Back off week

November 1, 2009 Training

The following chart is crap,

Back off week, Tudor Bompa, periodization

Tudor Bompa brainwashed me.

It’s my own linear periodization plan I designed and used in 2004 when I was 18. Oh sure, I got good results from it, but I could have gotten good results without going into all that ridiculous level of detail. Since that time I’ve tried periodizing my training in other ways. And then I realized the only thing that really mattered for me out of all these periodization schemes was the occasional back off week.

What’s a back off week?

It’s just lowering the training load for a block of time. It doesn’t have to be a week. I recommend 5-9 days.

Why not just sprinkle off days here and there?

Fatigue masks fitness, and any of us who train regularly accumulate fatigue over time, it’s impossible not to accumulate fatigue, and we can’t get rid of this accumulated fatigue simply by taking the weekends off or sprinkling in an extra rest day here and there. It can take weeks for accumulated fatigue to be eliminated. If we never eliminate this accumulated fatigue we end up spinning our wheels, never realizing our true skill level. We go through a slump or we plateau; or if it accumulates too much we’re eventually forced to take time from an overuse injury or a trauma injury since fatigue increases the chances of an accident.

Our intuitive responses to these maladies are a) Sprinkle an additional day off here and there, b) Try to work through it, or c) Change the way we train without backing down. None are effective in the long run, and we get stuck. This is not what we want. We want to control this cyclic process ourselves, and the best way to do it is simply to back off.

How to back off properly

Progressively increase your training load, volume, intensity, whatever… More tricking, harder tricks, more frequent tricking, etc. Week after week for 3-7 weeks until you get stuck. When you finally realize you’re stuck because fatigue has you by the throat, push it even harder for another 4-6 days until you’re completely taxed, then back off for 5-9 days in a row.

If you want something more precise, try one of my 5 training plans for tricksters, which all implement back off periods. And if you want the real periodization experience, just change something about the way you train – or the emphasis of your training after each back off week when you start a new training cycle. This simplicity is likely all you’ll ever need from the periodization concept.

Things to do during your back off week

# When backing off, you could just sit around and do nothing the whole time and get stellar results, but I recommend doing this three day cycle instead:

Day 1) Super long warm up: Whatever easy movements and exercises you would do for a warm up, do them for an hour or so.

Day 2) Extra light tricking: Warm up and have a very brief, very light tricking session with easy tricks. Don’t push yourself.

Day 3) No activity.

Repeat.

Break this cycle only after at least 5 days has passed. You’ll probably notice that your first tricking session after the back off week is not spectacular. If it is, good for you! But I always seem to find my best tricking sessions after a back off week are at the end of the next week, and these are usually crazy awesome peak sessions. So don’t feel  discouraged if after all this rest you don’t see the improvements immediately.

# If you’re interested in trying this for strength training, just take whatever routines you’ve been doing and slash the volume and intensity down by one third each or something and cut one session out. Call it a tapering week lololozorz.

# The back off week is a good time to catch up on your responsibilities. Clean your room! Get ahead in your school
work.

# Re-evaluate your training patterns, your goals, etc. See if a change in your next training cycle would be a good idea.

# Have recovery sessions that you anticipate and take as seriously as your tricking sessions. Read this page and do all that stuff.

# No caffeine during your back off week.


Conclusion:

Just progressively push yourself harder and harder for a month or two until you hit a wall, push it a few more days then take a small block of time off. Possibly consider adding some changes to your training after each cycle. Voilà, big gains without wading through all those pompous periodization science texts. I just wish someone had sat me down and told me about this back off week thing years ago, it would have saved me from many of the ankle, knee, back, and shoulder problems I had to deal with from overuse, or from any number of the accidents that wouldn’t have happened if I wasn’t training with so much fatigue baggage.

3 comments

  1. Armando says:

    this is one of my favorite articles, i first read about back off weeks (or deload weeks) on jim wendler’s 5/3/1, and started to implement them and this made a huge difference on my gains and in how i felt during the training cycles (probably i avoided many injuries too!).

    the 3 day cycle in this article is a neat trick for making recovery weeks even more efficient .

    i read about a deload week on christopher sommers books and after that i see that the back off week is recurrent on many training systems, i think it is because IT WORKS.

    also i have a little question, today was the first day of my back off week, in this training cycle i was drinking coffee every single day for it’s appetite supression properties (because i’m on a cut) and today was my first day without drinking cofee in maybe 5 or 6 weeks, i experienced withdrawal symptoms (headache, fatigue, nausea), do you know what can help with this?
    i’m thinking that reducing the caffeine consumption gradually before the back off week could work, but other than that i don’t know what can i do to feel better

    • Conor Larkin says:

      Interesting because I’ve always noticed that after a short or medium length break, I come back with almost a new mindset and as soon as a few days pass I always feel like I am performing better than before I took the break. I am referring to Hockey specifically, and have noticed it with my freestyle skiing as well but the biggest difference with hockey since that is usually an every day activity in Minnesota if you are serious about it. I haven’t come across the concept drawn out by somebody who has been using it strategically before. I think it will be good and I’m excited to have a more refined process for it in my training over the coming years. Jujimufu you’re the man!

      • Jujimufu says:

        Thanks for the feedback Conor. Back off weeks are a mainstay in my training. My only grip now, at my age of 30, is I’m not in as much control of it myself anymore due to my busier schedule. So I’m “forced” to back off at times prematurely. But what I’ve found is it’s actually better in the long run to back off more often than not as often…

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