like eggs and the floor as lava. That way it can be made into an exciting game and can get you into the state of flow.

Additionally, it is very convenient because it requires very little space, cost, or complicated equipment. You can juggle from the comfort of your own bedroom too.

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Stretch

We’ve all felt that achy feeling when waking up in the morning after a week of training. It feels like you’ve just stood up from a long car journey with no breaks on the way.

For that reason, the best thing that you can do to start off your day is a 30-minute stretching routine. All champions stretch.

Conor Mcgregor says:

“We’re the only animal that wakes up and don’t stretch.”

In other words, we have all become too lazy.

If you don’t stretch, your muscles will be short and tight. When this happens, you increase the likelihood of straining that tight muscle. Stretching a tight muscle, whether that’s on a rest day or after a workout, will loosen the muscle, therefore increasing the range of motion in the joints.

a man static stretching after his workout

Related post: The Importance of Stretching

Foam rolling, otherwise known as self-myofascial release, is a great piece of kit that should be used very consistently with your training, let alone on your rest days.

Foam rolling, although painful, will increase blood flow to the muscles. The increased flow of blood will mean that your muscles receive more oxygen and glycogen meaning you are helping yourself recover like you would when seeing a sports massager.

As your muscles loosen, the next time you workout your movements will feel smooth like a well-oiled bicycle and your muscles will be less likely to pull or become damaged.

What is becoming increasingly popular are vibrating foam rollers. Vibrating foam rollers are fantastic at reducing delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) because they penetrate your muscles and help breakdown scar tissue.

Ice Bath

Did you just say ice bath? Yep, if you think you’re hard enough, ice baths on rest days are brilliant for reducing inflammation and swelling by reducing blood flow to your muscles.

If the pipes are cold enough and the water is less than 15 degrees Celsius, you don’t actually need bags of ice according to A. Brion Gardner, M.D.

Beware, however, if your body is not used to a cold plunge it will feel a massive shock. The feeling is very uncomfortable for the first 2 minutes, but the sensations reduce as your body adapts to the temperature. It is like getting used to the temperature of a scorching-hot bath except it feels even more uncomfortable.

Limit your ice-baths to no more than 15 minutes as research has shown this is the most effective time to get the most out of the cold treatment.

Hot Epsom Salt Bath

If you prefer a warmer temperature, try a hot Epsom salt bath. Hot water by itself has been said to relax tense muscles due to the increase of blood flow to the muscles in the water. This is because water creates a physical pressure on the body, therefore, increasing heart capacity and improving overall blood circulation.

Now, if you add Epsom salt into a hot bath, you may be doing your body an even bigger favor. This is because Epsom salt is an ingredient used in baths that is said to relieve aches and pains. It is thought to soothe tired muscles and reduce swelling because it is a magnesium salt although research shows that more research needs to be done.

2. When should you take rest days for boxing?

This is, of course, a very broad question because it will vary from boxer to boxer depending on experience and overall fitness.

As you will know, you cannot go out hard in the boxing game every single day because you are going to fatigue and your body will not be able to cope with the stress that you are asking for, therefore potentially leading to injuries and strains. Everybody needs a rest day, so when should you take your rest days?

Although it is best to discuss this question with your boxing coach, here are some informative guidelines that apply to a beginner, intermediate, and advanced fighter:

Beginner (No fights)

  • Frequency: 3-4 days per week
  • Intensity: 1-2 days high intensity
  • Rest: 3-4 days per week
  • Volume: 40-60 rounds per week which will include your shadowboxing, heavy bag, pad work, double-end bag, speed bag, partner drills etc.

Intermediate (Two Amateur fights)

  • Frequency: 4-6 days per week
  • Intensity: 2-3 day’s high intensity, training 2x per day on harder days. (One light workout, one hard workout)
  • Rest: 1-3 days per week
  • Volume: 60-80 rounds per week which will include your shadowboxing, heavy bag, pad work, double-end bag, speed bag, partner drills etc.

Advanced (Professional Boxer)

  • Frequency: 5-6 days per week
  • Intensity: 3 day’s high intensity, training 2x per day. (One light workout, one hard workout)
  • Rest: 1-2 days per week
  • Volume: 80-120 rounds per week which will include your shadowboxing, heavy bag, pad work, double-end bag, speed bag, partner drills etc.

Remember, this is a VERY BROAD overview and does not need to be followed to the book. Because at the end of the day, the only person who knows they can train the next day is who?

You…

In my experience as a commited boxer, undertraining can be better than over training as injuries can lead to many missed sessions

See an expert strength coach who has experience working with athletes, find the best boxing coach in your area, and ask questions from the right people who KNOW what they are talking about to find the perfect boxing and rest plan for you.

3. Where can you go on your rest days?

Bed

The best place to go on your rest day is back to bed. That’s right, studies show that if an athlete increases the amount of sleep they may significantly enhance performance.

As a boxer, you may feel completely exhausted from training and may have another workout later on in the day. As you know, sleep deprivation can be detrimental to performance due to the amount of focus and effort applied when learning new skills, strategies or even tactics.

