P90X "Recovery" weeks - the scourge of everyone making strong gains. I've been coaching long enough now to have coached literally dozens of people through their P90X programs. And, to a man (or woman), especially amongst those making impressive gains, I always hear: "Joel, do I really have to do the recovery week? Can't I just keep lifting?"
The short answer is "no." Recovery weeks are a critical part of peoples' successes and yes, they're absolutely necessary.
My experience was a little different. During my first 90 days on the P90X I was absolutely ready for that first recovery week. I needed it - I had gone hard for 21 days and desperately needed some rest (now whether Core Synergistics can be termed as "rest" is highly debatable, but that's a whole different article). And, as the recovery week got closer to being over, I remember wishing it was longer.
My perspective later moved more towards what I hear from those whom I coach: "let's get this over with already - I wanna lift!"
It was only when I really researched and studied muscle growth and recovery that I began to understand the importance and inclusion of recovery weeks.
When you participate in intense, physical exercise, two very distinct things happen to your muscles: 1) your muscle fibers actually suffer tiny, minute tears during the "negative" portions of the lift(s), and 2) your muscles are generally depleted of their ATP and muscular glycogen (carbohydrates) storages. This leads to muscle fatigue, muscle soreness and diminished "muscle force production" (strength).
It's the repair and recovery of your muscles that ultimately makes them bigger and stronger. This process can normally take between 7 - 14 days; the muscle damage stops, your immune system does it's work, your muscle energy (glycogen and insulin) is replaced and the muscle fibers are built up bigger and stronger than before.
I actually experienced the biggest gains, both in terms of strength and muscle size, coming out of recovery weeks!
So, because everyone loves to lift those weights, the next logical question is: "How long do I have to wait before I can work the same muscle group again?" Well, as stated above, the typical answer would be a minimum of 7 days. But, with the assistance of supplements and recovery techniques, weightlifters and bodybuilders today are able to "recover" in much shorter time periods. In fact, I studied this extensively when creating my Round 2 "TXF Hybrid" (because I worked the same muscle groups twice in each week). I could not have coordinated the "TXF Hybrid" the way I did (i.e. - been able to adequately recover) without the aid of the supplements I was taking.
Take advantage of science and medicine and put the best supplements to work for you. They will rapidly help your muscles repair themselves and recover by delivering glycogen and insulin to muscles immediately following your workout. This will not only help with muscle recovery, but also greatly reduce muscle soreness.
Three other things to consider before working that same muscle group again:
Be sure your muscle soreness is completely diminished
Be sure a full range-of-motion (ROM) has returned
Be sure your muscle strength is at least the same (ideally better) than it was during the previous workout
So, bottom line: yes, recovery weeks are necessary! Like you, I wanted to lift, lift, lift and get bigger, bigger and bigger. But, like a lot of things in the world of health and physical fitness, often times the opposite of what "seems" right will actually deliver the results you're looking for.
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