Back Off & Grow!

  1. Eh Hole Board Supporter
    Blown_SC's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Posts
    76
    Rep Power
    158
    Level
    8
    Lv. Percent
    13.76%

    Back Off & Grow!


    Back Off and Grow!
    by Jack Reape


    The Most Important Thing I Know About Training

    When I got the opportunity to write an article for T-Nation, I asked myself, "Self, what's the most important thing you could talk about?" The answer was clear: back-off weeks!

    Back-off weeks, planned periods of light training, are critical to any serious athlete when structured carefully. Backing off is so important that even those who use steroids need to do it. Problem is, most weight-trained athletes are unable or unwilling to take a break!

    Look around your gym. I'll bet you see lifters of all disciplines doing the same sets, reps and weights month after month. You'll hear talk about never missing a workout and how a hardcore attitude is the key to getting bigger and stronger. You'll also see those same people on a plateau so big they probably think the world is flat!

    Know a lot of drug-free or non-genetic freaks making constant progress? Probably not.

    Unless they grasp the science of adaptation, once they pass the initial phases of training they'll reach a plateau and set up camp there. If you're on that plateau with them, this article will save you years of training frustration and months of pouring over Dr. Mel Siff’s Supertraining.

    Let's break down the back-off week so you can start making progress again!


    Concentrated vs. Distributed Loading

    Siff points out that training loads are either defined as concentrated or distributed loading. Concentrated loading is where your training is such that you can't completely recover from each workout before the next. Distributed loading is where your training load is low enough so that you can fully recover before the next workout or workouts.

    In theory, distributed loading is possible, but time under tension is also important. . . in theory. In practice, unless you have no job, no stress, you're on massive amounts of drugs, you eat a ton and sleep a lot (in other words, you're an unmarried pro-bodybuilder), your training is, in reality, concentrated loading.

    It's widely accepted that in a concentrated loading cycle you can only go 4-6 weeks maximally without a back-off. While I'm dispensing with lots of boring and technical explanations, if you enjoy this type of thing I strongly advise buying Supertraining and taking a paid leave of absence from your job. This is where my unmarried pro-bodybuilder idea might come in handy.

    While 4-6 weeks is a maximum time span, it's not optimal for most lifters. I'm confident that if all of T-Nation reviewed their training logs, the vast majority would discover nothing works for much longer than 3-4 weeks.


    Drive Your Peaks, Plan Your Valleys

    When I first read about maximal adaptation taking place in the second week of training and tapering off quickly afterwards, I was in immediate denial. All bodybuilding programs and almost all powerlifting programs I knew of at the time had no back-offs of any significance. Then I happened to find a book called Consistent Winning by Drs. Ronald Sandler and Dennis Lobstein, both endurance athletes and coaches. They insist it's possible to drive your training peaks by planning your valleys.

    The good doctors go into all sorts of esoteric Fibonacci numbers, the Golden Ratio (don’t ask), and some interesting case studies to lay out some naturally occurring cycles. The part you need to know is that they show that three weeks of hard training, followed by a back-off week, is the optimal cycle length and will help you avoid bad training weeks.

    Why push a training cycle beyond three weeks on the off chance week four will be better? I submit that if you're going hard on weeks 1-3, on week four you'll almost always perform poorly. Instead, back off and start back up again. In a 52 week year, if you do three weeks of hard training and a one week back-off, you get 13 cycles. Are 13 PRs a year possible? Yes!

    Take a look at the recently published training cycles of people like Louie Simmons, Boris Sheiko, Robert Roman and Pavel Tsatsouline. While they're all weightlifting or powerlifting focused, they build their cycles around a "three weeks forward, one week back" schedule. Applying this to bodybuilding is very germane.

    If you keep your volume constant and increase your intensity over three weeks, or increase volume while keeping intensity fairly constant over three weeks, you'll simply gain muscle if you eat enough. Note that I didn't mention a monster pump, going to failure, barely being able to crawl from the gym, or wearing a do-rag and sunglasses as critical to gaining muscle!


