Take Time Off and Get Bigger!!
Muscles don’t grow while training, muscle grow while you are resting. The body needs time to recover, rebuild torn muscles, and recuperate from the damages done by resistance exercise. Periods of exercise stress must be followed by periods of rest so the body can overcompensate for and adapt to the stress. The problem that most people have is psychologically, they can’t take time off from the gym. Most people feel like taking time off is a sign of being lazy or not being hardcore, but taking time off from the gym can rejuvenate your passion for training. Here are some studies to show that taking time off is not going to completely kill your gains. In 2013, researchers compared the effects of a periodic resistance training program with that of a continuous resistance training program on muscle size and function. The continuous resistance training group trained continuously over a 24-week period, whereas the periodic resistance training group performed three cycles of 6-week training (or retraining), with 3-week detraining periods between training cycles. After an initial 6 weeks of training, increases in the muscle size of the triceps brachii and pectoralis major muscles and maximum isometric voluntary contraction of the elbow extensors and 1-RM were similar between the two groups. The results indicate that 3-week detraining/6-week retraining cycles result in muscle hypertrophy similar to that occurring with continuous resistance training after 24 weeks. Athletes should not be fearful to take time off from the gym as the previous study showed that taking up to three weeks off was not detrimental. In fact in many instances results upon re-training after a week or two of detraining exceeded previous bests. A new study shows that a week or two is OK, but after 5 weeks there are major declines in performance.
Taking 5 Weeks Off Results in Complete Loss
A new study examined the effects of 3 and 5 weeks of detraining after 14 weeks of resistance training at a specific time of day on performances during the squat jump and the maximal voluntary contraction. Thirty-one healthy male physical education students were randomly assigned to either a morning training-group (07:00 and 08:00 am), an evening training-group (5:00 and 6:00 pm) or a control group. Participants then performed eight test sessions (twice per day, at 07:00 am and 5 pm) over the course of four phases: during pre-training, immediately post-training, and after 3 and 5 weeks of detraining. During the first 12 weeks of resistance training, participants performed 3 sets of 10 repetitions to failure (10-RM) for 4 exercises (squat, leg-press, leg-extension and leg-curl, with 2 minutes of recovery between each exercise); during the last two weeks, training intensity increased to 8-RM with 3 minutes of recovery between each exercise. At the end of the study, 14 weeks of training at a specific time of day blunted the diurnal variation of maximal voluntary contraction and squat jump in the morning training group. This “specialization training effect” means that the morning training group which trained in the morning showed the most significant performance gains when they were tested at 7:00 am, the exact opposite was the case for the evening training group who had been training in the evening all along. The improvement in performance brought about by resistance training was partially retained after 3 weeks of detraining (unless training had taken place at a non-habitual time of day) but was lost after 5 weeks of detraining. There was no effect of the time of training on core temperature. So the study is showing that you can technically take three weeks of training off without any major declines in performance, but after 5 weeks, you start losing everything, so periodic layoffs are not such a bad thing.
Continuous Training Results in Anabolic Decline
Many of the hardcore lifters may feel like taking time off is a sign of laziness, but some studies have shown that long term training without a break can lead to anabolic resistance. Researchers randomized a group of male Sprague-Dawley rats to four groups (+control) performing either continuous training (1 session, 12 session, 18 sessions) or continuous training + detraining, in the form of 12 sessions of exercise every followed by 12 days of detraining. The exercise itself was mimicking a leg-training regimen, in the course of which, the leg muscle was trained by stimulating 5 contractions, with a 5-s interval between contractions, per set for 5 sets (5-min rest intervals in-between the sets). Since this study was done in rats, they basically used electronic stimulation of the muscle to mimic training. So you would expect the continuous training routine to have greater gains and lead to be a more anabolic response in muscle. Much to the surprise of the researchers, the chronic resistance training protocols lead to statistically significant reductions in the post training anabolic pathways p70S6K and rpS6 expression, which were restored in response to the detraining protocol. The very intriguing information about the decline and restoration of the signaling proteins from detraining from this study provides supports the longstanding hypothesis that continuous exercise blunts its own growth response. These results clearly suggest that regular detraining periods or periods of taking time off from the gym could could prevent downward spiral of chronic overtraining, as it will also “reset” the anabolic response to a given workload.
Chtourou, Hamdi, et al. “Post-resistance training detraining: time-of-day effects on training and testing outcomes.” Biological Rhythm Research just-accepted (2015): 1-22.
Ogasawara R1, Yasuda T, Ishii N, Abe T. Comparison of muscle hypertrophy following 6-month of continuous and periodic strength training. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2013 Apr;113(4):975-85.
Ogasawara R, Kobayashi K, Tsutaki A, Lee K, Abe T, Fujita S, Nakazato K, Ishii N. mTOR signaling response to resistance exercise is altered by chronic resistance training and detraining in skeletal muscle. J Appl Physiol. 2013 Jan 31.
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