T Nation

Rest week vs. Rest Days

ok due to a back injury that occured monday (warming up during sumo deadlifts), i have been forced to take a week of lifting. ITS KILLING ME!! now, i know ian king says to take a week off now and again, but charles poliquin says that a weekend rest will help you recover as much as a weeks rest would. he says to only take the week off on “sick” days (when you are injured or sick). ian, on the other hand says that a weeks rest can be taken every three weeks if needed. www.testosterone.net/articles/171cheat.html. now i know its just my head messing with me (ie the fat/skinny syndrome) and i know i have to let my back heal so i dont further injur it, but are so many weeks off really necessary? 3-4 days here and there i can understand (i do this), but i think you should save the weeks off only when you are sick or injured. any thoughts?

Only thing I can go off of is personal experience and in College I took 6 weeks off for christmas break. When I started working out again I had the most amazing gains ever. I have yet to try this again as it “messes with my head” too much to take off more than a week.

I’m convinced it depends on the individual. I have some some do excellently with the breaks, and others do terribly, being set back very far by breaks like three weeks, and a little bit even by one week. I’m in the latter category myself. Beyond one week is definitely harmful for me, whereas half a week from time to time does no harm and is appropriate if there’s good reason.

I just got off of my first off week in a while(sometime in the winter). I had taken weekends off every month or so, 3 days off every couple months, but decided after 2 months of pretty intense summer training i would give the whole week of rest another try. 2 Weeks after the off week i honestly felt refreshed, and more “ready to go” at every workout. So the bottom line for me was, after the off week, i had much better workouts, in the end hopefully resulting in better gains, and more importantly less injuries…Oh and if you are injured then you definitly should continue iwth your week off like you said. The whole reason i took off was that my friend pulled his hammy 6 days before he left for football mini camp, after not taking any off weeks for 6 months, dont want that to happen to me…As for the whole “skinny/fat” theory i had that happen to me 3 days into my off week, my mom and dad both looked at me like i was crazy saying i looked exactly the same or better, so its all in your head. Deuce

Although taking a weekend off definitely helps refreshen your mental and physical energy reserves taking a longer period off works by different mechanisms. Taking a layoff of longer than a week allows your muscles to slightly become deconditioned which will enable them to respond to loads and intensities they might not have responded to were you to keep on pounding them every day week in and week out without much of a break. (this is the reason for the off weeks in the HST program) Also a longer off period will bring about the reformation of FT IIB & IIC fibers…which convert into slower contracting IIA fibers during regular training of any sort. I’d say if you’re going to take more than 3 days off you might as well make it 10 days that way you get the best of both worlds. I also believe you can still reap the benefits of a more extended layoff by going into the gym and performing light concentric only activities to get some muscle pump and mental stimulation. (eccentric loading will negate the IIA to IIB&C fiber transformation) Also, activities such as swimming and other pool related work are great as they allow a good workout without any eccentric stress. I’ve yet to see a regular trained individual take a planned 10 days or so off and not break through any strength or explosive power related records within 3 weeks of training again.

I look always look forward to the week or two week time where I avoid the gym and concentrate on art. It’s a nice “mental” break as well. Which I think is just as important as the physical vacations.

JC#10 - you ARE injured. And you more than likely do deserve this break (most of us on the forum DO deserve breaks). Enjoy your week off. Make it a "active" vacation - explore other interests.

i have to admit that after a 4 day break, i kicked ass in the gym. and i know for a fact that the fat/skinny syndrome is just my head playing games, but hey if i keep complaining someone please give me a tampon!! basically i just tell myself to sit the week out and rest my back (it turned out to be a pinched nerve about .5 inch about my left glute, and a strained ligament in the middle of my lower back) than hit the iron now, injure my back worse, and have to sit out 3 months! worst case scenario im guessing is that im a week behind what i was. plus, im so ready to hit the weights that i know i will just kill everything iron in my path on monday.

I took this week off nursing a sprianed hand. I cant wait to get back in, but this is the second time I have had this problem in the past few months and I wanted to give it ample rest. I some times dont train a body part in a given week, e.g legs if I have been doin lots of cardio, but feel great when I get back to it.

i think the reason it messes with my head so much is that due to the injury i really cant do much of any kind of exercise, which makes me feel like a couch potato. although its feeling much better, and i should be near 100% by monday.

I’m in the same boat as JC at the moment. Injured my back earlier this week, and I’m having to sit it out for now and heal up. Unfortunately, I’m also in Bill’s latter group, who doesn’t respond well to time off. If I’m off for as little as a month, my strength goes in the shitter and I lose size like you wouldn’t believe. I guess even after all these years, my body still wants to be thin rather than holding muscle.

Interesting, Kelly, I’ve never heard anything about fiber conversions of the sort you mentioned. Why would this happen? More specifically, why would conversion from B & C to A fibers occur if your workout was one centered around power development?

The IIB & IIC fibers can also be called “lazy man fibers”. They are thought to exist in man for use in rare occasions…such as being chased by a bear etc. Couch potatoes will generally have more of these faster contracting fibers then athletes. This is because, when recruited, they change or take on characteristics of the slower contracting, more endurance oriented IIA fibers. Why this occurs I don’t know but I do know that after undergoing a loading period and having them convert to IIA and then following this with a period of detraining there is an overshoot of IIB & IIC fibers above and beyond the # or % that occured prior to training. So in other words if you had 20% FT before training then after 6 months of training had only 10% and then took time off you would likely see an increase up to 30% or so.

The fiber conversion issue is an interseting one to figure out. In the data I’ve seen, olympic weightlifters will convert most if not all of there type IIB fibers to type IIA. Olympic weightlifters must be the most explosive athletes in the world. There must be a reson the type IIB and IIC fibers convert to type IIA. So while I believe that a 7-10 layoff will allow for the deconditioning and thus a future supercompensation, I’m not sure I see the relevance for the conversion of type IIA fibers to type IIB or IIC fibers. Any ideas on why this would be an important event? Also, what is the time frame for this conversion? Thanks again!

I guess the IIB to IIa fiber conversion is just the body trying to adapt and spare energy and maintenance as the explosive fiber recruitment is quite costly on the metabolic level. About a month ago I looked at all the studies on this via medline and most of the detraining studies used detraining periods that were probably too long to be of much relevance to athletes…However, if I remember correctly there was one study showing that unloading of the soleus muscle in astronauts showed a metabolic overshoot of IIB and IIC fibers in a time period of something like 12 days. If interested try running a search “slow to fast muscle fiber transformation” on medline. I am only guessing that 10 days is still enough to see some benefit of this IIB overshoot. Quite a few powerlifters I’ve known have seen good strength increases in the competition lifts by laying off 10 days prior to a meet. Fred Hatfield says that when he was competing he would lay of 10 days prior and his strength would increase by as much as 20% which is an astronomically high number, especially when talking about a max squat of over 1000 lbs. What’s also interesting is that neural recruitment and skill can make up for negative muscle fiber transformations. In a study of competitive sprinters during the competitive season IIB and IIC fibers decreased, yet their sprint times still improved due to improvement in skill and neural firing. I see this entire topic one that has yet to be explored and fully taken advantage of by most of the athletic community. Hopefully in the future sports science will have figured out how to best implement and utilize this information.