From "Muscle Builder"
Rest . . . REST . . . REST!
Ray Schaefer (1957)
STOP! Drop that barbell. Don't you dare take a workout today!
What's that? Ray Schaefer telling us not to exercise? Say Ray -- sure you're feeling okay?
Crazy? Not me! In telling you not to train and take a layoff, I'm giving you one of the soundest bits of bodybuilding advice ever put into print. If you follow it and pay attention to the other information in this article, you'll gain twice as fast. Here's why . . .
It's long been my contention that the aspiring bodybuilder usually trains too hard, too long, and too often. He's in a terrible hurry to get what he wants and he wants to get it FAST! One sure way of getting there is to never miss a workout and train as though his life depended on it. And -- by following just such a plan he can defeat himself more quickly than by almost any other exercise approach.
Now, don't get me wrong -- I'm the first to admit that you've got to work out hard, and regularly, if you are going to reach your goals. But -- you've got to take time out to rest, too. In fact, the more advanced you get in your training, and the closer you come to approaching your ideal, the more often you will need a day or two away from the weights, for your own long range benefit.
Let's see why this is so . . .
If you've been a bodybuilder for even a short period of time and have been studying the information steadily, you have a good idea how muscles grow and become stronger. But, it won't do us any harm to hit the main points again. Consider it a reminder.
During exercise, body components are broken down. It is used up, actually burned up by the body, to supply energy for the exercise. Even though your muscles may become flushed up and pumped during a hard training session and may measure more in this flushed condition than they did before you started the workout, this abnormally large tape measurement is strictly temporary. Just as soon as the muscles cool down again, in an hour or so, they wil actually tape a fraction of an inch smaller than they did before you took the workout. The loss in size represents somewhat that burned out tissues which have been utilized in the workout and which the body has not yet had time to rebuild.
Therefore, the direct reaction to a tough workout is twofold:
1) it brings about a temporary flushed up and abnormally larger muscle girth, and
2) after the pump leaves the part the area is actually smaller than it was before.
[Don't you just love science!]
Exercise, therefore, DOES NOT in itself increase muscle size.
But if not, then WHAT DOES?
The answer is, of course, REST.
It is during periods of rest and inactivity that the body processes can work most efficiently to rebuild broken down tissue. The actual amount of rest you need between workouts to permit the complete 'rebuilding' of muscle tissue 'used' during a workout will depend to a large extent upon the intensity of your training sessions, as well as your ability to recover from them.
However, just rebuilding your muscle tissue back to its former level is not enough for our purposes. This will merely bring you back to your previous level. You need some extra time of rest, beyond what is needed for repair, for additional tissue to be built. Only then will your muscles grow.
Rest, therefore, is at least as important as exercise for advances in size and strength. No wonder I advise you to lay off if you want to gain faster!
The only way that you c an proceed from a beginner to a more advanced lifter without hitting any sticking points in your training is to BECOME CONSCIOUS OF YOUR REST REQUIREMENTS. And -- in doing so -- you must recognize the fact that they will vary from time to time in accordance with the routine you are following and your working and living habits. You can train harder and need less time for rebuilding if you are employed at a more sedentary and less physically demanding job. Then, even though your mind may be taxed with working problems, physically you well be resting much of the day and the process of rebuilding will be going on, while you are at work. On the other hand, if you perform heavy manual work for a living, you will need more rest between workouts.
The amount of effort you expend in a workout is also an important factor. During the easy days of your training, when all you can manage is a couple of sets of about a dozen exercises a workout with moderate poundages, your tissue breakdown each session will not be too great. You will quickly rebuild and add to your muscle size and strength. Training three times a week on such a program allows for more than enough time for rest.
However, as you progress in your training and your muscles grow and become stronger, continued improvement depends on harder workouts. It is at that time that difficulties can often crop up. For, while it is true that the lifter will be stronger and better developed than when he was a beginner, and his muscles will need harder work for continued improvement, he will also need more rest that before to permit complete rebuilding.
Continuing indefinitely on a thrice per week schedule, while steadily increasing the intensity of the workouts, will throw the desired proportion of tissue breakdown and tissue rebuilding out of balance.
