13 Active Recovery Workouts You Can Do On Your Rest Days – MMA Life (2022)

You’ve pushed your limits in the gym or the fighting cage. Now, it’s time to recover. But don’t let the term “rest day” fool you into collapsing on the couch and turning on Netflix.

Your rest day is one of the most important parts of your workout/training routine, because it’s during these crucial rest days that your body repairs itself and grows stronger.

Alas, many boxers, wrestlers and fighters hone in on the actual workout while only giving their recovery a quick, passing thought.

If that’s you, it’s time to reinvigorate your training and hit new levels of strength and endurance by rethinking the way you spend your rest days.

What’s the Difference Between Active and Passive Recovery?

Passive recovery is exactly what it sounds like: You typically do nothing other than rest. This means little to no physical activity, other than what's required for day-to-day living.

13 Active Recovery Workouts You Can Do On Your Rest Days – MMA Life (1)

Active recovery is the exact opposite. It invites you to consider how various forms of movement positively impact your recovery, and how different actions or exercises may help to accelerate your muscle recovery and repair.

Should You Choose Passive or Active Recovery?

Passive recovery is really only necessary if you're injured and your coach, trainer or doctor advises you to take a break. In all other cases, you’re missing out on the many fitness benefits of active recovery.

For example, studies have found that active recovery does a far better job at clearing lactic acid and other metabolic waste that builds up during a workout or doing a fight.

The additional benefits of active recovery may include:

  • Flushing out toxins
  • Boosting blood flow, helping your body carry more oxygen and nutrients to sore muscles
  • Reducing inflammation and pain
  • Maintaining muscle flexibility and agility

13 Types of Active Recovery Workouts

Need inspiration for your next rest day? Choose from the following active recovery exercises and see the immediate difference in your workouts.

1. Yoga

Forget the mental image of yoga being just for hippies or women. Conor McGregor did yoga every day while training for UFC 189. On Joe Rogan's podcast, Frankie Edgar talked about how useful he found yoga during training. And Dan Hardy used to do four hot yoga sessions every single week.

Yoga is a powerful form of active recovery because it warms you up, lengthens your tendons and muscles, and protects your mobility.

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Watch out, though. Some types of yoga are quite rigorous and require a high level of yoga and stamina. If you’re doing it as a form of active recovery, you may wish to choose a restorative, gentle type of yoga.

Examples include hatha yoga as well as yin yoga. The latter involves relaxing into a posture for an extended period of time, which can be especially restorative on a rest day.

2. Massage therapy

Book a massage with a registered massage therapist and experience the many benefits of massage as active recovery. Better yet, get a percussion massage gun to give yourself relief for a fraction of the price.

Try to target affected areas of your body where you feel tightness, pain or stiffness. Physical manipulation of these areas boosts circulation and presses out lactic acid.

3. Foam rolling

Your muscles are wrapped in a tight structure made up of something called "fascia connective tissue." Sometimes, this tissue can become tight, especially after a workout or an injury.

Myofascial release involves putting a gentle pressure on your fascia, helping to release it and elongate it, thus easing post-workout pain and inflammation.

Foam rolling is a form of self-myofascial release. Rolling out a sore muscle can help improve your muscles’ range of motion, and also reduce tension.

Other forms of rolling include lacrosse balls, massage sticks, etc. You may experience whole-body benefits when rolling out all of your major muscle groups during rest days, as well as immediately after exercising.

4. Light jogging or walking

Because it’s accessible for pretty much everyone, walking is one of the simplest and best forms of active recovery for you to try.

It’s especially useful for runners, but all athletes will find that jogging or walking at a slow, steady pace can help to keep their bodies warm, keep that blood pumping, and reducing stiffness, thus aiding in recovery.

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If lower-body joint pain is an issue for you, you may want to consider jogging or walking in a swimming pool (“aqua jogging”) or finding a soft surface to walk on, such as a running track or a grassy field.

5. Stretching

When done for active recovery, stretching should involve movement versus the old-school approach of getting into a stretch pose and simply holding it in a static position.

