Written by Alistair Knight | 05 June 2019
How to have a Rest Day in Boxing for Improved Performance, Smarter Training, and Mental Relaxation
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In this ultimate guide, I’m going to show you everything you need to know about a boxers rest day.
More specifically you’re going to find out scientific reasons for:
So, if you want the formula for a perfect rest day, use the jump links below to discover the answers that you are searching for:
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 is a great exercise which 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 which improves your concentration, hand-eye coordination, and brainpower.
Did you know about 1 in 5 people know how to juggle?
They say that if something was easy, everybody would be able to do it. Especially juggling, because…
Juggling takes a lot of failure and patience to get right, just like hitting a speed bag – it takes time.
As a juggler myself, I always thought of the balls like eggs and the floor as lava. Why?
Because turning juggling into a game keeps me in the zone and helps me concentrate on the balls more.
Also, it is very convenient because it requires very little space, cost, or complicated equipment.
You can even juggle from the comfort of your own bedroom too.
Need a pair of proper juggling balls?
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 car-stops on the way. For that reason…
The best thing that you can do to start off your day (or end it in the evening) is a 30-minute static-stretching routine.
All champions stretch.
Conor Mcgregor says:
“We’re the only animal that wakes up and doesn’t stretch.”
In other words, we have all become too lazy.
He has a good point.
If you don’t stretch, your used muscles will become short and tight.
When this happens, you increase the likelihood of straining that tight muscle.
Stretching a tight muscle, whether on a rest day or after a workout, will loosen the muscle, therefore increasing the range of motion in the joints for punching with more force.
Check Out Our Related Post: The Importance of Stretching
Watch this video above before you foam roll so that you don’t make the common mistakes
Foam rolling, otherwise known as self-myofascial release, is a great piece of kit that should be used consistently with your training.
Why is foam rolling important for you?
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 riding a well-oiled bicycle and your muscles will be less likely to pull, snag, or become damaged.
What is becoming increasingly popular are vibrating foam rollers.
Vibrating foam rollers are fantastic at reducing delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS – the pain you feel the day after your workout) because they penetrate your muscles and help breakdown scar tissue.
Where can you get a good foam roller from?
Note: You can foam roll to warm up and cool down.
I recommend doing three full-body foam rolls if you train six days per week, two full-body foam rolls if you train four times per week, and so on…
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 as they prevent 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 10-15 minutes as research has shown this is the most effective time to get the most out of the cold treatment.
If you’re new to the cold plunge, set an alarm for six minutes and work your way up.
If you prefer a warmer temperature, try a hot Epsom salt bath, or even better…
Use contrast water therapy (CWT – alternating between hot and cold temperatures) which has proven to be effective for recovery.
Mixing between hot and cold water with the combination of Epsom salt can relax tense muscles due to the increase in blood flow.
Epsom salts soothe tired muscles and can reduce swelling in your body, although more research needs to be done, as it is mostly anecdotal-based (story-based) like my one below…
Epsom salt story:
Back in October of 2019, I was boxing at my local Like 2 Box gym in an evening circuit class.
All the fighters were warming up by skipping.
I was skipping with professional boxer, friend, and training partner Luke Pearson.
As an eager amateur boxer myself looking to improve, I asked him:
Me: “Do you take ice baths at night?”
Luke then told me a story of his experience:
Luke: “Yep, usually about once a week, but what I would recommend is a hot Epsom salt bath”
I repeated what he said:
Me: “An Epsom salt bath?”
Luke: “Yeah, Epsom salt makes my body feel brand new like a baby.
I soak in the water for about twenty-minutes and when I step out again, my muscle soreness and mental stress have reset like I didn’t do any training at all.
I fall asleep really quickly too!
The next day, you feel brand new again. Have you tried it?
Me: “No not yet, but it sounds good, I want to try it”
I tripped up on my skipping rope. Luke smiled…
Luke: “You can get some from the local chemist down this road, it’s really cheap”
He nodded to the window.
Me: “Thank you mate, I’ll go and get some”
Where can you get a good Epsom salt from?
Click here to discover a great Epsom salt on Amazon or your local chemist should have some for sale.
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This is, of course, a very broad question because it will vary from boxer to boxer depending on your 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.
