Most all of us who are serious about their fitness pitch a fit when we miss a day in the gym. We have a plan in place and missing a day can be quite unsettling. Are we going to lose all of our gains? Are we going to get fat now? As it turns out, MOST of us are training too often as it is, and we will actually gain more from an inadvertent few days off of the gym.
This is true for a few reasons:
It shocks your system – Not unlike a cheat day on your diet, suddenly not training forces an adaptation of your body to no longer “expect” the same training it is used to…..and when you’re trying to push your body past the point where it WANTS to be, unpredictability is a great thing. Our bodies are incredibly efficient to adapting to any environmental factors, be it diet, activity, sleep patterns etc. Even though we may be varying our workouts, if we indeed train on a very regimented schedule for many weeks, the body comes to expect this training, and being the homeostasis machine that it is, has adapted to the best of its ability to do the workouts as efficiently and effortlessly as possible. In other words, it is no longer “adapting” to the workouts, which is another way of saying it is no longer building muscle. A few days off in a row can leave the body guessing again, and prime it for growth once more when the flood gates open.
Recovery!- Despite the hardcore attitude of “overtraining is a myth”, it is scientifically proven to a 100% degree of certainty. It is not so much muscle recovery that is needed, rather, it is the central nervous system, joints and more…..With repeated intense workouts, the central nervous system (CNS) is strained and it downregulates itself, which means it reduces output. Not unlike a car with a speed governor to in essence protect the driver from going too fast and hurting himself or others, the CNS has a very similar system called a Central Governor. The Central Governor is a network of feedback from the body that will downregulate muscle output when the brain determines the body is at risk of chronic overexertion. Working through t]a down regulation of the CNS will essentially keep you in a perpetual state of decrease muscle performance. An easy way to determine if you are down-regulated is to take 5-7 days off from the gym. If when you come back, you are actually stronger than when you left, you were over training. Conversely, if you aren’t…the chances are you weren’t working out hard enough.
The mental aspect – Not only does our body need to recover, but a few days off from the gym can restore motivation and drive to excel. Regardless of how motivated you are…doing the same thing day in and day out takes a toll mentally. A few days off to reflect and regroup can be a boon to your training success.
As a generality, a few days off every several weeks is almost always a good idea to increase gains. This varies greatly from person to person, of course, but really no one is exempt to reaping benefits from time off.