I typically lift weights with intensity 3 to 4 days per week.
On these days I push, pull, hinge, squat, and lunge with the goal of building muscle, getting strong, and remaining mobile and athletic. I typically start each session with 10 to 15 minutes of SMR then move through a dynamic warm-up and into the meat of the training session which is typically several different movements done under appreciable loads.
This type of training works best for me and lines up well with my goals.
It also gives me 3 to 4 days on which I can be more flexible with my training program. I refer to these as my "off days."
I think I have a somewhat different view point though of the concept of off days then the typical lifter or fitness enthusiast.
Off days to me don't mean days on which you do nothing but go to work, come home, eat dinner, and spend the evening vegging out on Netflix (although I can't say I have never done this). Rather an off day to me means a day that does not have any structured training programming, but should still involve some type of physical activity.
I know I know someone reading this will probably be trying to scream at me through the screen in order to remind that you have to rest your muscles after you lift or you risk losing all of your #gainz. While I understand your sentiment and do agree with you that rest is the final necessary catalyst for adaptation of any kind I don't think rest means you have to limit your physical activity on your off days to getting up off the couch and making trips to the bathroom and refrigerator.
Rather my interpretation of rest means you don't apply the same type of stimulus to your body as you did on your training days. This means if you lifting heavy weights with lots of volume on your off days then you want to reduce any load you might use to the lower end of your strength spectrum and make sure you don't over do it on the volume of whatever you might be doing that day. If you are a runner and your training days consist of paced runs of lengths greater than 3 miles then on your off days you want to get off the pavement and perhaps hit the weight room to pick up some heavy stuff several times with good form.
I have this opinion because I think humans were made to be physically active everyday and to be a healthy and well functioning human you should have some type of physical movement a part of each day. And from a performance stand point I believe there is always something we can do on these "days off" that will help us perform better when we do train.
This being said I typically make use of my "off days" in a couple different ways which I wanted to share with you.
1. I will try any new exercises that I have seen that look challenging, fun, and possibly beneficial for my clients or myself. If the exercises are strength oriented I never use much of a load and hone in on trying to nail the form. This "day off" gives me the opportunity to grow my movement bubble, make fitness fun, and challenge me to learn something new. It's also important to me as a coach because it gives me the opportunity to keep evaluating new exercises and decide if there are any that might be worth adding to our programs at RSC.
For example of the exercises that I added into my own training which I had never tried or really thought of as more of a novelty exercise was the one-arm barbell deadlift. I was inspired to start playing around with it by David Dellanave after some late night you tubing. It turned out to be a really great tool for me on learning to engage my lats when pulling from the floor and I think has helped me build a more ant-fragile back due to it's rotational component.
2. If I don't find myself exploring new movement frontier on my day's off then I like to get in some quality conditioning time. I love pushing myself primarily because I think it helps me maintain a high level of mental fortitude and the ability to push through under mental and physical duress which I think has been one of my greatest personal attributes that has contributed to continued success in my life. This means my conditioning typically has a bit of an anaerobic and high intensity skew to it.
But I hate treadmills, ellipticals, and just about any other machine you can think of that is typically found in the "cardio" section of a commercial gym. I hate long distance running and I tend to get bored very quickly with repetitive work. So the way I usually get my conditioning accomplished is through circuits, complexes, or fixed and variable interval training.
For example one of my most recent kicks for conditioning on off days has been putting together kettlebell complexes of movements that flow nicely into one another and then using heart based recovery. I will typically set a timer for 15 to 20 minutes and then attempt to get as many rounds as I can allowing my heart rate to fall to a certain point before beginning the next round.
3. I am much aware of my movement limitations and most of my mobility and stability problems. I feel like these things are what led to me to hurt my back and what will potentially hinder me in the future if I don't work on them. For this reason I have made it a priority of mine to find as much time as possible to work on these problems by focusing on getting my tissue quality, tissue length, and tissue strength right. This makes "off days" perfect times to work on these things.
My favorite way to go about this is to put together several different circuits for each problem area that consists of soft tissue modalities, active range of motion exercises, and some strength exercises for integration and then repeat this circuits several times over. This allows me to be efficient with my time, getting a lot of work done on these areas and also it gives me an aerobic conditioning effect.
I hope how I spend my "days off" have helped you maybe rethink the way you approach you days off.
Happy moving and heavy lifting!
Practical, Purposeful, Effective Training