Last week I finished a training program I had been doing for 12 weeks. Taking into account that I had been training without a break for months before this, it was a long time to be pushing myself to constantly lift heavier and heavier. So before I start my next program I’m completing a two week recovery stage. Rather than taking two weeks off completely, I’m doing four days a week of light training loads – either bodyweight exercises or low weights for high reps (between 20 and 50 reps per exercise).
I’ve gone from doing five sets of six to eight exercises per day, to three sets of four exercises. My rests have dropped from 60 seconds (not exactly very long to begin with, but hey) to 30-45 seconds. One of the days is purely made up of supersets with no rest, so my workouts feel more like cardio than weight lifting as my heart rate is so elevated.
Why do a recovery program?
The purpose of doing an active rest program like this is to keep my muscles working while giving my joints and tendons time to recover. Lifting for five days a week, as well as doing cardio every single day, puts a lot of strain on the body. It’s common to actually become weaker from training continually without taking a break. It prevents your body from reaching a plateau and lowers the risk of injury.
If you schedule a break, you will come back with more strength and energy than before. It is recommended that you enter what is called a deload phase every two or three months. Unless it is planned, it often doesn’t happen until people overtrain and then reach a point mentally where they no longer look forward to weight lifting.
It’s much better to act before you get to this stage, where you still enjoy your training. I don’t think you necessarily need to make a clean break from any kind of training so that’s why a low intensity, deloading program like mine is good for those who don’t want to take time away from the gym.
Here’s an example of what I did on leg day. All the exercises are done for three sets, using a weight that’s just heavy enough to activate your muscles:
Walking lunges x50
Back squats x 20
Leg curls x 20
Alternating step ups (max in 1 minute)
Sumo squats x 30
Apart from increasing the number of reps, I’ve also been doing the easy modifications for exercises such as push-ups and bench dips, by putting my hands on a bench and bending my knees, respectively.
It’s easy and I love it! None of the sessions take longer than 25 minutes, which is a nice change from my usual hour-long workouts. I’ve been using the extra time in the gym to foam roll, which has left me in crazy amounts of pain – especially in my calves! It’s a great program for someone who is just starting out and learning about form. Performing a high number of repetitions builds up muscle endurance which will allow you to become stronger in time.
I’m sure I will be glad to get back into heavy lifting when the two weeks are done, but right now I’m just happy to be doing something less intense. I often see circuit-style workouts on other blogs that I would like to do, and now’s my chance to do some of those exercises.
I have no idea what’s coming next. I blindly put my faith in my trainer. What I’m hoping is that he’s going to give me a powerlifting-style workout with lots of pasta in between! Yeah, very unlikely…
Do you take recovery breaks in your training?