When this happens, the lifter starts losing his energy, his muscles become lean and drawn instead of growing full and larger, and workouts become a boring experience instead of an exhilarating pleasure. In simple terms, the lifter is "over-trained" and his muscles need an extended rest. If the condition becomes severe and the lifter has persisted in continuing to train for a long time even though his energy and interest is low, than a layoff of a month or more may be required to overcome his condition. If, however, he has been sensible and has quickly noted his lessening in training desire and interest, then a layoff from one to three workouts wil snap him out of the doldrums.
In each instance it was rest, and not exercise that broke through the sticking point and made it possible for the lifter to feel good again an benefit from his training. Therefore, as can now be clearly seen, REST is indeed one of the big keys you must use to reach your desired goals.
While a layoff from training for an appropriate period of time wil overcome the damage of over-training, a wiser plan, naturally, is to AVOID over-training entirely and in this way, never hit any sticking points in your progress. It is easily done if you follow these three simple suggestions.
As a beginner in training, follow a three-times-per-week program, performing about a dozen exercises, 2 sets of approximately 8-10 repetitions per set, using moderate weights. Such a plan will work ideally for at least your first three months, PROVIDED that in between your workouts you rest properly. You must reserve some of your physical efforts for your training routines, and through that period (providing your life is relatively stress free), you should not hit any sticking points at all.
After three or so months of training, however, you will be using heavier and heavier poundages in your workouts and you will also now be performing more sets of each exercise. You wil now be approaching the point where the breaking down might jump ahead of your rebuilding. Therefore, to preclude this possibility, regardless of whether you feel like it or not, take a ONE DAY LAYOFF every month. It would be best to miss a Friday workout, if you are in the habit of training Monday/Wednesday/Friday. By doing this you have a four day rest each month and should be able to sidestep and imbalance between workouts and rest.
Remember, YOU DO NOT BECOME "OVER-TRAINED" IN ONE OR TWO WORKOUTS. Rather, over-training is the result of consistently training harder than you should and resting less than necessary. It is ACCUMULATIVE IN NATURE and recognizable signs are rarely existent before a month or more of incorrect training takes place. However, once you do go stale, the damage is done and only a layoff or a week or longer will bring abut full recuperation. It is wise, therefore, not to wait for the distinct signs, but to lay off one workout every month at this stage of training.
After 6 months of training, you must handle the layoff situation a bit differently. You will likely by then be following split routines, more specialized programs, and using more advanced training techniques and methods. You will now be capable of breaking down an incredible amount of muscle tissue, which must be rebuilt following each workout.
However, we must not forget the truth that because you are now healthier and in better all around physical condition than you were as a beginner, and being that you are more conscious of your diet and are eating more nutritiously than before, you will be able to rebuild much quicker that you did in the earlier days of your training. This means that the step-up of exercise intensity need not necessarily be matched by a corresponding increase in rest. But you will have to increase your rest periods to some extent if you are to block out sticking points and staleness in training.
A good plan at this point is to miss TWO workouts every month for two months, and then the third month miss an entire week. Your are to continue this habit of layoffs as long as you train, once you have completed six months of training. If you do, then you will find that you have brought exercise intensity into balance with the rebuilding process, and you well advance more quickly than if simply continued to train hard week after week without pause.
During your layoff periods, you may lose a small amount of what you have gained. But, after such layoffs you will almost immediately regain this and be able to push even harder than if you had skipped the layoff period. And, since you wil establish a growth cycle in those two or three workouts which follow the layoff, you will go ahead faster and register greater gains.
While the above plan will suit the requirements of the majority and is the approach I personally follow, at some phase of your training it still may not entirely suit you. You may find yourself pressed into unusually hard physical or mental activity at your job, or experience stressful situations at home. Any number of a huge number of special conditions could dig into your energy stores and upset your usual pattern of rest and recuperation. When this happens, if you are wise, you will miss the extra workout here and there and secure extra rest. By using your head in these times you should be able to avoid hitting any major health or training snags.
So now you know why I told you to DROP THAT BARBELL and NOT take that workout today. You might be bordering on "over-training" if you have been working out consistently hard without layoff for several months. A complete rest of a workout or a week will do more for you at this point than continuing to train heavily will. It might make the difference between making good gains again or making none at all. Yes, rest can easily be the key to avoiding staleness.
Work out hard. Set your goals high. But never forget the truth that when you train hard, you need appropriate rest to recuperate. It's all about combining the right amount of training with the right amount of rest.