I’ve often shared with you that, the more I learn about training, I understand that less training—not more—is often needed to effectively build muscle. That is true, however, only if you are training with enough intensity and efficiently. Over the years, I’ve often documented how dramatically I’ve cut back on the number of sets I perform during my workouts—and how beneficial I think doing so has been for my development.
No matter how much you love to train, you must take time off. More is not better in this case. Taking time out of the gym is very difficult for me. As my mother might say, taking the necessary time out of the gym my body needs to rest and recuperate is like “pulling teeth.” I have now decided to take an entire week off from training every seven weeks. Paul Delia was the person who stressed the importance of taking time off. He once said to me, “Skip! You’ve accomplished more over the last several weeks than most guys do in several months. Can you imagine just how much you’ll grow next week if you take that time off? You must listen to your body. You must be smart about your training. Your body tells you to take some time off.”
I think the biggest challenge I had when taking a week off from training in the past was that I didn’t want to waste any time that I could be stimulating additional muscle mass. Over time, however, I’ve learned that your body doesn’t grow when you train, it grows when you are outside of the gym recuperating and recovering. A week off from training gives your body more time to do the things it must to build muscle.
Now, my biggest challenge is a mental one! I’ve always had a difficult time distinguishing the difference between “listening to my body” and being mentally weak. I absolutely hate getting out of my structured daily patterns. It always feels so good to start my day off with a heavy and intense training session. Even outside of the gym, my most productive days seem to always start with a productive workout. I also hated to lose any momentum I had created as I was striving to reach my bodybuilding goals. In the past, I felt that when I took a week off from training, I’d lose my flow. I‘d lose my edge, so to speak. Can you relate to those feelings?
The truth of the matter, for me at least, was I was losing my edge when I went into those long stretches of time without taking a break from weight training. Of course, I didn’t realize it. I thought I was a training warrior. I thought every week of training I was investing was my very best week of training ever! That obviously wasn’t true all the time, but that’s the way I conditioned my mind to think. I believe that mindset is quite common for a person who is working extremely hard in their bodybuilding endeavors. So, if you feel this way from time to time, you are not alone.
I no longer even try to instinctively figure out when I should take time off or when I should continue training. Just like clockwork, I always take a week off every seven weeks—regardless of how I feel mentally or physically. This time off strategy has worked extremely well for me. I suggest you try doing the same.