T Nation

Training with Jet Lag /Training After a Vacation Break

Salut Christian,

As we all know your rock-star status and frequent travelling across the world, I was wondering if you had any tips to offer regarding training after jet lag and/or training after some (involuntary) time off?

I am currently following a High-Frequency Training program (Pavel’s Grease the Groove principle) where I increase the weight after each block of 3 weeks during which I add an extra set on each exercise. Last week I was in British-Columbia where I didn’t touch weights for a week (but did lots of hiking), and when I returned home in Ottawa on Monday to begin another cycle of training with augmented weight, I was lacking energy during my morning workouts, which I usually don’t, and I’ve been having trouble lifting the amount of weight I usually had no real difficulty with in the week before my short break from training.

Granted, the 3-hour jet lag must have had an influence; but to this extent? Do you suggest that I lower the weight and volume and build my capacity back up to where I was at a week prior to leaving on vacation to let the body recover more? I’ve never experienced such a drop in energy and performance in my few years of weight training.

I’d be curious to know how you deal with interruptions in your training and travelling/jet-lag.


No way did the 3 hours jet lag have that effect, especially not going west to east. I’ve had up to 12 hours jet lags and 3 hours is nothing. It might affect you a bit for one day, but that’s it.

I did two trips to Europe in the past 6 weeks (still there in fact) and both times I had between 5 and 7 hours of jet lags and both times I had zero problem training the next day.

However dehydration might have been a problem. The more time you spend in the air, the more dehydrated you become and that can greatly affect your strength and it can take 1-2 days to get back to normal.

Now what is more likely happening is that you lost your neural edge by not training. Your whole system is based on making the nervous system super effective. By definition the GtG approach actually cause only a small amount of structural changes (muscle growth) and it happens VERY gradually. The progress is mostly due to neural adaptations, which occur VERY rapidly but are also lost very rapidly; whereas structural adaptations are maintained for much longer.

It was a big mistake to start a new cycle with more weight. When using a neural-dominant approach like GtG, a week without lifting basically sets you back 1 weeks. So you have to start 1 week “earlier” in your program, maybe even two. Starting a new block, with lowered neural adaptations yet using more weight is a bad idea.

Thanks for the insight! I honestly did not think one week off would make such a difference, or rather that I would lose the ‘neural adaptations’ I had acquired so quickly.

Anyway, lesson learned! Merci.

|On the bright side you will have regained them in a week or two. That’s the problem with only training the nervous system and not focusing on structural development: it works fast (and often get you addicted to this type of training) but it pretty much “forces” you not to take breaks. That’s why I believe that even those who do not want to build huge muscles and focus only on being more “functional” should include some structural/muscle-building work: to make adaptations longer lasting.

I see. Do you equate ‘strength training’ with training the nervous system, whereas ‘structural development’ corresponds to hypertrophy? My understanding of these concepts is probably flawed, so please do not hesitate to correct me or point me in the direction of articles/resources that explain these better.

And when you say that muscle-building work will make adaptations longer lasting, do you mean that increased muscle mass supports or helps activate the nervous system?

Finally, would your 915 program be a good example of a combination of functional/nervous system training with structural development?

Merci encore pour les éclaircissements.

Not necessarily … you can use methods that build structures while improving strength.

I’m talking about methods that lead to very little development in muscle tissue… Pavel’s GtG stuff. as much as I like it, simply doesn’t build muscle tissue past the beginner stage…, at least not to significant extent. The only people I’ve seen gain a lot of muscle on this type of training are beginners or people who just come off of a long period of very high (excessive) volume of work and are simply finally recovering.

Look. I understand that when you fall in love with a way of training you want to believe that it will give you everything you want. But look at all the athletes/people training in a similar way to GtG… few of them possess a physique that is above average. Look at elite olympic lifters… YES you have exceptions but most of them really aren’t very muscular or lean despite having taken the GtG principle to its extreme and lifting over their head more than what most people can deadlift.

And bad news for you, most of these olympic lifters are on performance enhancing drugs… so training their (similar to GtG) for YEARS, 6 days a week, developing themselves so that they can lift 400lbs + over their head, squat 600lbs+ and deadlift 600-700lbs and taking drugs they don’t have a better physique than that??? Why would doing the same thing, naturally, for less time, at a lower level of performance lead to better muscle mass gain?


I mean that strength produced is a function of both muscle mass and neural efficiency. Muscle mass is lost much more slowly than neural adaptations during a detraining period. Having more muscle can help reduce the negative impact of loss of neural adaptations.

It would be an example yes.

You can also compare the Bulgarian olympic lifting system and the Chinese olympic lifting system. Bulgarians basically ONLY do the two competition lifts (snatch, clean & jerk), front squats and back squats whilethe Chinese lifters do these but also lots of “bodybuilding work” like pulls, dips, biceps work, triceps work, rowing, chin-ups, should press, for higher reps.

Chinese lifters as a whole have a lot more muscle than Bulgarian/Armenian/Azerbajani lifters (who use a minimalist approach).

Thanks for the thorough answers. Things are much clearer now!