Napping is the solution. Naps can reduce afternoon drowsiness and rest your body and mind for the rest of the day.

The best time to take a nap during the day is 8 hours after waking, with the perfect nap time of 24 minutes according to Daniel H. Pink in his bestselling book ‘When, The Scientific Secrets Of Perfect Timing’.

I personally enjoy a coffee just before my nap because caffeine takes 15-45 minutes to kick in according to science. This means that when I wake up I get so much energy and so will you!

Sports Massage Clinic

Studies have shown that getting a sports massage is a great short term benefit for your body because deep tissue massage techniques are used to release chronic muscle tension.

As we have discussed earlier, foam rolling (self-myofascial release) is a far cheaper alternative. However, because sports massages are better at trigger pointing and manipulating areas of the body which a large foam roller may not be able to target.

These areas could include:

  • Lower back
  • Neck
  • Knee
  • Shoulder
  • Hip-flexors

Sports massages have also been shown to improve psychological aspects of recovery.

Stressed with competition coming up? A 2010 meta-analysis of 17 clinical trials concluded that massage therapy may help to reduce depression. Not to mention the use of essential oils and aromatherapy that are applied and absorbed into the skin.

Hydrotherapy & Cyrotherapy Centres

Hot and cold temperatures can have tremendous benefits to your body on a rest day. So, what exactly is hydrotherapy and cryotherapy?

Hydrotherapy is a whole-body therapeutic treatment that involves exercising in water with a temperature of 33-36ºC.

They are fantastic at increasing the circulation of blood flow around the body as well as being a very light form of cardio that helps to increase the range of motion in your joints.

Cryotherapy – meaning ‘cold therapy’ is where your body is exposed to freezing cold temperatures for several minutes.

All kinds of athletes use cryotherapy because it can help numb pain in the body. A 2017 study did find that cryotherapy can speed healing and relieve pain. However, it’s important to remember that the study found that ice baths (cold-water immersions), had an even greater effect in helping muscles recover than whole-body cryotherapy.

4. Why is a rest day important?

“You don’t want to be the hardest working person in the room, you want to be the smartest person in the room” – Tai Lopez

It is very tempting when your goals are staring at you in the face. Or the feeling that somebody out there may be working harder than you. Did you know that elite athletes’ take days off too?

That’s right, at least once per week, perhaps two if they have worked at a high intensity for most of the week.

Rest days prevent injury

A common mindset to have is that you must outwork everybody in the gym. This is true, you want to be working at a high intensity on some of your training days, but this shouldn’t be confused with not taking a rest day at all!

Rest days, are in fact even more important than the actual training because they will help you recover which means that you will be able to come back the next day feeling stronger, well-rested, and healthy.

Let’s say that you have been doing a sprint session each day of the week for 60 minutes. Now, each day of your sprint training, your muscle fibres will be creating microscopic tears on every sprint that you do.

If you do not rest your body for at least 24 hours between these sprints, you will continue to break down the same muscle fibres which are trying to rebuild. Those micro-tears can become actual injuries that may prevent you from training altogether.

See where I’m going with this? 

To prevent injuries from occurring, take a day off after an intense workout so that your body can repair and recover. When you rest, the micro-tears are rebuilt thus preparing you for the next session. It is one of the most important ways of preventing injury.

Mental boost to keep moving forward

Rest days are a way to switch your mind off from the hard training that you’ve been doing all week. Fighting is both a physical as well as a mental discipline, and giving your brain time to relax will provide enough headspace to continue learning the following week.

If you do not rest, you will likely overtrain your body which will negatively impact your mood. People say, “the mind controls the body”, and while I agree this can be a massive benefit to enhance the intensity of your training, it can also be the biggest enemy, especially in the scenario of overtraining.

Countless times, particularly as a beginner, it is common to see fighters overtrain because their mind is so enthusiastic and keen to keep going. While this is a great thing to see, it will negatively affect that athlete because eventually, their bodies won’t be able to take it anymore.

“Consistency without injuries is the biggest win you can accomplish.”

a lady resting in the sauna and enjoying the heat

5. How to eat on your rest days

So you have the ingredients for what to do on a rest day, but what should a boxer actually eat on a rest day?

This question will vary from person to person so we will split it up into two questions:

What should you eat when cutting weight for a fight?

Although this question is more specific, it again needs to be more specific because it varies if that boxer has more than 10 pounds to lose or is already on weight.

You are a boxer that needs to lose 10 or more pounds

If you have a fight coming very soon and you fall under this category, it’s time to cut the calories.

While it’s important to have enough energy to workout, you need to find the right balance so that when the weigh-ins come around, you will not need to have one more hot bath or sauna session.

An example: Let’s say you are a 20-year-old male who weighs 160lbs, is 5ft 9, and trains hard consistently burning 3000 calories per week (like me). You need to lose 6 lbs within 3 weeks to fight at 155 lbs (also like me).

