Bodybuilders often have very large type II fibers, and unfortunately these are also the ones that will lose their size most rapidly.
How to Minimize Your Losses
If taking time off from training is inevitable, there are certain things you can do to minimize unwanted physical changes:
1. Squeeze in just a little training if you can. Some training is better than no training.
If it’s possible, there may be a lot to gain by training at a reduced volume or frequency during a break instead of complete cessation of training. Researchers have observed that a complete preservation of strength can be maintained with as little as one set of 1RM of a series of exercises, performed once a week. Studies have also shown that the gains achieved after training three days a week for sixteen weeks could more or less be maintained for eight weeks of training just once a week.
A decrease in training from two to three times a week to once or twice a week also didn’t result in a decrease in strength after twelve weeks of training at this reduced rate. Likewise, it’s been observed that a total discontinuation of training resulted in a significant decrease in strength, whilst training as rarely as once every two weeks resulted in a significantly smaller drop in strength.
Another study has shown that the gains achieved after training two days a week for 21 weeks remained in the following 21 weeks… and yes, this was when training was reduced to 1-2 sessions per week.
If it’s an option to reduce your training to one or two short sessions per week, you’ll reduce your loss of gains dramatically when compared to a total training cessation.
2. Train heavier before taking time off.
A study by Fatouros showed that high intensity in training not only contributes to greater increases in strength during the training period, but also contributes to a better preservation of strength during a period of non-training.
In the study, participants were divided into three groups that trained at three different intensities: 40% of 1RM, 60% of 1RM and 80% of 1RM. Their bench press strength increased by 34%, 48% and 75% respectively after six months of training, while their leg strength increased by 38%, 53% and 63%.
After six months of training, the participants took a six month break from training, after which their bench press strength fell by 98%, 50% and 29%, and their leg strength decreased by 70%, 44% and 27%. The higher the intensity during training, the smaller the subsequent drop in strength.
3. Do some scheduled overreaching right before your break.
If you train the same muscles two to three days in a row before the break, or tear yourself completely to pieces with a hard 6-7 day training week, your break will actually serve as a much needed recovery period. Because of supercompensation, you may very well return to training stronger than before your break.
How to Keep Muscle During a Layoff
What Two Weeks Off Really Does To Your Body
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