Your body will not be able to cope with the stress that you are asking for, and you will end up injuring yourself.
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:
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?
In my experience as a committed boxer, under-training is better than over training as injuries can lead to many missed sessions.
Seek 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.
This way, you will find the perfect boxing and rest plan for you.
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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, and tactics.
You should aim for 8-10 hours’ sleep if you’re competing. Alternatively…
Napping is another 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’.
This means that when I wake up I get so much energy and so will you!
Studies have shown that getting a sports massage is a great short term benefit for your body which could lead to a long term benefit.
This is due to the manipulation techniques massage therapists use.
These techniques can reduce chronic muscle tension and in turn: reduce the chance of you straining your sore muscles.
As we have discussed earlier, foam rolling (self-myofascial release) is a far cheaper alternative.
But, massage therapists are better at manipulating areas of the body which a large foam roller isn’t able to get to.
These areas include:
Stressed with competition coming up?
Massage therapy may also improve psychological aspects of recovery. For example:
A 2010 meta-analysis of 17 clinical trials show massage therapy as a potential aid for depression, stress reduction, anxiety.
Have you tried a sports massage before? Let us know what your experience was like in the comments section below.
Hot and cold temperatures can have big benefits to your body on a rest day.
So, what is hydrotherapy and cryotherapy?
Hydrotherapy: is a whole-body therapeutic treatment which involves exercising in water with a temperature of 33-36ºC.
They are fantastic at increasing the circulation of blood flow around the body due to movement and temperature.
Some hydrotherapy centres have stationary bikes under-water and others have a treadmill floor.
Cryotherapy: meaning ‘cold therapy’ is where your body is exposed to freezing cold temperatures (-110° celsius) for several minutes.
Athletes use cryotherapy because it can help numb pain in the body. For example:
This 2017 study did find that cryotherapy can speed healing and relieve pain. However…
The study also found that ice baths (cold-water immersions), had an even better impact in helping muscles recover compared to whole-body cryotherapy.
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“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 to go out and do that extra run when your goals are staring at you in the face.
Or you may feel that somebody out there is working harder than you.
I used to think this too way too. Until I realised:
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.
Why do the best of the best take days off? Because:
There are approximately 20,000 pro boxers all across the world.
Did you know that injuries have meant the average career of a boxer ranges between 3.5 to 10 years?
Fortunately in this blog post, you have just uncovered one of the primary secrets to having a long and successful career…
Others however, like myself, fell short due to that horrible word we are all trying to avoid: injury…
A common mindset to have (which I had) is that you must outwork everybody in the gym.
We’ve been told again and again:
And these are all true.
I used to follow all of this advice as an ambitious fighter.
I trained every day, seven days per week – at high intensity.
It was a mistake. My body was taking a lot of impact… Screaming at me to take a day of rest.
But I kept on, never quitting, until one month later where I couldn’t continue physically.
It turned out that I had partially torn my posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) in my right knee.
I didn’t learn from the mistake. After two months of home-recovery I was back at it again, seven days per week, sometimes twice per day until bang…
I was re-injured, and was never able to box again.
So please: take a rest day so that you can prevent overtraining syndrome.
Science also show the benefits of rest days for injury prevention.
You’ll be able to come back the next day feeling stronger, well-rested, and healthy.
When you rest, your muscle fibres micro-tears are rebuilt which makes you stronger and prepares you for your next sessions.
It is one of the most important ways to prevent injury.
Rest days are also a way to switch your mind off from the hard training that you’ve been doing all week.
Fighting is both a physical and mental discipline.
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.”
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 these two questions:
Although this question is specific, it needs to be even more specific…
This is because some fighters may need to lose ten pounds (lbs) in four weeks and another fighter may only need to lose four pounds (lbs) in the same four week period period.
If you have a fight coming up very soon and you fall under this category, it’s time to cut the calories (kcal).
But while it’s important to lose weight, you also need to find the right balance so that you have enough energy for your training camp…
Now, how many calories can you have?
As this is different for everyone, I’ll get super specific for you so that you get the right answer.
Let’s say we have a 20-year-old male who’s called Jamie.
Jamie weighs 160 lbs, is 5 ft 9, trains hard five to six times per week, and works as a builder (a very active job).