This includes:

  • Ballistic stretching (which uses the momentum of a moving part of your body to help push your muscles past their normal range of motion)
  • Dynamic stretching (moving your body into the same stretch over and over, slowly getting deeper with each move)
  • Active stretching (holding a stretch without support, such as bringing your arm up high and to the side without holding it in place with a wall or your opposite arm)

Dynamic and ballistic stretching can be used both for a warm up and a cool down. All three forms are also perfect for rest days.

6. Tai chi

Tai chi is a form of slow, gentle exercise that hails from ancient China. And although it is not really an effective form of fighting, health experts have found it great as a form of exercise.

And don’t let the gentle aspect of tai chi fool you. Studies have found it’s very beneficial for building your aerobic endurance.

There are five different major types of tai chi, all of which involve constant, steady movement from one pose to the next.

If you’ve never tried tai chi before, consider starting with the Yang style, which includes graceful and gradual movements combined with lots of relaxation.

For more rigorous active recovery, try Chen-style tai chi, which uses a flow of punches, kicks, crouches and turns.

Other styles include Wu (focused on small micro movements), Sun (which de-emphasizes the lower body with fewer crouching poses) and Hao (focused more on proper form, and less common than the other styles of tai chi).

7. Swimming

Swimming has been well-researched as a clinical form of recovery. For example, one study found that runners who swim on their rest days tend to perform better the following day.

Swimming is ideal because it incorporates your entire body, combines both muscle strength-building as well as cardio, and is very gentle on your body because of the buoyancy of the water.

Don’t be afraid to think outside the swimming lane, too. Aquatic aerobics, aquatic weight lifting and other pool-based therapies can be a fun, enjoyable way to mix up your rest days.

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8. Cycling

Cycling can help elevate your heart rate, thus boosting blood circulation throughout your system. It’s also multi-joint and low impact.

Similar to walking or jogging, cycling is very accessible because most gyms have stationary bikes. To start, try 20-30 minutes of slow cycling. It shouldn’t leave you sweaty or out of breath.

9. Playful sports

Playing isn’t just for kids. Embrace your inner child.

From rollerblading (which also improves your coordination and cognition) to your favorite team sports like baseball or soccer, playful outings gently move your body, warm you up and keep your muscles and tendons lubricated and active.

Plus, going out and having fun can restore you emotionally and spiritually, helping you to feel more rejuvenated on a psychological level.

10. Hiking

The various terrain encountered on a hike keeps your brain focused, your joints lubricated and your muscles working gently to stabilize your movements.

It’s also a great way to sneak in some calorie-torching cardio without feeling like you’re working out.

Going outside into nature has even been shown to boost your mood, alleviate tension and reduce stress. And the better your mental health, the stronger your focus and your endurance when exercising.

If you're hiking uneven surfaces, be sure to get some really good insoles.

11. Light weightlifting

Feeling achy after chest day? Having a hard time sitting after a day of deadlifts and squats?

Heading back into the gym to do a gentler form of the same exercise that has left you with serious DOMS can be exceptionally restorative and healing.

Try and do the same exercise on your rest day, but with much lighter weights. Aim for something that weighs 70% to 80% less than what you lifted the day before, and don’t lift to failure.

Repeating a very light, gentle form of your previous workout sends blood to the affected muscles, accelerating muscle repair and recovery.

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12. Hip and core activation

Your hips, especially your hip flexors and hip abductors are foundational for all forms of movement, from pivoting fast to kicking hard to lifting high.

Likewise, your abs and core muscles stabilize you through all ranges of motion.

Don’t neglect these foundational muscles on your rest days. For recovery, try gentle exercises that keep these critical muscles warm and active.

This can include simple bodyweight movements like dead bugs and planks.

By activating your core and hip muscles on your recovery days, you return to the gym having laid the groundwork for a strong workout.

13. Stair climbing

Whether it’s done on a stair machine, or you simply take the stairs at work instead of the elevator, climbing stairs activates all of the big lower muscles in your body. This is helpful on rest days after a day of lower body exercises, but it’s also useful for boosting your whole-body circulation and warming you up fast.

