Have you ever had those days in the gym where nothing feels right? The 70’s feel like 100’s, heavy squats feel unstable and painful, and you just end up leaving with an ego that is more beat up than Mickey Rourke’s face.
It may be time for you to establish an active recovery week. This means straying away from the 80-90% intensity you’ve been training in for months and deciding that it’s time to focus on rest and giving your joints a break.
Now, this doesn’t mean you need to stay out of the gym entirely. Unless you are plagued with fatigue and injury, I always recommend continuing to lift, just with a different outcome in mind.
During proper active recovery weeks with my clients, I increase the reps and lower the weights. Instead of working in an 8-12 rep range, we may decide that 12-15 reps is better, focusing a bit more on time under tension and really “feeling” the muscles engaging.
This all may seem a bit Tracy Anderson to you, but I promise if you take one day every 6-8 weeks off of your program and take care of your joints, muscles, and adrenals, your body will thank you.
Take in this scenario:
Have you ever just been too busy some weeks to hit the gym? The intense feelings of guilt overwhelms you and you feel like you’ve lost all of your gains that you’ve worked so hard for over the last few years. Monday evening comes, and you decide to get back to it. You start lifting, and everything feels pretty light. You crank out a few more sets on your bench press (obviously Monday is chest day, brah) and feel
a great pump, but not the dull shoulder ache you felt the twice a week before your unintentional break. Well, you essentially gave your body some time to recover and repair. Your body is great at building new muscle and adapting to resistance based stimulus… but only if it’s given the time to.
If you are at the gym 5-6 days a week and lifting heavy, it doesn’t matter how much you rest between workouts; your body is going to have a hard time catching up, and unfortunately, I’ve seen a few injuries that start to come out of the shadows this way.
“But Bryan, my muscles feel great! I’ve been lifting heavy for years with no ill effects!” Fantastic, but it’s not the muscles that take all of the force of loaded repetitive motion. Think about your connective tissues; ligaments, tendons, etc. What about your nervous system? The benefits of active recovery weeks are well documented.
If lighter weights aren’t your thing, maybe you can play around with a less intense body weight circuit for a week or two. Checking your ego at the door is something that I know, even personally, is hard to do. But we both know that you aren’t lifting for everyone else in the gym, you are lifting for you. If you want a couple more decades of healthy, strong lifts, take my advice. It’s not about giving your muscles a break completely for seven days, you should consider it more fine-tuning than anything.
Think about your car. If you got in and just brought the RPM’s to 7000 every day you drove it, that car will break down. Coast around 2500-3000 for a week or so and maybe it will last you a bit longer.
This is the only body you’ve been given. I know that you want to be the biggest and baddest man/woman in the gym, but is it really worth it if your shoulders are shot? Or if you need to Ronnie Coleman your hips in another ten years? Give your body a deserved break and it will thank you by producing fantastic, beautiful gains that will stick with you until you are a beautiful, symmetrical corpse.