Lifting weights takes its toll on your body, so allow yourself some time to recover.
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Taking a week off from the gym might seem like the last thing you should do when training for bigger lifts and a better physique. A week off, however, could be exactly what you need to get bigger and stronger. This concept is known as "deloading" and involves taking a rest week or going slightly lighter on all your exercises to give your body time to recover.1.
Plan your rest week to benefit your schedule. You might have an upcoming vacation or a break from work where you won't want to or won't be able to train. By scheduling your week off from exercise at the same time, you can ensure that you're making the most of your time off.2.
Schedule a rest week after a competition, advises trainer and bodybuilder Lee Hayward. This can provide a much needed break after a prolonged period of hard training or dieting. This principle could also apply in other situations. For example, you may have to diet down for a photo shoot and could take a week off after that.
Avoid stressing out. One of the big issues trainers have with taking time off is thinking they'll lose their gains and regress. You needn't fret though, notes personal trainer Mark McManus. One week isn't long enough for your muscles to atrophy, and any loss of strength is only temporarily. You'll be back to your normal strength levels within one to three days of starting back.4.
Concentrate on mobility work, stretching and foam rolling during your off week. Neglecting these aspects of training can lead to poor performance, in general, yet many say they lack time to stretch, get sports massages or perform self-myofascial release with a foam roller or lacrosse ball. The deload week is a perfect time for doing this though, writes powerlifter and strength coach Matt Rhodes on the Elite Fitness Systems website. With a reduced training schedule, you have no excuse for not spending time on mobility work.5.
Reduce your training intensity. You may feel that you don't need a complete rest and that simply going lighter for a week is a better option. In his book "5/3/1," powerlifter and coach Jim Wendler recommends performing three to five sets of five reps at 50 percent of your one-rep maximum on your main lifts and doing less assistance work. (For instance, if your usual chest workout involves five sets of five bench presses with 200 pounds and four sets each of incline dumbbell presses, dips and flyes, you might do three sets of five bench presses with 135 pounds and two sets each of dumbbell presses, dips and flyes, using slightly lighter weights than usual.6.
Add in some light cardio. Low-intensity cardio -- such as jogging, brisk walking or swimming a few laps at the local pool -- can keep you active while still giving your muscles a chance to recover during your week off.7.
Focus on nutrition. A deload week isn't an excuse to neglect a healthy diet. Your body is repairing during your rest week, so give it the fuel to do so properly. Stick to your regular diet, even though you're not following your usual schedule.
- Ease back into your training when you re-start. You may wish to take the first two or three sessions a little lighter so your body gets used to working hard again.