In this blogpost you’ll learn how lighter days are beneficial for your muscle mass and strength. And also why you might be better off doing a lighter training day than completely taking a day off training.
Anyone who has been doing some sort of full body workout or push pull workout split atleast 3 times a week encounters some days that you are not feeling optimally. You might be tired, have muscle cramps, headaches and you might even feel sick during your warmup sets.
If that’s the case and your strength has dropped on heavy lifts by around 10-20% then you might be better off doing a lighter training day.
The Idea Behind A Lighter Training Day
Even top experts who write programs for professional athletes have lighter training days scheduled in. And the idea behind this is resparking protein synthesis.
Yes, there is more to lifting than protein synthesis but when you go to the gym and do a lighter training session that reinitiates an increase in muscle protein synthesis in a target muscle or set of muscles, it reinforces previous training loads. So you can still grow off the lighter loads.
For example, if you did 2 lighter workouts with sub-maximum weights on squats, you would still be reinforcing the PR (personal record) you’ve done the week before by resparking the protein synthesis. Deloads work the same way and you actually gain muscle off of your deload weeks. The week following a deload week you would gain even more muscle.
But only IF you sufficiently overreached enough to stimulate new growth with the overreaching. Meaning that you’ve been getting the symptoms I mention in the intro after you did the the workout program for a more than 2 months where you’ve been hitting PR’s every single week.
If you didn’t then you might not make any progress from a deload or even lose a tiny bit.
Example Light Training Day
Here’s an example training day that you can do to work the whole body. Lower the weights you normally use by about 20%.
- 3 sets x 5 reps squats
- 3 set x 5 reps overhead press
- 1 set x 8 reps bodyweight chinups
- 1 set x 8 reps lying tricep extension superset with 1 set x 8 reps barbell curl
How Much Muscle Can You Gain From That?
Well, I would point back out that literally every muscle in your body gets worked this example light training day day. So did it reinforce all the bench pressing, deadlifting etc. and the answer is yes. That is because of the squats, the squats virtually work everything but your arms and your chest.
I will go deeper into this on a seperate blogpost but a lot of people never taught the squat would work things like the hamstrings and lats. This is basic anatomy. The squat, or hipextension, heavily activates the lats and actually is a lat exercise. They might not work it as well as a weighted chin up but they do stimulate it quite significantly. Enough so to stimulate hypertrophy.
So you work on that if you look back at the example training, the same with the overhead press. It works your upper body pressing muscles; all of your traps, delts, triceps and even the pecs. Maybe you didn’t hit the pecs as well as a the incline bench press would do but it’s enough to reinforce the training from a few days ago.
So these lighter days do pay off and if that’s all you can do because you feel slightly sick then you go in and see what you’re capable off but remember that those lighter days, scheduled or un-scheduled, still reinforce the training from the previous week. So they absolutely have benefits.
- Symptoms to where you might do a lighter training day: Being tired, having muscle cramps, headaches and you might even feel sick during your warmup sets
- Lighter training days work by reinforcing previous training loads and resparking protein synthesis.
- Lighter training days might only benefit you when you’ve sufficiently overreached the training weeks before.
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