If you want to be successful at anything, discipline and consistency are mandatory.
You've got to be willing to work hard week in and week out, and put forth the effort even on those days when you'd rather stay at home, lie on the couch and relax.
The saying says that "80% of success is showing up", and for the most part I'd say that's true.
Building muscle is no different.
You've got to stay tight to your workout schedule and get yourself into the gym even when it's the last thing on your mind. If you want to gain muscle size and strength as quickly as possible, you should never, ever miss a workout…
Or should you?
Here's the thing…
Yes, consistency is important. Yes, you should be sticking to your workout schedule the vast majority of the time. Yes, simply bailing on the gym out of pure laziness is not acceptable.
However, I would like to bring up a quote from the late Mike Mentzer when he said… "Rituals have nothing to do with science".
What you need to keep in mind is that the human body is an extremely complex biological "machine", and that not every single workout and recovery period is identical.
In other words, just because your schedule states that you must train on days X, Y and Z doesn't necessarily mean that this will always be the optimal pattern every single week of the year.
If you wake up on a training day and your muscles still ache, you feel physically tired and your regular motivation to train just feels like it has been zapped... don't you think your body just might be trying to tell you something?
Why would you force yourself to train in a situation where more recovery time is clearly needed, and when you know that your training performance will be less than optimal? If your body, muscles and mind are clearly still reeling from the previous session, what sense does it make to force yourself to train despite this?
After all, we know that the recovery phase is the ultimate "muscle builder" (the actual process of adding new muscle tissue occurs out of the gym on resting days) and that intense weight training is extremely demanding on the body as a whole…
So why would you deliberately interfere with the very process that transforms your physique in the first place? Why not take an extra 24 hours off and re-enter the gym once you feel physically and mentally ready to do so?
What harm could there possibly be in that?
There is no threat of losing muscle size or strength, as these decreases require 2 or more weeks of inactivity to be set into motion. Yet, there is the perfectly likely reality of a positive gain in the form of proper recovery from the previous workout and improved performance on the following workout.
The underlying key is to listen to your body.
Rituals truly do not have anything to do with science, and if it feels obvious to you that additional rest is needed, take it.
Don't force your body into another battle with the weights if it clearly is not ready to do so. Don't let your ego get in the way; just because some muscle building guru told you to "never skip a workout" doesn't mean that it's always the best approach.
You do have to use this method with caution, though...
If you develop the mindset of only training when you "feel like it", then it's likely that you'll start delaying your workouts and convincing yourself that it's correct to do so when in fact it is not.
There are plenty of times when you won't feel like training purely for psychological reasons rather than concrete physical reasons, and that's not what I'm talking about here.
I'm simply talking about those days where you are able to sense that from a physical standpoint, taking an extra day of rest would be the better course of action.
Just remember... there is no long-term harm in taking an extra day of rest, but there IS the very real and immediate harm of training your body without being fully recovered first.
If in doubt, take the day off!
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