The human body needs breaks. This is undeniable. For every twenty people in the gym pumping away each day, there are probably one or two members stuck at home nursing some sort of injury. It’s the nature of the sport. After all, we’re not perfecting some skill by shooting free throws or studying opponents’ moves in order to ascertain the best way to defend them. Rather, bodybuilding training is something much more destructive that that. When you enter a gym and commence training, you are on a single mission to do nothing but engorge a muscle group with blood, and tear as many muscle fibers in the targeted area as possible.
When you look at it that way, it’s no wonder that the muscles and tendons which support them do fail from time to time. Rarely, it will be something as bad as a full muscle tear. More frequently, we’ll have a strained tendon or something minor. It’s minor in the bigger scheme of things, as we’ll be back in the gym after just a few weeks’ rest. However, when shoulder day arrives and you are forced to stay at home because you are under doctor’s (or self-prescribed) orders to rest, it can be quite painful. You love to train, and it’s understandable that you may feel the need to work around an injury. However, doing so is not always in your best interest. In times like these, you need to take a break to recover.
To make the most of your recovery, use this down time to focus upon other tasks that can help contribute to your long term bodybuilding success. It’s very likely that you don’t know everything when it comes to nutrition. Use this time off to read a few books about how various foods can help you to reach your goals faster. Spend some time on another hobby, as this will help keep your mind off the workouts you are missing. At the same time make your return to the gym a fresh and new experience. Some trainers find success by using their down time to focus on certain body parts, or doing more cardio. This may work, but one should keep in mind that a break from the gym allows for rest of the most important system of all in terms of muscle growth: The central nervous system, or CNS.
Everything you do each day affects your CNS. When you have a stressful day, the CNS delivers valuable resources to help alleviate this stress. These resources come from the same pool which delivers recovery agents to muscle groups when you train. Therefore you would be best served in a bodybuilding sense to not only avoid those stressors which can sap valuable CNS resources, but also to do things that will help the CNS recover faster. Top among these things you can do is to take a one-week break every 2 to 4 months. Even if you don’t have an injury, the time away from the gym will let your muscles, tendons, and CNS recover, which will lead to new muscle growth!