Working Out During An Off Day

kettlebell press

The average, dedicated person trains usually about four to five days a week. Depending on the type of program they are following, they may have up to three rest or “off” days. Most people simply eat and rest a lot during this time specially if it’s recommended by their program. But I have a different approach to it specially because my workouts revolve mostly around training.

How different? Well, I clean my house everyday but I exert extra effort during my “off day”. I clean my cars, use the vacuum cleaner, and simply make sure the house is as clean as I could make it in the span of around two hours. My point here is not to clean your house everyday (but it’s a pretty good idea if you can manage like thirty minutes of it) but rather to stay active even during your “off day”. I’m not saying you should totally ditch the program you’re using but rather to consider having an active “off day”.

off day
Cleaning my home gym

It doesn’t have to be as mundane as doing house chores, though. Perhaps you should try doing light cardio or playing a sport during these days or if you’re really passionate with your training, why not get the lightest weight you have (lightest plates, dumbbells, or kettlebells) and do the same training routine you usually do on your active days.

Now you must be asking: Why would I do something as easy as that? Of course, once past a certain weight who would be insane enough to go back, right? Well if you consider the principle of Greasing The Groove, which Pavel defines it as the following:

Muscle failure is more than unnecessary – it is counterproductive! Neuroscientists have known for half a century that if you stimulate a neural pathway, say the bench press groove, and the outcome is positive, future benching will be easier, thanks to the so-called Hebbian rule. The groove has been ‘greased’. Next time the same amount of mental effort will result in a heavier bench. This is training to success! The opposite is also true. If your fails to perform your brain’s command, the groove will get ‘rusty’. You are pushing as hard as usual, but the muscles contract weaker then before! To paraphrase powerlifting champ Dr. Terry Todd, if you are training to failure, you are training to fail.

He further likened it to how a tennis player perfects their serves:

How do you improve your tennis serve? Do you hit the court once a week and keep on serving until your balls could not knock out a sick mosquito and you can barely lift your arm? No, you come to the court as often as possible, ideally more than once per day, and slam those little yellow balls until you feel that your serves are about to slow down.

Another principle to consider would be what they call as the SAID principle or Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand. The SAID principle is similar to GTG in which it is defined as improving on skill sets that you do repeatedly. The perfect example would be the quote on how to press a lot:

To Press A Lot, You Must Press A Lot

kettlebell press

And it’s true on so many levels. You want to get better at swings then swing more. Push ups? Then do more push ups. You want to perfect the pistol squat then do more pistol squats. It’s simply allowing your brain to get used to the activities you routinely do that it adjusts the body’s functions to make them easier next time. You don’t always have to get to the next weight as fast as possible. You simply have to have a level of ease when using one weight set and you’ll soon realize the next weight won’t be as difficult than you originally thought. The opposite is also true in which if you ever omit a certain skill for a long period of time, your brain will eventually lock that skill in a safe. The good thing is that when you decide to tap on that skill again, you won’t take as much time to perfect it as you did the first time. Think of it as not driving a stick or not riding a bicycle for years.

Going back to our “off day” training, suffice to say there is plenty of reason that supports the idea of lightweight training. But when should you exactly train it? Could it be done during any “off day”? There isn’t a perfect routine but I found this which is a good guide on how to apply the SAID principle during your “off day”.

The article specifically caters to kettlebell training but it can also be translated to other forms of workouts. As to the preferred schedule of “off day” training, you should follow every hard workout with an easy one the next day. The article suggests the following routine with the use of a 16, 24, and 32 kg kettlebell:

If you train with 32s today, then train with 16s the next time you train, and 24s the time after. Even if you did the exact same workout, because you’ve changed the intensity, your body will respond differently. The goal of training is to improve, not test, and by allowing ourselves to have easy sessions with the 16s, we will give the body time to rest, adapt, and improve. That’s how supercompensation works.

The overall the point is to remain active and continue with the same workout everyday specially with easy and medium sessions. This should make your “off day” much more productive in the long run without drawing too much energy for your workout the next day.

under armour

Again, I’m not stating that fully resting on an “off day” or two is not the way to go if you want progress. By all means, most programs have been proven to work with a perfect rest day but for those individuals willing to try something different or unorthodox, having an active “off day” is worth it.

Robert James
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