Train 21 Rest 7: A Unique Training Formula for
Correcting Those “Sticking Points”

By Vince Gironda
(From Iron Man, September 1983)

After 30 years of practical experience with bodybuilding, I have combined my trials and errors with keen observation of numerous pupils I have trained, and finally come to some definite conclusions.

I have been my own guinea-pig, so to speak, and have experimented upon myself, with various diets, many theoretical ideas, and finally discarded all for down-to-earth knowledge which I also combined with much study of the inside of the human body.

Therefore, I can now proclaim purely factual recommendations to everyone who has some experience with bodybuilding and who is not merely a beginner, because what I shall relate is not suited for enthusiastic “upstarts” as it is for those who have been training for a year or more.

Admittedly it is difficult to lay down laws that might be adaptable to everyone. Nevertheless, I feel that anyone who has obtained good results from weight training, still has within himself that compulsion urge for betterment. This might be towards greater bulk, or it may be a lean towards finer musculature. It makes no difference which, for all those who train with regularity, at one time or other, invariably get stale. They are bound to reach a sticking point. They surely will come to that “work-out-groove” wherein enthusiasm slightly wanes and their workouts are more drudgery than enthusiastic. So, it is to these that I shall cater, and perhaps whatever words I may write will offer them constructive advice and be adopted for their future welfare.

Experience, as all know, is more valuable than theories, because theories can be classified as “guess-work.” There is nothing concrete back of them, whereas, practical experience obtains the “know-how.” Therefore, I well know that no one can train exclusively on a concentrated program for too long because the time will surely come when it will cease to get further results. Some term this the “sticking-point,” others call it “staleness,” whereas I term it overtaxing the nerves and muscles.

I have found three weeks of concentrated training to be about enough, and the point at which most bodybuilders become bored and stale. And at this point, after three weeks of hard training, I find one week of rest to be much better than would a change of program, because the softening up of muscle tissue allows for renewed energy by the storing up of vitality and re-stimulation to muscles for the resumption of training.

Rest is nature’s method of restoring the nerves and whole body. Surely, this is logical. If anyone robs himself of needed rest and allows his enthusiasm to govern him, he then continues on nerve force which will soon prove detrimental for muscle growth. And if one cares to go into precise physiological technicalities, he will readily find that the nerves need rest more than do the muscles. Muscles over bad nerves soon become weaker under the power of misdirected nerve force.

Far too many gymnasium instructors fail to recognize the need of relaxation for the central nervous system, which I feel controls either growth or shrinkage of musculature. That is why I emphatically advise the application of real hard training, three times or oftener every week for three weeks only, and to then follow with a lay-off of one whole week so as to recuperate and give the muscles and tissues a chance to grow – and they will grow!

This advice may seem entirely wrong to a super-enthusiastic beginner who has done weight work for a few months and who finds himself making fine progress. Let him keep on with what he does, yet, after he has been at the same program, or even if he frequently changes his program, and has reached a year or more of his concentrated exercising, I well know that his super super-enthusiasm transfer to a mental compulsion rather than a natural physical drive that is prompted by overflowing vitality which must be utilized. Sooner or later he will positively reach that sticking point wherein his progress ceases, and which also promotes discouragement because of muscle gains diminishing. If such an individual is wise and will heed advice from those who have had long experience with bodybuilding, and will lay off all training for one week, he will find his whole system flooded with energy that will practically compel him to wade into his training with greater gusto than ever before. And it is then that he will resume progress and make more gains, both in size of muscle and in strength as well.

I have found that so many actually fight against this advice. They entertain fear – fear that they will lose a fraction of an inch during such a lay-off. Suppose they do? Is it not better to rest a week, though one loses a trifle in muscle size, and then very soon afterwards discover that his muscles are bigger and stronger than ever before? Or does he feel that it would be better to follow the thoughts that propel him on and on, and drive him without a rest and into that staleness where he will remain a long while and without making further gains? Common sense will supply the right answer. What an over-enthusiastic bodybuilder needs is patience, to realize that his body is not a machine that runs like a monotonous treadmill. Even a machine will break down without oil and adjustments, so how much more delicate is the human body?

Therefore, I say that when you feel you have reached your sticking point, take a week’s rest and then resume whatever regime you desire; but I also recommend that you take this week’s rest each month. If you don’t believe me, go ahead and train to your heart’s content. I am merely striving to help you and am offering concrete advice based on experience, gained both from myself and numerous others. So, let this be your slogan…”Work 21 days – Rest seven!”

Dwelling on the subject of training all day long causes endocrine tension which can upset the chemical balance of your nervous system. This form of tension can be absolute destructive to the muscle-building process and hinder formation of new tissue. For the growth process to function to its optimum level, all of your glandular processes must operate with maximum efficiency. Worry and anxiety over constantly dwelling on your workouts can prevent the free flow of endocrine secretions which is necessary for the rebuilding of nervous energy force. Remember – nerve force is essential for rebuilding tissue.

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