    Back-Off Guidelines

    The back-off weeks will help you avoid an injury, more fully recover, and also set you up for more gains. During a back-off week you'll feel yourself itching to train, but resist this and only do very nominal work.

    Some guidelines: During the back-off week, perform only half the volume and two-thirds of the intensity, but only on one compound exercise per body part. You can also have some fun by doing an exercise for high reps, like bench press with bodyweight, floor press with dumbbells, walking lunges, low back machine, etc.

    The goal of this week is to enhance recovery and position yourself for future gains, and nothing else. Eating well, a massage, some chiropractic treatment, some stretching sessions, some serious hot time in the hot tub, a long walk, or a nap or two are good ideas during this week.

    By Friday or Saturday you'll feel a physical "itching" in your muscles. This is technically known as Delayed Training Effect, or "what it feels like to be almost fully recovered." Full recovery can take as long your preceding training cycle, so if you're doing three week cycles, it would take at least 2-3 weeks of back-off to be fully recovered. This is called "tapering to a peak" and is a whole other subject.


    How I Back-Off

    Okay, now for the homestretch and how to put this to work. As a powerlifter I apply this concept by going heavy on week one with moderate volume, a bit lighter week two with a lot of volume, then on week three I go as heavy as possible with more volume than week one, but less than week two.

    I wave volume and intensity separately, but holding volume constant and just increasing intensity is also good. Week four I back-off with either the NFL press combine test (225 pounds for max reps) or a few sets of high rep dumbbell floor press. That’s it. For lower body maybe some reverse hypers for 15-20 reps or maybe some Romanian deadlifts. Again, that's it. I take it easy the rest of the week.

    Other top powerlifters have also had success with a similar plan. The Metal Militia guys are some of the biggest and best benchers on the planet. Their supplementation is, shall we say, more "diverse" than mine. They train like maniacs and then do nothing on week four. That's right, nothing!

    "What about experiencing atrophy (muscle loss) from not stimulating a muscle for 72 hours?" you might ask. To which I might respond, "Horse puckey!" If you try this you'll be fine, and you might even find yourself growing muscle right in front of your eyes on week four.

    You can apply this plan to any bodybuilding workout scheme. A great approach to try here is Chad Waterbury’s 10 x 3 for 1 cycle, 5 x 5 for 1 cycle, and then 4 x 6 for a cycle. Make a bigger jump in intensity from week one to two than week two to three. Your max adaptation really is between weeks one and two.

    For example, you could start at 70% of 1RM on week one, jumping to 80% of 1RM on week two, then only jumping 5% (to 85%) on week three. You can train a body part twice a week as long as you change your main complex exercise or rep scheme.

    I prefer different exercises as I don’t like high reps. For example:

    Monday: Flat bench press

    Tuesday: Squat

    Thursday: Close-grip or incline bench press

    Friday: Deadlift or Romanian deadlift

    Throw in one or two assistance exercises for 3-5 sets of 5-8 reps and you'll have a winner. Ten and higher rep sets have a small place in training, but keeping it heavy and low rep is better in almost every case. Another article for another time!


    Other Applications

    Some other applications that are possible here include:

    1) Plan back-off weeks to coincide with vacations or business trips.

    2) Take an unplanned back-off week if family or job stress overwhelms your training.

    3) Getting sick? Good time for a back-off week!

    If you're one of those gym rats that always hammers a workout no matter how stressed, sick or busy you are, all I can ask is, "How's that plateau? Is the view nice from there?"

    I spent the first five years of my training learning to never miss a workout. I've spent the last 25 learning which ones to miss or throttle back.

    Honing this approach has helped tremendously in bringing my bench from 435 to 525 pounds (at 43 years old) and my total from 1670 to 1800 in the last year. These lifts were all done in single ply gear and I'm tested randomly for drugs year round.




    Catapult Your Progress!

    If you wisely decide to try this, one last point to clarify: The first time you try the "three weeks forward and one week back" cycle, you also need to rest the first week. Yes, back off a week, hit it hard for three weeks, back off week, repeat.

