Most of us will treat a week off from the gym as just that: a week away, usually indulging in some bad food, and giving our joints, tendons, and ligaments a break.
I have a quote I tell almost every client:
“Don’t schedule time off. Life will do it for you.”
In other words, life will find a way to keep you away from the gym, your workouts, and anything else that has you on a productive schedule toward your physique goals. Things like family matters, injuries, sickness, natural disasters, or anything else you can imagine will surface and take their toll.
So I say train, maintain, and keep on the gain train until you either experience one of these episodes or you simply start getting burned out and desperately need a break of sorts.
How to take a break
Aside from the obvious scenario of enduring some sort of serious setback such as a sickness or injury there are some loose rules I follow when I’m in need of a break due to a muscle strain or the all-too familiar burn out we all experience.
If I’m just burned out, my body isn’t getting the pump I want in the gym, I feel flat and low on energy, my appetite has waned, and/or I’ve just lost my enthusiasm to show up to the gym I’ll take some deliberate action.
I will take one of two options. Option one, I will take around three or four days off from the gym completely. It’s not a week, which feels too long to me. It’s just enough time to start missing the gym by day four or five and regain that excitement and enthusiasm to get back to work.
Option two would be taking a week or two to downshift my training. That is to avoid taking any sets to muscular failure, reduce my volume and load a bit, and not pour on the intensity so much. I get in, get a little pump, eat a little more, and get on with my day. In other words, each workout isn’t taken as a step forward in progress, it’s seen as maintenance only. The pressure is off.
What I did on my week off
This past week I took a bit of a hybrid approach to those listed above. I started to battle a severe tightness in my shoulder which spread to my other shoulder and neck areas. My range of motion was terrible and I knew instinctively that it was something I shouldn’t fight through. It was time to take some time off.
But I wasn’t ready to take a break.
I decided to give my upper body a full week’s rest. No training from the waste up at all.
Instead I focused on lower body only for that week. In order to train more days than not I decided to split my leg training into two days working everything twice. It was broken down like this:
Tuesday: Calves and hamstrings
Saturday: Calves and hamstrings
Each workout looked a little like this:
Leg extension 3-4 x 20
Leg press 3 x 20
Box squat or Bulgarian split squat 3 x 12-15
Standing calf raise 3 x 10-16
Seated calf raise 3 x 10-16
Seated leg curl 3 x 10-16
Standing single leg curl (on leg extension) 3 x 10-16
Romanian deadlift with dumbbells (optional) 3 x 12
This enabled me to keep training all the while taking a break where it was needed most. Additionally, I was able to keep training most days of the week and not bury myself with a ton of volume and intensity each workout since I split my leg training up like this.
What’s next? Well, with much-needed rest my shoulder feels better and I will be posting on here soon about what split and routine I’ll go to next.