When I first introduced hypertrophyspecific training (HST) to the masses over a decade ago it was met with more or less skepticism, especially from the “shut up and lift” crowd. Of the more controversial principles of HST were the periodic use of relatively light weight and a concept I call strategic deconditioning (SD). Strategic deconditioning is simply a period of time free from training which is long enough to allow a reversal of some of the acute adaptations to training, referring specifically to the repeated bout effect. This usually requires 12–14 days of no training. The term “strategic” is used because this 12–14 day period is not chosen at random or whenever you begin to feel “burned out.” It is done every 6–8 weeks. Until the last couple years, people just had to take my word for it, but recent data is showing not only that SD works, but also how.
A group of Japanese researchers who have produced at least two other studies looking at deconditioning as a way of resensitizing muscle to training recently investigated changes in the activity of hypertrophic signaling during chronic training and after deconditioning. They used an animal model because they had to remove the muscle at the end of the study to see what was happening inside. They compared 18 straight training sessions with 12 sessions followed by a 12-day deconditioning period. They found that anabolic signaling significantly declined over the course of 18 training sessions. They also found that anabolic signaling was restored following 12 days of deconditioning without any loss of muscle mass during the deconditioning period.
Don’t confuse strategic deconditioning with simple recuperation. Recuperation denotes a restoration or rebuilding of the tissue. Many people will say don’t train a muscle more than once a week. This pattern of straight, infrequent training may produce slower gains, according to this emerging research, and you will inevitably plateau, albeit a fully recuperated plateau. Your muscles will be fully recuperated within the first seven days of the deconditioning period. At seven days you will also still retain most of the repeated bout effects. Additional down time is required to allow the muscle to lower its defenses. Twelve to 14 days is just long enough to allow deconditioning, but not so long as to cause significant muscle loss. SD is one HST principle you might want to try.