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Recovery - The Missing Link In The Chain!

Learn the TRUTH about training from one of the most famous bodybuilding authors in the world!

(This article is edited from Pete Sisco's bodybuilding e-Book, TRAIN SMART!)

Here is what many people need to be reminded of about why they are going into a gym and lifting weights. They are trying to build NEW muscle. New muscle has to grow. Your brain has to realize that your body NEEDS more muscle. Then it has to actually grow that new muscle. So why not just stay in the gym some Thursday and not leave until the scale says you've gained two pounds?

Because you have to RECOVER first.

You don't grow in the gym. You stimulate growth that will occur in the next few days...probably while you're asleep.

The way you get your brain to realize you NEED more muscle is to work your muscles at the limits of their capacity. That is very draining on the body's resources and the body doesn't like to get drained. That can be makes your body vulnerable to bad things. So the first order of business after a draining, muscle-stimulating workout is for your body to FULLY recover. That keeps you alive and healthy right now. The next order of business is to grow some new muscle so the next draining workout doesn't deplete your body as much. (And if you did the identical workout next time, it wouldn't be as taxing...but we're not going to do identical workouts twice in a row, are we?)

If you aren't fully recovered by the time you go back in the gym, you'll have no new muscle to work with. And how can you ensure progressive overload when there is no new muscle to handle the progression?

These are the three links in the long chain of muscle building: Stimulate - Recover - Grow - Stimulate - Recover - Grow. A ton of advice is given out in books and magazine on how you should stimulate new muscle growth with workouts (and many people want you to believe a nutritional supplement will stimulate muscle growth - it won't - not ever! Food doesn't stimulate muscle growth - exercise does.) But almost no advice is given out on the importance of recovery. I think it's because you can't make money telling people to do nothing. I mean it. Where's the product? Where's the seminar? The book? The e-Book? I can't tell you what a hard time I have getting trainees to take time off. They've all been saturated with the propaganda of "3 times per week" and "supplements will fix your problems." But the honest truth is that very often three weeks of staying out of the gym completely will put far more muscle on you than nine more workouts and $200 worth of nutritional supplements will!

A Typical Case

I received a telephone call from a guy named Stanley, in Massachusetts, who had been making good progress with his training but had recently hit a plateau that he just couldn't get past. Stanley is one of those guys with a tough-minded discipline I can only admire. Despite his lack of progress in the gym, he did not get discouraged. He trained three days a week and he never missed a workout. That's not easy. Most of us get demoralized when we give so much effort in the gym and see nothing for our exertion. Not to mention the fact that it's very tough to drag yourself to the gym and perform a decent workout when it feels like every fiber of you body is saying, "Stop, I can't do it today."

Stanley and I did not have to talk very long before I realized he had classic symptoms of overtraining. He lacked energy, he didn't feel like training and he had not made the slightest progress in many weeks. I explained this is the pit into which everyone falls as they get stronger. As your muscles become more powerful, they have the ability to perform workouts that really tax the rest of the body's organs like the liver, pancreas and kidneys. Those organs don't grow significantly along with the muscles so as you get stronger you have to cut back on training frequency.

I told Stanley to take three weeks off of all training. He said there was no way he could stay out of the gym that long. Actually, this is a common problem with serious bodybuilders. Mike Mentzer and I once talked about how he ran into the same resistance when he counseled "brief and infrequent" workouts. Psychologically, when you want to make progress, it is very difficult to do what seems like "nothing." Not training feels like throwing in the towel or admitting defeat in some way. But the truth is your body needs time to recover. Time off is not wasted time, it's time that is critical to the growth process. It took a lot of talk to convince Stanley but, to his credit, he took three weeks off of all training.

Two months later he called me back with results that will shock you. His strength increased in every area of his body and his shrug power had skyrocketed. His first workout after the layoff was a personal best. Now he's training once every 9 days. That's 18 days between workouts for the same bodyparts. Before this correction, he was training 4 times in just 9 days. Look at the numbers that he sent me.

October 11
November 8
December 17
365 lbs. 20 reps
405 lbs. 20 reps (easy)
405 lbs. 20 reps
400 lbs. 20 reps (very tough)
455 lbs. 20 reps
505 lbs. 20 reps
505 lbs. 16 reps
600 lbs. 12 reps

Stanley did not include his times for lifting so I don't know his Power Factor or Power Index numbers, but his total shrug weight went from 15,300 lbs to 25,280 after doing nothing for 3 weeks. When was the last time you had a 3 week period that was that productive?

Think about that. Three weeks of no training, no supplements, no "light weight, high reps," nothing but sitting on his ass for three weeks and his progress outpaced everybody's. His training buddies couldn't believe their eyes. There's Stanley, who found it "very tough" to do 20 reps with 400 lbs. now hoisting 505 lbs. for 16 - after doing 455 lbs. for 20! Next time back in the gym he's playing with 600 lbs. And as far as his bonehead buddies are concerned he "missed" the last 20 workouts! That's what I mean when I talk about "training smart."

When you are training at the limits of your muscular capacity, recovery is a crucial element because a miscalculation causes an almost immediate plateau or even retrogression. So train smart and remember that proper recovery demands constant adjustment in your training frequency.

Have a Great Workout!