CrossFit Rest Days: When (and how) to take them

The rigors of Crossfit demand that you take a rest day so your body can recover and build muscle.

One recommendation is to work out for three days and then rest the following day. That rest can consist of active recovery, which encourages light exercise, such as walking or yoga, just to keep the body moving.

Unfortunately, this schedule ignores your individual needs.

A wiser approach is to listen to your body when it tells you to rest and then develop a schedule from that.

My body as well as my life responsibilities told me to do CrossFit three days a week, and on my off days, do active recovery by walking about four miles a day.

If you’re looking to incorporate CrossFit rest days into your weekly routine, this article is for you.

Why Rest?

Like any high-intensity exercise, Crossfit damages muscle fibers. If you continue to work out, you continue the damage. The body can eventually repair and replace this damage to increase muscle growth.

However, this does not happen while you continue to exercise. Instead, you need to rest for your body to recover and rebuild.

Starting with CrossFit Rest Days

When you start CrossFit, you have to undergo a ramp-up program where coaches teach you how to perform the movements correctly, from pull-ups and box jumps to kettlebell swings and Olympic lifting.

This period of instruction varies by gym or box, but typically happens three times a week, such as on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Your body has time to get used to the new stresses and recover from it during the rest days of Tuesday, Thursday, and the weekend.

Beginners who want to exercise more after the ramp-up can then progress to working out for two days, such as on Mondays and Tuesdays, and taking one day off, such as on Wednesdays, before continuing on to Thursdays and Fridays, and then taking the weekends off.

Early Recommendations

It’s common for new Crossfitters, particularly the beginners, to want to do Crossfit as often as they can. They see positive results from their Workouts of the Day (WODs) and assume that working out more produces more results. Such a regimen does not give the body time to recover and grow.

During the early days of Crossfit, athletes relied on a simple three days on for working out and one day off for resting. This schedule proved easy to implement and is still used by money.

Another recommendation was a three-day-on, one-day-off, two-day on plan. Athletes worked out from Monday to Wednesday, took an active recovery or rest day on Thursday, continued with workouts on Friday and Saturday, and took Sunday off.

This schedule optimizes both the number of workouts you could do and the intensity.

Both these plans delivered five to six workouts a week.

However, they did not address the needs and variations of individual trainees.

Every person responds to the WODs differently. And over time, that person’s response can change because of aging, stress, illness, or other factors.

When to Take a Rest Day for Crossfit

It’s easy to base your rest days on your feelings. The only problem is feelings are not often a reliable indicator of what’s going on with your body.

A more useful approach is to objectively measure the results that you’re experiencing, including personal records, weight, and body measurements.

A smart watch or tracker can prove helpful in this case. It can tell you if your resting heart rate is getting better or worse or if you’re the recommended 8 hours of restful sleep each night.

If these objective measurements show improvements, you have minimal injuries, and your health increases, your current workout-to-rest ratio is most likely correct.

However, if your performance is getting worse, you feel tired all the time, and you constantly experience pain that does not go away, you need more rest days.

What Is a Rest Day?

There are two types of rest days:

  • You’re most likely familiar with passive recovery, which avoids any kind of exercise or strenuous physical activity. Maybe you get up a little later, lounge around the house, or take in a movie or TV show. This allows your body to recover fully.
  • The second type is known as active recovery. Studies have revealed that compared to passive recovery, the active version increases the time that athletes perform without experiencing fatigue and while sustaining power.

Active recovery includes light exercises, such as walking, active stretching, yoga, swimming, or cycling.

That tracker comes in handy here because you want your heart rate to stay at 30 to 60 percent of your maximum.

If you don’t have a tracker, try the talk test (except during swimming). You should be able to hold a conversation during the recovery activity.

Some recommend that in a week, you should have one passive recovery day and one active recovery day. Others say that you should only have active recovery days to keep your body moving.

Sample Crossfit Week with Rest Days

You don’t have any control over what the coaches at your box program for the WOD from day to day. But most are savvy enough to stress different parts of the body on consecutive days. The parts that you’re not working on that day then have a chance to recover.

Below is a sample week based that uses a three-days-on, one-day-off, two-days-on, and one-day-off approach.

With this schedule, the days you work out and rest remain constant every week. This example incorporates rest days and is based on WODs at the official Crossfit site.


Do each of the following at 50-40-30-20-10 reps for time. To scale, reduce the number of reps.


5 rounds for time of


Do each of the following at 10-8-6-4-2 reps with as heavy a weight as possible. You can also start light and build up to a heavier weight.


Do any of the previously mentioned active recovery activities.


In 20 minutes, do the following AMRAP (As Many Rounds As Possible)


Do a hang squat snatch with 7 sets of 3 reps each. You can scale this with a PVC pipe but also add a front squat with the pipe.


Rest with passive recovery. You can also turn this into an active recovery day as previously mentioned.

Tim Rollins, Editor

About boxletes was created by a team of CrossFit athletes and fitness enthusiasts who love to share information about the best CrossFit boxes, workout gear and equipment, and fitness and nutrition tips.

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