When Should You Do Active Recovery?

There are three specific times that may benefit your fitness and wellness the most:

  • Cooling down after you exercise or fight
  • In the midst of circuit training (e.g. jogging between high-intensity sprints)
  • On rest days after a fight or a big workout in the gym

As a cool down after a hard workout, spend 10-20 minutes doing some light movement instead of just collapsing on the ground or sitting on a bench. This might mean going for a slow, steady walk on the treadmill or rolling out your muscles with a foam roller.

If you’re doing circuit training or interval training, mixing in a series of active recovery exercises between sets of high-intensity pushes can help you minimize fatigue and improve performance during the high-intensity parts of your training.

Finally, if done on a rest day, active recovery can help support your full workout regimen. It keeps you moving, so you don’t fall off the wagon. And it can help you perform better when you return to the gym. For example, yoga on a rest day can help you return to the gym more supple and flexible than ever!

A Word of Caution

If you’re competitive or simply enjoy pushing your limits, you may be tempted to turn “active recovery” into an “active workout.” But remember, recovery is crucial for your overall strength and stamina.

Don’t sabotage your next workout by skipping your rest day, even if your rest day involves healing, restorative movement like myofascial release or yoga.

When enjoying any of these 13 forms of active recovery workouts, always check in with how you’re feeling and how hard you’re pushing yourself.

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The workout, regardless of what it is, should be capped at 50% of your maximal effort. You may even want to keep it hovering around 20% to 30% of what you think you could actually do.

Finally, bring your awareness to how you feel after your active recovery workout. If you’re feeling even more fatigued, achy or tense than when you started, bring the intensity down even further.

In the end, active recovery is about helping you to get stronger faster...when you return to the gym. It’s not about sneaking in one more workout day.


What can you do on MMA rest days? ›

Enjoy being outside and reap the benefits of movement for the sake of movement, not to reach fitness goals. Stretch – stretching is a great activity to do on your rest days. Take some time to focus on stretching out your sore muscles. Not only will this feel good, but it will also aid you in injury prevention.

What exercises should I do on my rest day? ›

Here are some examples of low-intensity activities to do on your rest day.
  • Walking.
  • Slow jogging.
  • Biking.
  • Yoga or tai chi.
  • Dancing.
  • Kayaking.
  • Swimming.
  • Rowing.
3 May 2021

Is kickboxing active recovery? ›

Kickboxing isn't just about one type of training. While you do get a high-intensity workout from each session—performing at an all-out effort and actively recovering in between those bursts—you're also moving throughout the entire class, so you enhance your endurance.

Should I do active recovery on rest days? ›

On rest days following strenuous activity

Try going for a walk or an easy bike ride. You can also try stretching, swimming, or yoga. Active recovery on your rest days will help your muscles recover. This is especially important if you're sore.

How can I recover faster in MMA? ›

Eating lean beef or chicken approximately 60 to 90 minutes after your training is imperative for helping your muscles to bounce back fast from tough training and avoiding overall body soreness. Carbohydrates gave you the energy you need to train. Fats give you the nutrients needed for growth.

How many rest days do MMA fighters take? ›

Yes, a week, meaning seven calendar days. This extended period of rest is most commonly used by our stable of MMA fighters to recover from a fight and the proceeding fight camp but sometimes even before if camp has been particularly grueling.

How long do athletes last in bed? ›

Results: The athletes needed 8.3 (0.9) hours of sleep to feel rested, their average sleep duration was 6.7 (0.8) hours, and they had a sleep deficit index of 96.0 (60.6) minutes. Only 3% of athletes obtained enough sleep to satisfy their self-assessed sleep need, and 71% of athletes fell short by an hour or more.

What should I eat on rest days? ›

On rest days, you should also focus on:
  • Carbohydrates. Eat complex carbs to restore your glycogen levels. ...
  • Water. It's essential to drink enough water, even when you're not working out. ...
  • Fruits and vegetables. Fruits and veggies offer healthy carbs and nutrients that support recovery.
7 Aug 2019

How long should active recovery be? ›

Active recovery activities should take you about 20-45 minutes, depending on your fitness level. These exercises help improve recovery rate by reducing muscle soreness, improving flexibility and other physiological factors.

