T Nation

Back Off Weeks

Anyone having any success with them? Anyone actually doing them? I had one about 6 weeks ago. I have been trying to have one since- but I seem addicted to hard training.

I was supposed to have one this week, but went to the weightroom for ‘a few easy sets’ and ended up doing ME bench equalling my PR, a half a dozen sets of chins and some other stuff. I then chucked the back-off week and worked out three days in a row. I need therapy!

I took one a couple of weeks ago to accommodate my finals schedule.

I managed to keep my nose in the books, and out of the gym, but man was I itchin’ to get back! No, not that kind of itch.

I kept going over and over my notes for the Velocity Diet. . . can you refer me to your therapist? :wink:

(Oh and to answer your question, yeah I guess it worked; I felt rested and relaxed.)

About five years ago (when I found T-mag), I attended the Biotest/T-mag seminar that included a session with Ian King. It was then that I realized that I needed to have “active rest” weeks at least every 12 weeks. So I began doing that. However, I always found myself getting burned out, sick or having joint pain after 3-4 weeks.

So what I’ve finally discovered after listening to my body all these years is that I need to reduce the volume of work every few weeks. Not necessarily take a week off every 3-4 weeks, but decrease the volume drastically.

All the programs I’ve done have me increasing volume or intensity from week-to-week. And I didn’t understand why I was unmotivated, in pain, tired, etc. after a few weeks. My fix was to change the program. Now, I realize that all I have to do is decrease the volume to about half of what I was doing. This allows me to recover and get back on track.

I don’t know why it took this long to figure it out (I just realized this within the last few weeks). But now that I know, I can tailor each program to fit me better, rather than having to change the program every 3-4 weeks.

“If I only knew then what I know now.”

Having “success” with a back off week is tough to quantify. If you are making progress in your training and not having any physiological issues(injuries, lack of motivation, etc.) it is really not necessary.

I find that my back off periods just sort of happen as a result of other things in my life where I’m too busy to keep my normal schedule. Say I miss a Fri. workout. That’s four days off from Wed. to Mon. If this happens once a month or so, that’s plenty of recuperative time.

What a week off for me does mostly is fix any lack of motivation.

The back off week has backing by the scientific community. The basic concept goes back to Hans Seyle’s General Adaptation Syndrome:a) the alarm stage:influence of stressors cause change, b)resistance stage: body responds to stimulus resulting in improved skill, and c)exhaustion stage: failure to respond due to lack of recovery or too much stimulation (Newton). This is the basic concept of periodization. Building in a “back off”, “unloading”, or “recovery” week allows for supercompensation to occur. These weeks can be active recovery (different activity), unloaded volume or intensity of the same activity, or a different type of training (CT). Check recent articles regarding this topic. As far as personal opinion, I build in an unloading week every 4th week. I am also a 35yr old Olympic weightlifter so training is fairy intense.

…excellent points Nate Dogg…after reading the article by Jack Reape a few months back, I started taking every fourth week off, and by “off” I mean that I will do under ten sets for every muscle

…on bench day, I’ll warm up and do combine test, and on other lifts I will just do really high reps…I don’t have any of the nagging shoulder and forearm problems that I had for about a year, and it really eliminates the “bad days” that we all experience because of overtraining

if you are considering taking an off week, don’t do nothing for the week, your strength will (not surprisingly) suffer

I have a problem, which many of you would probably love to have, in that I’m a teacher and a coach, with a pretty good weightroom only a 2 minute walk from my desk here. I have lots of gaps in my schedule between lessons or coaching to do my own training. Even on the days I plan to have off it’s hard not to go in and caress the steel! But Day 1 of my back-off week begins today! ( I may do some stretching and abs and GPP though)

They’re well worth it; trust me. The more experienced and strong you get, the more you need them.

It’s important to remember, though, that a backoff week isn’t just about doing nothing. In reality, it’s a great opportunity to look at other areas in which you can improve. You really just have to understand how to shift programming to provide a different, less daunting training stimulus to your body. I wrote up a comprehensive article on this a while back; TC has it now.

[quote]Nate Dogg wrote:
About five years ago (when I found T-Mag), I attended the Biotest/T-Mag seminar that included a session with Ian King. It was then that I realized that I needed to have “active rest” weeks at least every 12 weeks. So I began doing that. However, I always found myself getting burned out, sick or having joint pain after 3-4 weeks.

So what I’ve finally discovered after listening to my body all these years is that I need to reduce the volume of work every few weeks. Not necessarily take a week off every 3-4 weeks, but decrease the volume drastically.

All the programs I’ve done have me increasing volume or intensity from week-to-week. And I didn’t understand why I was unmotivated, in pain, tired, etc. after a few weeks. My fix was to change the program. Now, I realize that all I have to do is decrease the volume to about half of what I was doing. This allows me to recover and get back on track.

I don’t know why it took this long to figure it out (I just realized this within the last few weeks). But now that I know, I can tailor each program to fit me better, rather than having to change the program every 3-4 weeks.

“If I only knew then what I know now.”[/quote]

Nice post ND. I am going to begin incorporating back-off weeks but not total off weeks.

and now I know how to do italics :wink:

BFG

[quote]Eric Cressey wrote:
They’re well worth it; trust me. The more experienced and strong you get, the more you need them.

It’s important to remember, though, that a backoff week isn’t just about doing nothing. In reality, it’s a great opportunity to look at other areas in which you can improve. You really just have to understand how to shift programming to provide a different, less daunting training stimulus to your body. I wrote up a comprehensive article on this a while back; TC has it now.[/quote]

i wonder why we haven’t seen this article. i think it would be expedient for T-Nation to go the way of trying to further understand overreaching and supercompensation (as far as i can tell, those words aren’t even a part of this site’s vocabulary).

