It sounds very strange...how can an EASY workout build muscle?
Honestly, it's something that I've had some experience with over the years...it's not always the workouts that destroy you that build the most muscle, it's the workouts that allow your body to RECOVER and IMPROVE that help you build the most muscle.
If you're constantly hammering your body into the ground, your body never gets a chance to rebuild and THAT is when your body really puts on muscle mass.
By taking a targeted approach to easy workouts, you can actually improve your rate of muscle growth substantially without risking injury or taking steps backward into severe overtraining.
I've got an excellent guest article here from Dr. Carl Juneau talking about how to best utilize easy workouts for maximum muscle growth.
Build More Muscle & Smash New Records: Recover With Easy Workouts
This short guide explains why you need to recover with easy workouts after a few months of training when you lift heavier weights and you do more sets.
Think back when you first started to lift weights:
You wanted to build muscle. You started lifting. You got stronger every time you worked out, and you’ve built muscle. You’re happy.
A few months later, you’ve gained a fair bit of muscle. You lift heavier weights, and you do more sets. That’s normal: your body has adapted, and it needs a strong stimulus to continue building muscle.
At that point, to give your body that strong stimulus, every time you work out, you lift heavier and heavier weights, and you do more and more sets. You beat up your body. So, you need more time to recover between workouts than you used to. If you continue to try and set new records every time you work out, you will stall and you might even overtrain (Rippetoe and Baker, 2014).
This is where easy workouts come in. Easy workouts:
- Let you recover
- Keep your technique fresh
My Experience Recovering With Easy Workouts
To illustrate, here’s an example from my own training. In 2015, I started doing supine biceps curls. I trained them hard every workout, and my gains looked like this:
After 4 months, my strength (1RM) wasn’t going up. I wasn’t making any more gains.
Around the same time, I also did squats. For that exercise, until Aug 14, I trained hard every workout. As you can see on the chart below (right side), I wasn’t making any gains (my 1RM was flat). Around Aug 14, I did my first easy workout (you can see my easy workouts as dips on the left side). Each dip was followed by a new peak, and a new personal record. In short, easy workouts lead to new 1RM records.
Squat progression: best set (left) and 1RM (right). Easy workouts (dips on the left) lead to new 1RM records (as seen on the right)
Dr. Muscle Helps You Recover With Easy Workouts Automatically
When you reach level 4 in my Dr. Muscle app, the AI will add easy workouts automatically to your program. These workouts help you recover, and prime you for your next hard workout.
Take it easy when you do an easy workout: next up will be the hard version of the same workout, where you should do your best to smash a new record.
That way, you can continue to get stronger and build more muscle, even as you lift heavier weights, do more sets, and need more recovery.
It's Nick here again...sometimes you need to take it easy if you want to build serious muscle.
That's just the bottom line. Your body only has a certain amount of energy available to recover and grow and if you're always USING that energy to lift, then you're not going to be able to grow.
Strategic "back off" workouts are absolutely essential for long-term progress.
And Carl's Dr. Muscle app has these workouts built right in, when you reach the level of training where you can benefit from them.
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