While some people struggle to make it to the gym consistently, I find myself in a place where it’s challenging to stay away from the gym for any length of time aside from our typical one or two rest days each week. My workout partner feels the same way. I can’t keep him out of the gym. Often times he’ll head back later in the day to do some light accessary work while training with his teenage son.
I love the gym. It’s my serenity. I love the atmosphere. I love the challenge. I love the process. I love the journey. I absolutely love physique training and the lifestyle that goes with it. In the words of Jerry McGuire, it “Completes Me” 🙂
But the question is, are we doing more harm than good? Do we really need to schedule a recovery week even though we feel incredible? We don’t feel run down in the slightest. We don’t have nagging injuries, aches or pains. We’re making good progress and we’re having a blast!
Some muscle building coaches would have us believe that we’re leaving serious muscle gains on the table by not scheduling in several recovery weeks throughout the year. They state that your body builds muscle when you’re resting and recovering, not when you’re working out. This is true and their arguments can sound convincing.
It’s these somewhat convincing arguments that created a battle in my mind as I contemplated the thought of taking a recovery week while my workout partner heads away on vacation.
My intuition was telling me that I felt strong, vibrant, and healthy so there’s no need to take a break right now. But searching the almighty Google for the phrase, ‘recovery week’ pulled up all kinds of advice from scheduling a recovery week once a month to once a year. Each argument appears to be based on theory or personal philosophy rather than concrete evidence.
So what’s a bro to do? Well, I did what I often do, which is call upon my fellow like-minded Physique Athletes over at Tom Venuto’s Burn The Fat Inner Circle for their insights and experience.
Know Your Body
It turned into a great discussion. Tom opened with the statement,
“Why should we ‘force’ ourselves to take time off the gym if we don’t need it or want it, especially if we know what we are doing and we know our bodies well enough to truly know when we need/want extra rest/recovery and when we don’t.”
This brings up a great point. Physique Training is a very deliberate style of working out and sculpting your body. It requires intense focus, controlled movements, and a strong mind-muscle connection, which creates precise tension exactly where you want to feel it in the target muscle. It’s an art form.
With experience, Physique Athletes develop a keen sense of awareness with the processes taking place in their body. It’s a strong intuition that’s been built by paying attention to how a muscle feels during an exercise, how your body feels after consuming a meal, or how you feel after a great night of quality sleep.
Bottom line is that experienced Physique Athletes know how to listen to their body. We can tell when our body requires an extra day or two of rest in order to fully recover and come back stronger. We also know that there are days when we just don’t have it in us to hit our target numbers and reps for the planned workout. So, we simply dial back the intensity and volume of the workout based on how we feel that day. Some fit-pros refer this as auto regulation, but us old school bros call it instinctive training.
The Ebb and Flow Of Periodized Physique Training
Tom’s advice continued by stating,
“I think the only thing we *must* do (to avoid negative repercussions) is cycle the intensity and load properly. That means avoiding perpetual high intensity and perpetual heavy weights. You can go to the gym 52 weeks a year without a miss if you want to. But there should be an ebb and flow where we push harder, then back off, and then repeat. And, that works on the micro (workout to workout) and macro (months or seasons) level.”
Stepping outside of your comfort zone and testing your limits during your workouts is a good thing. If you expect to grow, you need to challenge yourself. But you also need to be smart. You can’t go balls to the wall with your training day in and day out expecting not to burn out or get injured. You need to dial your efforts back from time to time if you want to continue training for many years to come.
Same goes for training volume and frequency. Increasing the total number of sets you perform each workout or the number of times you train a muscle group each week, is a great method for blasting through plateaus. But again, you can’t keep it up for too long or you’ll run yourself into the ground.
A strategically designed Aesthetic Muscle Plan manipulates training frequency and volume. For example, a few months ago I stepped outside of my comfort zone and went through a phase where I trained each muscle group 5 days per week with low volume. I was impressed at how my strength increased each workout with this high frequency training. After 4 weeks I broke through my lifting plateaus and hit personal bests in all my major lifts. But, intuitively both my workout partner and I knew that our body couldn’t take another week of it. We had to dial back on the weight lifted and the frequency that we hit each muscle. Now we’re preparing for a phase of higher volume than we’ve ever tried before. Again, we’ll be listening to our body and dial the volume back when we start to feel the extra work catching up to us.
