Grow your muscles by giving them a break?

 That's how you know it's legit.

That's how you know it's legit.

From time to time I come across a piece of research that really piques my interest. Then, instead of doing normal things like eating, bathing, building forts with empty protein tubs, and trying to find a girlfriend and contribute to the human race, I instead end up lost in a never ending tangent of Wikipedia links and journal articles. Eventually, there are so many tabs open I have to start guessing as to what content each tab contains because they are all grey and lack any semblance of identity. As I muddle through my tabs, I come to my original, which was discussing detraining periods. I then realized the last tab I was reading was about Shaka, king of the Zulu, an ethnic group in Southern Africa. I figure that is a pretty straight forward path as to how I ended up there, so I won’t delve into that any further. On to the research…

How many of you reading this right now plan detraining periods in your training regimen? I would imagine there is a small, but probably not real high percentage. How many of you that do plan detraining periods, do for a ten day period or more? I know what you are thinking, ten days or more off from training? Why don’t I just shave my beard, stop peeing in the shower, and become a Birkenstock- wearing vegan? Well, some research points to muscles developing insensitivity to resistance stimulus over time. Meaning, after lifting weights for a while, your muscles do not respond the same way as when you were a newb. In retrospect, I am sure this makes sense to some of you. Almost everyone makes unparalleled gains when they first start working out, and perhaps some of that has to do with a fresh and highly sensitized receptiveness to resistance stimuli.

The research also points to periods of detraining being able to re-sensitize your muscles more thoroughly to resistance stimuli. Now, there is still some question as to how long of a period (one study used 12 days), whether it needs to be a period of complete detraining or just a period of de-loading, if the whole body needs to be detrained or if it will work for individual muscle groups. **The Massenomics guys discuss training frequency in Episode 8 of the podcast.**

Lots of questions, and I definitely maybe have answers. The concept of this was intriguing enough for me to start my own experiment in which I call “one week of heaven followed by one week of this was the worst decision of my life”. Within this experiment I have 5 upper body training days in a week, followed by 5 days of lower body training in a week. I am roughly 3.5 weeks into it and there are a few observations to take away:

1. By my fifth day of upper body in the first week, I was actually sick of training upper body. Yes, you read that correctly. I would have rather had a threesome with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders than have to do one more bicep curl on that final day.

2. By my second consecutive day of lower body in the following week, I realized this was a terrible decision and was certain I was being personal trained by Pinhead from Hellraiser.

3. On the hypertrophy – strength scale this type of split is heavily weighted toward the hypertrophy side. There probably won’t be large strength gains made, and most would likely be due to increases in cross- sectional muscle area. The frequent training of similar muscle groups just does not allow for adequate recovery to really push heavy weights and stimulate neural adaptations.

4. My upper body used to have almost no soreness from training. Now, training after the 8-9 day detraining period for my upper body, puts me in a constant state of light to medium soreness.

5. Lower body week resulted in a constant state of medium to heavy soreness. I am curious to see if the soreness will become milder the longer I am into the program, or if I will have to continue doing butt slides down every flight of stairs.

6. Just an anecdotal observation by me, on the first day of training for either upper or lower body after the 8-9 days off, I think there is a notable increase in responsiveness by those muscles to weight training stimuli. Almost as if they are able to contract a bit harder, faster, and more thoroughly.

7. After your 4th leg workout in 5 days, people will stop asking you “what are you lifting today, bro?” This will be good news for most, unless you are an atheist, vegan, crossfitter who absolutely needs to tell the world who they are and what they are doing with every passing moment.

8. The upper body and lower body days can be varied to whatever goal you are trying to accomplish. I split my upper body week with a heavy push workout, followed by a pump type push workout the next day. Followed by the same format with my pull workouts. The lower body week used the same heavy followed with pump format, but broken up into hip dominant and knee dominant workouts. The pump days were sometimes tough to get through because of the soreness, but I usually felt very good the next day after the pump workouts brought a myriad of fresh blood and nutrients to the muscles, along with helping to mobilize any metabolic waste.

Make no mistake about it, you are going to need some mental toughness and have a bit of a masochistic side to stick with it. It is essentially, an all-out blitz on either your upper or lower body followed by 8-9 days of rest for it. However, the drastic change in program coupled with supporting research that shows some legitimate science behind the idea, may be just what the doctor ordered for those of you with appendages that have seemingly never stretched a piece of fabric in their lifetime…. you know who you are extra medium shirt guy.

It’s Science, It’s Massenomics.

 Maybe one too many bicep curls this cycle.

Maybe one too many bicep curls this cycle.