How do you heal your body after a fight? ›

Here are some of the strategies boxers use to recover after a fight:
  1. Ensure rehydration.
  2. Eat a balanced diet.
  3. Get enough rest.
  4. Stretch sore muscles.
  5. Minimize muscle soreness with a foam roller.
  6. Apply ice, heat, and steam to reduce inflammation.
  7. Maintain gentle movements and light exercises.
  8. Take natural supplements.
9 Jul 2021

Can I box on rest days? ›

For a boxer, a rest day does not mean sitting still. Staying active on rest days with light exercise is a great way to keep your body in fighting shape while your muscles heal. Below are some examples of light exercises for boxing that you can do on your weekly rest day.

Does kickboxing tone your legs? ›

Kickboxing strengthens and tones your legs, arms, glutes, back, and core all at once. You're moving through the entire workout, causing you to burn more calories while strengthening your muscles. This equates to fat loss, not muscle loss!

How often should you do active recovery? ›

But, we're about to debunk the myth that a once-a-week active recovery day is enough. Get this – we should actually be doing it after every intense workout. Now, this doesn't have to take a half-hour every single time. Even a 15-minute yoga or stretch cool-down is extremely beneficial.

How many days a week should you rest? ›

A person should take a rest day every 7–10 days or as needed to help the body and mind recover. A rest day can be an active day that incorporates gentle exercises such as walking or yoga. Alternatively, a person may opt for a full day of relaxation.

Why rest days are so important? ›

The reason many recommend rest days is to allow the body's muscles to recover from any damage they've sustained during workouts, and to allow them to grow. And numerous scientific studies show that rest days do indeed play an important role in helping us maintain good health and fitness.

How long does it take UFC fighters to heal? ›

If the fighter experiences a limb or joint injury, they also must remain out of the ring for at least 30 days. This medical recovery suspension lasts for up to 120 days or when a doctor releases the fighter back to the ring. In the case of a knockout, the fighter must wait a minimum of 45 days to re-enter the ring.

How can I heal faster after sparring? ›

Rehydrate and replenish your body after every sparring session, and especially if it was particularly tough. Ice any injuries and, if your body is up to it, lightly stretch to make sure that your muscles don't stiffen up. This will make getting up the next morning a lot better as well.

How many hours do MMA fighters sleep? ›

Performing athletes should target getting at least 10 hours of sleep to ensure optimal performance and ample recovery. Sleep, no doubt, boosts athletic performance in a variety of ways. First off, athletic performance significantly improves with sufficient rest.

How many hours do MMA fighters train a day? ›

So what, exactly, are the elements of MMA training? For starters, fighters generally train four hours a day, five days a week, when preparing for a bout.

Do MMA fighters train 7 days a week? ›

Like most professional sports, MMA fighters train twice a day. Sometimes often three times a day. This is the only way to fit in all of the technical and physical training sessions required to compete at a high level in MMA.

Do I need protein on rest days? ›

Do I need to eat protein on rest days? In short, yes. Your muscles need protein even on the days you're not spending time in the gym. Your muscles and other tissues are actively recovering on rest days, and recovery can take up to 24-48 hours.

Why am I so hungry on rest days? ›

On the days off, a combination of an increase in the hunger hormone (Ghrelin), a decrease in the fullness hormone (Leptin), and a decrease in insulin levels will cause you to feel the hunger. The more caloric deficit you create, the less recovery your muscle gets, and the more hungry you feel, on rest days.

Should I take a protein shake on rest days? ›

It's important to consume high-quality protein sources on non-workout days to optimize recovery. One high-quality protein source to include on both active and rest days is protein shakes. Unlike other fitness supplements that require proper timing, protein shakes can be an excellent option for rest days.

Is Active Recovery Real? ›

Active recovery improves blood circulation that helps with the removal of waste products from muscle breakdown that build up as a result of exercise. Then fresh blood can come in to bring nutrients that help repair and rebuild the muscles. 8 Examples of active recovery exercises include walking, stretching, and yoga.