Jamie needs to lose 6 lbs within 3 weeks to fight at 155 lbs.
The short answer to how many calories Jamie can have is: 3,325 kcal/day according to National Institute of Diabetes. But what about the long answer?
How did I work this number out?
I used this Body Weight Planner by the National Institute of Diabetes which has a wide variety of accurate data points.
You can also use it too, just click on the hyperlink above and you can work out exactly how much you can eat.
Here is a video they created on how to use it:
Note: While this can be a great starting point, it isn’t a one-hundred percent accurate way to lose weight no matter your goal.
This information isn’t medical advice and you should seek a medical professional for your weight cut.
The best thing you can do is weigh yourself in the middle of the week and at the end of the week to see if you’re on track.
I use this inexpensive electric weighing scale to do this which I got on Amazon.
What can you eat in a day?
As mentioned in the section above, it will vary from person to person.
If we take our example of our boxing builder Jamie from above, he can eat 3,325 kcal/day to six pounds in three weeks according to National Institute of Diabetes.
How much food can you have with 3,325 kcal/day?
Let’s take a look:
Breakfast: One dry cup of porridge with a handful of berries, glass of milk, and a cheese omlette. (approx. 1002 kcal)
Mid-Morning Snack: Smoothy with protein, almond butter, and kiwi (approx. 450 kcal)
Lunch: Homemade Spaghetti Bolognese (approx. 511 kcal)
Post-Workout Snack: Protein Yoghurt and fruit salad (approx. 300 kcal)
Dinner: Tuna steak, sweet potatoes, broccoli (approx. 501 kcal)
Snack: Bowl of granola, honey, and yoghurt (approx. 403 kcal)
Overnight Protein: Overnight protein recovery shake (approx. 158 kcal)
How much you eat is due to 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.
If you’re competing, keeping a low weight is important because you’ll be able to fight smaller opponents.
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!
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. For example:
So let’s take our previous example of Jamie, our 20-year-old male who now weighs at his fighting weight of 155 lbs.
To maintain his weight he can now eat 3,920 calories per day according to the National Institute of Diabetes:
Here is the example of what a 3,920 calorie day could look like for you:
Breakfast: Oatmeal with a handful of berries, glass of milk, granola, and two slices of bread with peanut butter (approx. 1200 kcal)
Mid-Morning Snack: One turkey drumsticks with a handful of baby spinach, and dark chocolate (approx. 544 kcal)
Lunch: Large serving of home-made spaghetti meatballs (approx. 620 kcal)
Post-Workout Snack: 300G pot of Fat-Free Pineapple Cottage Cheese, as well as 1X 30g scoop of chocolate protein shake, fruit salad, and a handful of walnuts (approx. 680 kcal)
Dinner: Large buttered chicken breast, buttered kale, and buttered mashed sweet potato with sweetcorn (approx. 601 kcal)
Overnight Protein: 0% Fat Greek Yoghurt, ½ scoop overnight protein & banana (approx. 275 kcal)
A huge amount of food!
Note: This information is not meant to provide medical advice.
Also, the data (number of calories recommended) here may not be one-hundred percent accurate for you as it is based on an example of an anonymous individual we’ve called Jamie.
Always base your judgement of ‘how much you can eat’ on what the weighing scales say at the end of the week.
Having protein on rest days is just as important as having 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 your essential amino acids.
As a boxer, you will likely have to cut weight for a fight.
In order to lose weight well, 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, studies show you will still want to eat more protein than the average person.
This is 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 your success as a fighter.
At the end of the day, a rest day is a day of just that, rest…
One of the biggest mistakes many fighters make is overlooking rest days as I’ve covered above.
Do what the elite boxers do:
Over to you:
What has been the biggest thing you’ve taken away from this blog?
Could it be how important rest days are for you?
Or maybe it is more specific like doing juggling which is what Lomachenko and many more fighters are doing…
Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below.
Don’t miss out on more great content over on our Instagram here.
Alistair Knight is an amateur athlete in boxing and the founder of Healthy Principles. He spends most of his time practising and learning more about boxing to ensure you get the best experience-based and evidence-based insights to learn. Learn more about Alistair Knight