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Time Spent Outside the Gym is More Important than Gym Time

young man and woman exercising in the gym

The more your lift, the bigger you’ll get, right? So why not go for six arm supersets instead of three? Why not crush chest and back every 24 hours for maximum results? Because that kind of “gym bro” mentality will leave your body tired, hungry, and broken before you can say “let’s skip leg day”.

The fact of the matter is, no matter how tempted you might be to up your training frequency, increase the volume of work, and crank up the intensity to 11, it will all be for nothing if your post- and pre-workout routines involve lounging on the couch eating ice-cream with French fries. Here to help you achieve your fitness goals the right way are the essential tips to help you take your off-day routine to the next level.

Training as a healthy prerequisite

Before we address your off-days, we will first need to delve into the intricacies of your weekly training schedule. Are you training often enough? Are you managing your volume and intensity relative to your training frequency? Do you even care about basic strength and hypertrophy variables?

If results are what you’re after, then the answer should be “yes” to all of the above. No matter if you’re a recreational lifter or an aspiring athlete, you need to follow a well-structured training program focusing on the three big lifts in order to produce an effective stimulus for your body to grow. Then, and only then, can you benefit from a sound post-workout routine.

Calories in, calories out

Training provides a stimulus, the microscopic tearing of muscles which fires up your immune system in an attempt to repair the damage and build a stronger, healthier body. This recovery process can only be effective if you adhere to proper nutrition guidelines relative to your goals.

Looking to lose weight? You need to be in a calorie deficit. Want to build muscle? You need to consume more calories than you burn on a daily basis. Remember, the laws of thermodynamics dictate that matter is neither created nor destroyed, but it does change forms. In other words, you need calories to build muscle. Yet diet is but a single part of the muscle-building equation.

Maximizing muscular and CNS recovery

The second reason why your time outside the gym is more important than your time spent pumping iron is because without proper rest and recovery you cannot hope to achieve the results you crave. Your progress in the gym, whether it’s increasing strength or maximizing hypertrophy, depends on how well you manage fatigue and rest.

Moreover, it also depends on your injury rate, and your overall recovery speed. If you want to maximize recovery, you should not only eat enough calories, you should also sleep properly, avoid injuries by wearing proper lifting gear and durable compression clothing, and stay reasonably active on your off days. This leads us to the next crucial point.

Staying active on your off days

Did the local gym bro convince you that you should spend your off days lounging about doing nothing in order to give your muscles time to heal? Well, science might convince you to reconsider. Research has shown that in order to maximize your growth and performance potential, you want to stay relatively active on your rest days as well.

Opting to do nothing at all will actually diminish your recovery rate, leaving you sore and more fatigued than before, in turn impacting your next training session. Simply going for a walk or a jog, or playing a game of basketball can produce enough stimulus to keep your metabolism revving, and supply enough blood and oxygen into sore areas. In turn, you will come back to the gym well-rested, energized, and feeling stronger than before.

Putting in the work in the weight room is important, nay, crucial in the pursuit of a sculpted physique or a new PR. However, if that effort is not supplemented with proper nutrition and ample rest on a daily basis, you will experience a decline in performance, and a subsequent loss of muscle mass. Be sure to follow these essential tips, and you will have no problem maximizing your results in and out of the gym.

Paul Hickman