This week’s post is dedicated to the Recovery Week. If you’re a gym regular, I hope you are already utilizing recovery weeks to optimize your training. If you’re not, stay tuned to learn about the benefits.
It seems counter-intuitive, but scheduling a week where you work with half of your normal weight, or break from the gym entirely, is actually extremely beneficial for your long term strength goals. Lifting heavy weights consistently is great for increasing muscle strength, bone density, hormonal health, mental well being and maintaining healthy body composition. It also puts a huge strain on your central nervous system and can lead to over training if you’re not careful.
A well timed recovery week allows your body to re-group and prepare itself for another cycle of heavy lifting and strength gains. I guarantee you that people who religiously take their recovery weeks experience greater strength gains and less injuries than the people who never back off. It is simply not possibly for your muscles to recover when they are constantly put under intense stress. You will either see a strength plateau (or worse, decline!) or experience an injury.
Now, no one is saying that recovery weeks are fun, but they are necessary. Personally I have a love/hate relationship with my recovery weeks. Often by the time they roll around I am physically burned out and in dire need of a rest. Mentally, I feel like I’m slacking off by lifting such light weights in the gym.
I plan to take a recovery (or de-load) week once every 5-6 weeks. During this week I go through the normal movements that I would during a regular workout, but with half of the working weight. For example, my current squat is 170# x 5 reps but during my recovery week I would work up to 85# x 5 reps. This is an excellent week to practice form and add in some pre-hab movements to keep your muscles and tendons feeling their best. If you are currently doing HIIT (high intensity interval training) as part of your regular weekly routine, skip that during your recovery week as well. HIIT is an excellent way to burn fat, but it is also very taxing on the central nervous system. Opt for a short jog or brisk walk instead during this week and get back at it next week!
Enjoy your R&R!