I’m having one right now. I’m just playing some sports and doing some cardio. Some sit-ups and pushups but nothing more strenuous than that. I’ll let you know how it goes. I’m enjoying the break although I’m starting to itch a little bit. The last 6 weeks of hard training were more taxing than I knew.

[quote]BFG wrote:
Nice post ND. I am going to begin incorporating back-off weeks but not total off weeks.

and now I know how to do italics :wink:

BFG[/quote]

LOL! Awesome! Now learn how to incorporate underlines and bold marks and other [i][b]fun[/i][/b] stuff too!

I prefer back off weeks (less volume, keep the intensity) every 2-4 weeks and then a full week off about every 10-12 weeks. Usually, those happen on their own (vacation, holidays, etc.).

Would Compensatory Acceleration Training (eg. Westside Speed Day) be appropriate for a back-off week? Or is this too stressful? What do the T-brethren think?

No, it wouldn’t be appropriate. One goal of dynamic effort training is to produce as much force as one can. Dynamic effort workouts shouldn’t be taken lightly just because the weight isn’t always near your maximum.

it could.

but, the main reason why i would think it wouldn’t be a good idea is because medicine ball work can be very intense. this shows that if speed work is done without a drop in volume it will not be any different than when regularly used.

although, speed work during supercompensation may work very well if one doesn’t do it during overreaching, but i could be wrong.

generally, during supercompensation volume is dropped so intensity (as well as speed in speed lifts) can be maintained.

keep in mind that in the link i sent you kelly baggett explained overreaching as feeling like you’re overdoing it and supercompensation/underreaching as feeling like you’re underdoing it.

so, if you feel like you’re underdoing it when you do speed work you’d by in line with those guidelines; speed work isn’t supposed to be like that, though.

anyway, the advice i will give is to do it the simplest way possible at first then go from there. by this i mean, drop the volume/frequency by 60% for one week.

I tried this technique a few weeks ago. It was the first time in over 4 years I’d managed to convince myself that the frustration of being away from the gym was worth the potential benefits. What convinced me? Eric Cressey’s fantastic article on the subject.

I went into the gym 3 days that week instead of 4, and each session I kept to a total of about 30 mins, warm up included. Light weights, with one high volume/ extra light session. I limited myself on each day to 1 exercise per major muscle group. I did light cardio on the off days and stretching, abs etc.

I didn’t get as much extra sleep as one might expect with the extra time, because I wasn’t anywhere near as tired at night.

I have to say though, I think there’s really something to it. I came at things the following week with a freshness I’d not noticed I’d been missing and I have to say that since that time I think I’ve been somewhat better off. I think Mr. Cressey does indeed know what he’s talking about.

To those of you considering this very wise and useful technique, I urge you to give it a try, at least between schedule changes, which is when I fit it in, though I’m considering working them in, perhaps once every 4 to 6 weeks in some form. Which roughly corresponds with schedule shifts.

Eric Cressey = smart guy

Deano -

If you were half as massive as I am, you would want to take a back off week. Nay - you would need a back off week just to give the weights a chance to cool off.

God I love being huge.

[quote]v_m wrote:
I tried this technique a few weeks ago. It was the first time in over 4 years I’d managed to convince myself that the frustration of being away from the gym was worth the potential benefits. What convinced me? Eric Cressey’s fantastic article on the subject.

I went into the gym 3 days that week instead of 4, and each session I kept to a total of about 30 mins, warm up included. Light weights, with one high volume/ extra light session. I limited myself on each day to 1 exercise per major muscle group. I did light cardio on the off days and stretching, abs etc.

I didn’t get as much extra sleep as one might expect with the extra time, because I wasn’t anywhere near as tired at night.

I have to say though, I think there’s really something to it. I came at things the following week with a freshness I’d not noticed I’d been missing and I have to say that since that time I think I’ve been somewhat better off. I think Mr. Cressey does indeed know what he’s talking about.

To those of you considering this very wise and useful technique, I urge you to give it a try, at least between schedule changes, which is when I fit it in, though I’m considering working them in, perhaps once every 4 to 6 weeks in some form. Which roughly corresponds with schedule shifts.

Eric Cressey = smart guy[/quote]

Cool; thanks! I’ve got another piece on tap that delves into the whole backoff week concept a bit further, so keep an eye out in the months to come. :slight_smile:

Simply put, if you aren’t taking a backoff week every 4-6 weeks, you aren’t doing everything possible to achieve optimal gains.

Stay strong
MR

[quote]Mike Robertson wrote:
Simply put, if you aren’t taking a backoff week every 4-6 weeks, you aren’t doing everything possible to achieve optimal gains.

Stay strong
MR[/quote]

I don’t think you can make a blanket statement like that. I don’t do that. I haven’t had any problems. I have gained more than average and have been lifting consistently for years now. There is a genetic component to recovery that needs to simply be accepted. If you don’t recover well, whether that be due to diet, your training or other factors, don’t assume that everyone falls into the same category.

How your entire routine is set up may very well be the problem. I usually only train one body part a day aside from training triceps with chest. I go hard and heavy and only back off if I’m not feeling well. I am also in and out of the gym in about 35min most days unless cardio is included. I see guys who spend up to two hours in the gym 5 days a week and they aren’t making gains that justify it. Those people definitely need to back off on their entire approach.