What is the 75 soft challenge rules? ›

With 75 Soft, the rules are as follows:
  • One 45-minute workout per day (one day of active recovery each week)
  • Drink approximately one gallon of water per day.
  • Read ten pages of any book per day.
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet and save the alcohol for social events.
15 Apr 2022

Are rest days important for MMA? ›

In any Martial Art you learn (Boxing, Muay Thai, Taekwondo, MMA, Wrestling, Jiu-Jitsu, etc.) you are working every muscle in your body. Therefore, it's essential to let the body rest. Once the muscles in your body are replenished, you will feel refreshed as well as feeling a difference in how much stronger you become.

Do fighters take rest days? ›

Every boxer needs rest. Even the greatest boxers alive need it. Floyd Mayweather plans his ten weeks of training meticulously and gives himself two rest days each week.

How long do MMA fighters rest after a fight? ›

If the fighter experiences a limb or joint injury, they also must remain out of the ring for at least 30 days. This medical recovery suspension lasts for up to 120 days or when a doctor releases the fighter back to the ring. In the case of a knockout, the fighter must wait a minimum of 45 days to re-enter the ring.

How many hours should MMA fighters sleep? ›

Performing athletes should target getting at least 10 hours of sleep to ensure optimal performance and ample recovery. Sleep, no doubt, boosts athletic performance in a variety of ways.

Do MMA fighters train 7 days a week? ›

Like most professional sports, MMA fighters train twice a day. Sometimes often three times a day. This is the only way to fit in all of the technical and physical training sessions required to compete at a high level in MMA.

How many times a week should I train for MMA? ›

Not to mention, you'll likely also experience some intense soreness, which will require adequate rest and recovery time. Because of these factors, I recommend beginners only train intense MMA 2-4 times/week for the first 1-3 months of training. After that, you can move to an intermediate level.

How do I recover from martial arts? ›

3 Recovery Techniques for Martial Arts Training
  1. Stretch and Foam Roll. Stretching is a great way to improve your flexibility and relieve tension in the muscles and joints. ...
  2. Prioritize Sleep. ...
  3. Take Rest Days.
5 Jun 2019

How many days should you box? ›

Should You Do Boxing Training Everyday - YouTube

How many days can you box? ›

I would advise not to box every day as having at least one day off is good for mental and physical recovery. However, boxing every day can be done but your easy days must be very easy. They can consist of pure technique work or light aerobic conditioning.

Is it okay to box two days in a row? ›

Don't train the same muscle group – Your muscles need 48 hours to recuperate after an intense workout. So it isn't a good idea to train the same muscle group two or more days in a row.

Do MMA fighters feel pain? ›

Grappling-based bouts have their own kinds of soreness, usually in the forearms, shoulders, back and hips. Hard shots to the head might put a fighter in a haze for a few days. They might suffer headaches and neck pain. Body shots leave the ribs and abdominals aching.

What does being rocked feel like? ›

“It feels as if you are drunk. Spinning around, struggling to find your balance. It's crazy and sometimes even when you are rocked you have to continue swinging.. or else it's nighty night.”

How long does a KO last? ›

In most cases, a knockout lasts less than 10 seconds, after which the person regains consciousness. However, a bad knockout can last longer than a minute and even several minutes. The length of the knockout depends on the severity of the concussion and whether or not the brainstem was damaged.

How many hours do MMA fighters train a day? ›

So what, exactly, are the elements of MMA training? For starters, fighters generally train four hours a day, five days a week, when preparing for a bout.

What do fighters do the night before a fight? ›

The best way to help with nerves before a fight is to get plenty of restful sleep. Establish a nighttime routine, taking time to relax and make yourself comfortable. The night before the fight, check you have your boxing gloves, boxing shoes, and all your gear ready to go so you can relax as well.

Do fighters sleep before a fight? ›

This may sound strange, but many fighters and other sportspeople have said that they like to sleep before a fight. It helps them to relax, and it passes the time.


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