In order to lose this weight quickly disregarding water weight or any labour work you may do, your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) to achieve this goal needs to be between 1810 – 1970 calories – which is the total number of calories consumed, minus all of your workouts (2500 calories burned throughout the week).

If you burn 2500 calories per week (from workouts alone), that means you burn an average of 357 calories per day.

What does this mean for you?

This means you and I can eat 2167 calories per day. Here is what a 2167 calorie day could look like for you:

Breakfast: One dry cup of porridge with a handful of berries, and a cup of milk. (approx. 602 cals)

Mid-Morning Snack: Tin of Tuna in Brine (approx. 143 cals)

Lunch: Homemade Spaghetti Bolognese (approx. 511 cals)

Post-Workout Snack: Protein Yoghurt (approx. 159 cals)

Fruit: Green Apples X2, Red Peppers X2 – (approx. 176 cals)

Dinner: Tuna steak, two sweet potatoes, broccoli (approx. 401 calories)

Overnight Protein: 0% Fat Greek Yoghurt, ½ scoop overnight protein (approx. 175 cals)

Now, to some people, looking could seem like a lot of food or nothing at all.

How much you eat is a part of what you have done in your past, your habits!

Why is it that there are some people who don’t eat any food at all?

Because they have built a habit of not eating that much food.

This is what you need to do if you are going to be competing because keeping a low weight in boxing can be important if you’re fighting in a lower weight class.

Tip: If you are eating any of these meals and you don’t feel like having another mouthful, put your knife and fork together and push the plate away – it will feel great too!

If you want to work out your daily calorie requirement so that you can track your caloric intake and weight for your boxing bout – here is a great & free calorie counter app: My Fitness Pal

You are a boxer that is already on weight

Firstly, congratulations. The fact that you are already on your fighting weight means that you have disciplined yourself, which is very hard for some people to do. As a reward, you get to eat more food (or the same amount of food you’re already eating) during the day.

An example:

So let’s take our previous example of our 20-year-old male who now weighs at his fighting weight of 155lbs, is 5ft 9, and trains hard consistently (burning 500 calories per day) each day of the week.

To maintain current weight disregarding the water weight, your daily caloric requirements to achieve this goal needs to be: 2,120 Calories – which is the total number of calories consumed (2,628 calories consumed) minus all of your workouts (500 calories burned).

Here is the example of what a 2,628 calorie day could look like:

Breakfast: Oatmeal with a handful of berries, as well as 2 slice of bread with marmite (approx. 802 cals)

Mid-Morning Snack: 2 Chicken breasts with a handful of baby spinach (approx. 410 cals)

Lunch: Homemade Spaghetti Bolognese (approx. 420 cals)

Post-Workout Snack: 300G pot of Fat-Free Pineapple Cottage Cheese, as well as 1X 30g scoop of chocolate protein shake. (approx. 380 cals)

Fruit: Green Apples X2, X2 Bananas, Red Peppers X1 – (approx. 346 cals)

Dinner: Tuna steak, two sweet potatoes, broccoli (approx. 301 calories)

Overnight Protein: 0% Fat Greek Yoghurt, ½ scoop overnight protein & banana (approx. 275 cals)

A huge amount of food!

Protein on rest days

Having protein on rest days is just as important as taking protein on training days. As a general rule of thumb, the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) for endurance athletes is 0.6 grams of protein per pound of body weight, or 1.3 grams per kilogram.

This means that if you are a:

150lb Female – aim for over 90 grams of protein per day

170lb Male – aim for over 102 grams of protein per day

Although weigh protein can be beneficial to a boxer or any athlete that is training consistently each day. Natural animal foods are very high in protein, which can provide all essential amino acids.

As a boxer, you may need to cut weight for a fight. In order to lose weight successfully, studies show that boxers who want to lose weight without sacrificing muscle must increase their protein intake because it will help prevent muscle loss that occurs when dieting.

Now, even when you are not cutting weight for a fight, you will still want to eat more protein than the average person because of the amount of hard work you put your body under when you are hitting a heavy bag, swimming, and running etc.

Remember, you want to be eating the same amount on your rest day as your training day because this is a time when your body is rebuilding and getting stronger. Having high-quality nutritious food each day of the week is vital for success as a boxer.

Rest Day Checklist Summary

At the end of the day, a rest day is a day of just that, rest. For now, this article is a good place to start. For further investigation, you may want to hire an expert strength coach and expert nutritionist. As mentioned earlier, here are the key principles to have a successful rest day in boxing:

  • Do what the elite boxers do: Juggle, foam roll, stretch, and relax on your rest day.
  • Take plenty of rest days throughout the week depending on your experience and physicality
  • On your rest day, go to bed, physiotherapy centres, hydrotherapy, and cryotherapy centers
  • Take a rest day for your body as well as your mind – “too much of a good thing isn’t a good thing”, Tom Brady
  • Eat nutritious, high-quality foods consistently each training day and rest day.

Good luck… Not that you need any :).

What do you like to do on your rest day? Let us all know in the comments below.

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