When I go to the gym I’m usually unsure of what muscles I intend to work out. I have an idea but I don’t set days, especially according to the days of the week. Now that I have much more experience, I find this to be ridiculous. When I was younger, Monday was always chest day, because it was easier to be motivated on a Monday if I knew I was doing chest. Today however I try not to anticipate my recovery rate because my chest recovers at a different speed depending on what kind of work out I do, my intensity, and the length of my work out. My muscles all recover at different speeds also, for example, I can work my calves out just about every other day but my quads and hams take about 5 days to recover.
The knowledge of what my muscles respond to is not just about experience but intuition. While years of training has afforded me with the experience to fine tune my routines, some weeks are just completely unpredictable. The foods I eat and the amount of calories I eat, which calories I eat, as well as the amount of sleep I get each night, all affect my recovery speeds. Perhaps this week I got a bad night of sleep after I did chest, that may require me to wait an extra day before I do chest. What’s my point? Feel your body, literally and metaphorically. Close your eyes and stand still. Slowly try to concentrate on each muscle and flex it if you have to. If it feels sore, it’s not ready.
Sometimes I go to the gym with the intention of doing a body part but after arriving I realize that it is still sore and I have to completely change my plans on the spot. I usually do shoulders and chest together and if just my chest is sore, I may still do shoulders and replace chest with lats. This is a push pull routine I do sometimes that I will get into more in another article. Switching up routines is also a great way to surprise your body. Why is it so important not to work out a muscle when it’s sore? …because you are interrupting the growth process. When the muscle is sore, it is growing, not when you are working out. In fact, while you sleep is when you grow the most. Once a muscle is not sore anymore, I mean the very day you wake up and it is no longer sore, you need to work it out. This is because once it is healed, the body will begin to cannibalize this extra muscle since it is not necessary for normal body functions. Knowing when to not work out a muscle and when it is time to hit it again is something that gets easier in time but just remember, it is easier to feel your way to a better work out than to intellectualize it.