Rest and Recover: Don’t Be Stubborn!

by Chris Marzarella, CFT

Let me set the scene: You start an exciting new program and you have a great 8 to 12 weeks of moving upwards in weight, you are starting to see new muscular lines that weren’t there before. You’re as motivated as ever to get to the gym and blast dust. Week 11, 12 and 13 creep around and your strength and “gainz” are in the toilet. You blame it on work or whatever the excuse of the week is for fatigue and your weight increases just stall. You find yourself more tired than ever. Your body aches and you just arent motivated to go to the gym. At all.

Let me give you a simple solution to get you fired back up and talk you off the cliff. You’ll hear the Rocky music and NEED to be in the gym!

Three words: Take a break. You need to break away from the heavy weights, the WODs, the chalk-whatever fires you up to be in the gym in the first place. Just breathe. I’m not saying stay away from training at all. Simply “deload” your weights.

Take your current poundage you are training with and reduce it down to 40%, 50% and 60% respectively. Perform those reps with 5 reps ONLY. Just stop after that. Do your follow up work-assistance work, bodybuilding work, but reduce that to 60% and only do the minimal reps needed. No more. Do some light cardio. 20 minute brisk walks and nothing else.

You can follow your training schedule and just do the bread and butter lifts with minimal repsa d weights and leave. Another way is to just get the hell out of the gym and do some yard work or go to the beach and walk on the sand with your dog. Just be active without weights.

Your body is telling you that it has reached a plateau and needs to rest. I have recently trained for 11 weeks straight, performing 4 full body workouts a week with an emphasis on building muscle and dropping some unneeded fat. I started at 247 pounds and I am currently 230. I did well and really didn’t follow an EXACT diet.

Time marched on and now, weeks later, my knees and low back are starting to nag at me, my obsession with being in the gym is waning and, even though I know why my one rep maxes suck at the moment, I know that Mark Rippetoe’s quote “fatigue masks fitness” is absolutely true. This is why I have my powerlifters taper down to the last week and, depending on how advanced they are, they will need a few days off to at least a week to be ready for their meet. I also schedule a month of getting back to training with no PRs.

In my case, my body is telling me that I need to back off because I am right around the corner for a new and dumb injury that could have been prevented. It is also the time where I look to my next cycle of my training year. I am now going into my strength phase where I will spend at least 12-16 weeks with my main priorities of gaining raw strength in the squat, bench press and deadlift. Recovery is paramount to do these lifts three times a week. This means that I need to schedule my deload weeks, my sleep, my mobility and recovery work and my fish oil intake. I am going to be successful, but I also need to accept that I have to take breaks-essentially 3 steps backwards for 5 steps forward.

Research deloads. There are several ways to do them, and I have listed only a few small ways that will keep you inside the gym and keep checking out the chick with great ass who does nothing but hip thrusts, but will give your body a chance to rest. You’re still in the gym, but you are not stressing about meeting your max. You’re still creating a calorie deficit and properly partitioning nutrients but you’re actively resting. You won’t (and can’t!) lose your gains by loosening up for a week. Remember, 3 steps back for 5 steps forward!
You can thank me later.

Chris Marzarella is a personal trainer based in the Tr-State area and is the owner of Marzarella Fitness & Sports Conditioning. He is the author of the book A Practical Guide to Daily Undulating Periodization: 2nd Edition. Chris is available for online personal training and NJ based in-person training. He can be contacted through his website at