T Nation

Best Time to Take a Week Off?


#1

I'm just curious as to how many of you take a planned week off once in awhile. I know some coaches like it, one of those I believe is Dan John. I'd like to get a bit deeper into the question though. When do you guys find it really helpful to take a week off? When you're training heavy? Lots of volume? For example when I was doing 5/3/1 I originally just deloaded my main lifts.

However as time went on I came to value the reload week, and made myself earn it so I could actually deload and drop assistance work. Every few cycles I would take the week completely off and by the time it was over I was dying to get back on the gym. I've been dealing with some injuries for the past 8 months and have had to adjust my training greatly to work around them.

As such I find myself using much lighter loads, but more volume. Not a ton more, but more. As a result I haven't taken any weeks off, as I feel I haven't needed them. Besides it's discouraging to take a week off when you're already losing progress due to injuries. I got off on a tangent there, but moral of the story is I'm debating taking a week off but I'm insure how it will affect me negatively without really training as hard as I could be to begin with.

Regardless of my situation do you guys value a week off, and if you do more so during a period of high volume or training heavy?


#2

This was something I used to feel very strongly about when I was younger. Of course back in those days I wasn't as on top of my nutrition as I would eventually be, and I also would sometimes get swept up in the latest hyped concern ("if you don't take a full week off every 12 weeks, you'll overtrain and actually lose muscle!!!")

While I would come to value to practice of backing off a bit, maybe a simple day off possibly with some 'active rest', or even just the mental value of time off, I don't think it's absolutely essential to actually program weeks off (unless of course you're a PLer following a complex, lengthy program, or some crazy periodization).

That's not to say that a week off here and there will hurt the average gym goer, because no matter how much you may be truly convinced the mirror is telling you otherwise, you're not going to lose muscle in a week's time. I mean, as long as you don't go out of your way and do as much destructive stuff to your body as you can in that week -lol.

Unless I'm addressing a nagging injury (ie. my right wrist was killing me a short while ago, so I took 2 days completely off, then resumed, albeit with legs so I would have a 3rd day with no direct stress on my aching joint), my approach is simply to 'go through the motions', but with considerably less weight, and much less volume. My thinking is that I'm still getting blood and nutrients moving through everything, but I'm not actually giving myself stress that requires any real recovery.

I have a feeling we're gonna have some varied approaches in this thread, which is what you should expect. Everyone's recovery ability is different, as is their training intensity, volume, and out of gym/work/school/social stresses from day to day.

S


#3

Yes, I value them.

When to take them? Before you get hurt.


#4

Great reply stu! Yeah I think a week off is most important mentally, unless like you said you're a powerlifter that's really pushing some serious weight. And yeah it is interesting how during a week off you could swear that you're losing muscle mass, evdn though like you said that's pretty much impossible under normal conditions. I still consider myself to be relatively new to this, so its great to hear from guys who have been doing this for much longer. Its also gonna be interesting to hear the varied responses


#5

@waittz, I don't think anyone would argue with that approach


#6

No, they would just ignore it and take a week off after they tweak or hurt something hahahah

<---comming from the guy who tore his pec twice and had a hernia all within 6 months.


#7

Well said. And you're speaking to a guy who has been dealing wit a back injury for 8 months


#8

My new rule is if I start peaking, I back away. May sound counterintuitive but constantly pushing the limits can lead to overreaching which can lead to injury.

Once you start to view things as a marathon and not a sprint, everything changes. Goes for nutrition as well.


#9

I only take a week off whenever I am unable to continue taking weeks on. It's usually once or twice a year tops. Although as I get smarter about my training I'm hoping I won't even need that anymore. When I say get smarter about my training I'm mostly referring to me not chasing numbers and PR's as obsessively, which results in less missed lifts.

Volume is fine for me, but going to failure on heavy weight will wear me down eventually, and I'll have to take a week to let my body catch up.


#10

I usually just let life dictate for me when I take time off.

My wife is an organizational talent, so she'll have our vacation times and family times planned out a year in advance. I tend to organize my training program around that. So the week with my in-laws around Christmas is training-free time for me following a peaking mesocycle.

When we take a trip over a long weekend, I'll try to coordinate that with a deload week or at least with a relatively light week in my program so that I don't have to miss any workouts that I see as important. If we go for a longer trip, though, I'll likewise schedule my program so as to intentionally overreach beforehand and then reap the benefits of "active" recovery during the holiday.

In that way, I'll have taken a period of time off and will come back (hopefully) having supercompensated for the training stress prior to the break.

After many years I've come to the really obvious conclusion that I need to plan these things intuitively. Knowing when I will and won't be able to train in the foreseeable future is just a way of making sure that I won't have to skip important parts of my program and that I can fully enjoy the time off.


#11

I try and plan weeks off around vacations and holidays. It's an easy way of doing it I think.

For example, I'm coming off a 10 week cycle (6 week cycle + 4 weeks mini-cycle) this week with a week of vacation (off week) next week. The following week I'm going to try something new for a 6 week cycle. I think it's a good way to start fresh and change things up if that's your cup of tea so to speak.

I'll probably do the same thing possibly around Thanksgiving, but most likely around Christmas.


#12

If it is planned and not a "life induced" week off, then I would try be in a overreaching state or close to it so that I would actually need a week off.


#13

My father always told me that you should listen to your body. When your body tells you it needs rest, let it rest. You'll come back the next week stronger and more motivated. Same principle as pushing yourself on good days with a couple extra sets, and knowing to back off when you feel like shit.

So long as you're honest with yourself and aren't just looking for an excuse, this won't steer you wrong. Timing can't really be done. Your body will let you know and if you know your body, you'll understand the signals.