    Doctors Sandler and Lobstein use a great analogy about a catapult being set by pulling it backward. Just charging into a new workout approach already beat up by your current training will yield failure. A back-off week, on the other hand, will really cause your training to shoot forward. Having a life outside the gym, at least every fourth week, also just might help you avoid that unmarried bodybuilder thing I mentioned above.


    About the Author
    Jack Reape is a three time Military National Powerlifting Champion and competes several times a year when not busy with family and work. He graduated from the US Naval Academy with a B.S. in Operations Analysis.

    © 1998 — 2004 Testosterone, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

  2. New Member
    BLee32x's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Age
    28
    Posts
    12
    Rep Power
    125
    Level
    3
    Lv. Percent
    13.75%

    Sounds interesting. I just wonder what I should do, already did my chest workout yesterday and was thinking of starting this up, would it be better to just finish off the week or take the rest of the week off and start up next week?
  3. Advanced Member
    jjjd's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Posts
    703
    Rep Power
    999
    Level
    21
    Lv. Percent
    67.95%

    i am a FIRM believer in the concept of backing off, deloading, or whatever you call it

    it is firmly esconced in the training literature, fwiw, especially works by Roman, Vershoshansky, etc.

    on some 8 day cycles i will up volume and frequency as high as 6 out of 8 days, and do this for 2 8 day cycle (*16 days), then deload.

    works great
    •   
       

  4. Registered User
    glenihan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Age
    31
    Posts
    3,679
    Rep Power
    1963
    Level
    44
    Lv. Percent
    6.53%
    Achievements Activity ProPosting Pro

    BLee i would take the week off, let your body rest and then attack hard with this
  5. Registered User
    CDB's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Age
    38
    Posts
    4,543
    Rep Power
    2675
    Level
    47
    Lv. Percent
    20.18%
    Achievements Activity ProPosting Pro

    It's also a part of the HST method, Strategic Deconditioning. It's best to just stop altogether for a week or two. Haycock's reccomendation I believe is 9-14 days of rest at least. Essentially when you train regularly you hit a point where your muscles and CNS just won't go much further, won't make the gains you see at the beginning of a training cycle. So you just drop everything and decondition a bit. Helps keep your muscles and CNS responsive to training. Otherwise as with almost everything you get diminishing returns over time. For anyone who tries HST the Strategic Deconditioning phase of the method is one of the best things you learn.
  6. Senior Member
    natedogg's Avatar
    Stats
    6'0"  220 lbs.
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Age
    32
    Posts
    2,414
    Rep Power
    1336
    Level
    39
    Lv. Percent
    9.6%
    Achievements Activity ProPosting Pro

    This sounds interesting. Does anyone have some sample routines thrown together based off of this training protocol or a website with more info?
  7. Senior Member
    exnihilo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Age
    35
    Posts
    1,577
    Rep Power
    924
    Level
    29
    Lv. Percent
    98.27%
    Achievements Activity ProPosting Pro

    do a search for dual factor hypertrophy training. I remember it is built around the (more correct) ideas of fitness and fatigue rather than the single factor "recovery" theory. More of a sports thing than a bodybuilding thing though (no, I don't consider BB a sport per se).
  

  
 

Similar Forum Threads

  1. Backing off the T before blood work?
    By cas1981 in forum 35 and Older
    Replies: 67
    Last Post: 07-06-2013, 11:15 PM
  2. First cycle back off injury (peer critique needed)
    By tschmitt82 in forum Anabolics
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 11-26-2012, 03:10 PM
  3. back to back OFF days
    By shugrblossm in forum Training Forum
    Replies: 21
    Last Post: 01-08-2010, 04:30 PM
  4. Replies: 0
    Last Post: 08-07-2009, 02:43 PM
  5. back won't grow-is it my workout? please judge
    By jeff33333 in forum Training Forum
    Replies: 41
    Last Post: 02-15-2006, 10:41 PM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  
Log in
Log in