From what I understand, a good night’s sleep is different for every person. For me, it’s around 7 hrs or a little more. I always tended to get a pretty good night’s sleep, but since looking more carefully at how to get ripped, I made sure that continued to be the case. Sleep facilitates cellular repair, and repairing the damage inflicted during heavy lifting sessions is absolutely critical to increasing strength (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21550729).
I can’t stress enough how critical rest was (and remains) for me in getting ripped and staying ripped. I don’t think there are many muscled and ripped people (as opposed to stick-skinny and ripped) who would argue with that statement. My old mindset was that if I wasn’t in the gym pumping puffy, voluminous sets or running chronically or sweating my guts out performing some complex and convoluted CrossFit routine (which developed strength that pales in comparison to the strength I have now), I was losing. Ironically, when learning how to get ripped this time, I found that the single most difficult technique to incorporate into my life was resting; it was so mentally difficult for me to stop going to the gym every day, cut lifting time in less than half and reduce structured cardio to a trickle. But my greatest fat loss and strength gains have come with rest. If you pick at a scab, it won’t heal. I was picking at a giant scab all the time, and it was my entire body.
I listened to my body.
If I ever, ever felt pain in a joint while lifting that lasted for more than a set, I stopped, reduced the weight, and tested the movement/ joint again. If it persisted, I was completely done with that exercise. Joint, tendon and ligament injuries require so much time to heal that it was never worth it for me. I’d rather prevent an injury by taking a single session off than injure myself and put myself out of it for six weeks. I’ve injured my Achilles tendon a few times throughout my life (the result of doing stupid things on an inclined treadmill), which made it impossible to do virtually any lower body exercise. I don’t know why it took me so long to learn from those experiences.
Furthermore, there were inevitably days when I woke up feeling completely devoid of energy. If that feeling ever persisted into my workout, I either walked out of the gym, or lifted at a much lower intensity (more likely the latter of the two). I knew from past experience that my propensity to injure myself increased when I was lacking energy since form devolves more easily. It was just too much to risk.