Deload Instead Of A Week Off
For the past couple years I’ve been seeing more muscle building coaches recommending a deload week instead of a complete week off. Tom shares in this view stating,
“We need to cycle our training and get the recovery we need, but I’ve never felt that the recovery necessarily had to come in the form of staying out of the gym. Part of the right recovery is simply choosing the right training frequency and periodization plan. In fact for me I feel its superior to keep going to the gym on many levels including psychologically and as far as habit formation and maintenance goes.
I usually do end up taking a week off maybe once a year, twice at most, but I’d rather take a deload week than a week off. I’d rather take a light pump day than skip a workout because I’m feeling tired or off. It feels better!”
While my workout partner is away on vacation I resistantly decided to take a week off. I planned on using the time to dial in my nutrition and to do some extra self-massage with the Rumble Roller and lacrosse ball. I also set aside some of the extra time to meditate in my thoughts and dream big about how I want to grow as a person.
After two days away from the gym I was losing my mind! I felt completely out of sorts. I had lost my mojo. My time away from the gym was having a negative impact on all areas of my life.
At 6am the next day I sent a text to one of my gym buddies and told him that I couldn’t take it any more. Later that day we crushed a killer back and triceps workout. Once again, all was well in my world 😉
Rest Days Are Important, But How Often Do We Need Them?
There’s no definitive answer in regards to how often you should take time off from the gym or if you even require an entire week off. Much of it is going to come down to the individual, their yearly program design, and their lifestyle. Some of us simply require more rest/recovery than others.
Based on the feedback from the discussion in Tom Venuto’s Burn The Fat Inner Circle, Physique Training enhances all aspects of our lives. It is indeed a lifestyle. We love it! Some of us even consider it as therapy.
As a part of our lifestyle, we fuel our physique with nutrient rich foods, which help our muscles rebuild and recover post workout. We make a valiant effort to get an adequate amount of quality sleep each night. Many of us have also developed great stress management skills. It’s clear that the recovery process is just as important to a Physique Athlete as the process of breaking down their muscles while they workout.
For these reasons and many more, we prefer to keep our weekly routine and daily rituals while opting to ‘deload’ and simply dial back our intensity when we instinctively know our body requires it.
I’ve never been one to schedule time off from the gym after ‘x’ number of weeks. I found that with planned family vacations it kind of took care of itself. A week away with the family has always been the perfect way for me to recharge.
Frankly, I see no reason for the Physique Athlete to schedule a week off from the gym every 8, 12, or 16 weeks as some muscle building coaches suggest. There’s no evidence from what I can tell, to back up this recommendation.
I suggest that you allow life to take care of your off weeks. Hopefully your life completely ROCKS and allows you the opportunity to get away for a week or two throughout the year, to recharge your body and mind. Life will also throw opportunities your way for taking extra days off here and there, whether it be a family event, a holiday, or an outing with friends.
Still, I highly recommend that you build upon your keen sense of awareness. Strengthen your intuition muscle. Awareness is a Physique Athletes greatest asset. If you’re feeling tired and sore, use your strong intuition skills to help you decide whether it requires an extra day of rest or simply a light pump day in the gym.
When you have a strong passion for Physique Training as I do. When you follow a strategically designed Physique Training program such a the Aesthetic Muscle Plan, which manipulates training frequency and volume among other variables. When you are consuming an adequate amount of nutrient rich foods to fuel your muscles. When you are getting adequate quality sleep. When you are managing your daily stress. When you have planned vacations. There really is no need to schedule additional weeks off from the gym in order to recover.
Think of recovery more so on a daily basis rather than planning for it every ‘x’ number of weeks. The more you focus on the daily recovery process, the less time you’ll need to spend away from the gym.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts and look forward to hearing your experiences and approach to taking time off from the gym.
Sculpt a Masterpiece,
About The Author
Scott Tousignant, BHK is a Physique Coach and Elite Natural Bodybuilder with the UFE.
Scott specializes in helping regular men and women sculpt their body into a chiseled work of art.
Viewing training as an art form and your body as a sculpture is a simple shift in mindset that brings out the beauty in your ongoing body transformation.
The art of molding and chiseling an aesthetically pleasing physique with spectacular symmetry, proportions, and carved out detail is one of life’s most rewarding and fulfilling experiences…
…It’s an opportunity for self growth and self discovery that will impact every area of your life.
Learn more about Scott’s physique-focused training programs:
AMPlify Aesthetic Muscle Gains and Strip Away Stubborn Sacks Of Fat with AMP – Aesthetic Muscle Plan
Get a taste of Scott’s hardcore physique training programs with Physique Phreak
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