Recover with easy workouts

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Recover With Easy Workouts To Build More Muscle & Smash New Records

This short guide explains why you need to recover with easy workouts after a few months of training when you lift heavier weights and you do more sets.

Think back when you first started to lift weights:

You wanted to build muscle. You started lifting. You got stronger every time you worked out, and you’ve built muscle. You’re happy.

A few months later, you’ve gained a fair bit of muscle. You lift heavier weights, and you do more sets. That’s normal: your body has adapted, and it needs a strong stimulus to continue building muscle.

At that point, to give your body that strong stimulus, every time you work out, you lift heavier and heavier weights, and you do more and more sets. You beat up your body. So, you need more time to recover between workouts than you used to. If you continue to try and set new records every time you work out, you will stall and you might even overtrain (Rippetoe and Baker, 2014).

This is where easy workouts come in. Easy workouts:

  • Let you recover
  • Keep your technique fresh

My Experience Recovering With Easy Workouts

To illustrate, here’s an example from my own training. In 2015, I started doing supine biceps curls. I trained them hard every workout, and my gains looked like this:

1RM progression

1RM progression over time

After 4 months, my strength (1RM) wasn’t going up. I wasn’t making any more gains.

Around the same time, I also did squats. For that exercise, until Aug 14, I trained hard every workout. As you can see on the chart below (right side), I wasn’t making any gains (my 1RM was flat). Around Aug 14, I did my first easy workout (you can see my easy workouts as dips on the left side). Each dip was followed by a new peak, and a new personnal record. In short, easy workouts lead to new 1RM records.

Recover with easy workouts

Squat progression: best set (left) and 1RM (right). Easy workouts (dips on the left) lead to new 1RM records (as seen on the right)

Dr. Muscle Helps You Recover With Easy Workouts Automatically

When you reach level 4 in Dr. Muscle, the app will add easy workouts automatically to your program. These workouts help you recover, and prime you for your next hard workout.

Take it easy when you do an easy workout: next up will be the hard version of the same workout, where you should do your best to smash a new record.

That way, you can continue to get stronger and build more muscle, even as you lift heavier weights, do more sets, and need more recovery.

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  1. Any recommendations as to what kind of weight to use for easy workouts? I am really kind of stumped here. Also, what is the difference between easy workouts and deloads? I have being doing quite a bit of deloading recently and am wondering if I need easy workouts now at all.


    • Hi Martin!

      Great question.

      For easy workouts, Rippetoe and Baker (2014) recommend using 80% of your usual weight for the same number of reps. That works well in my experience.

      That’s also about 5 reps in reserve, so as you work out, Dr. Muscle will fine tune the weight of your easy exercises to keep you in that range. It’s automated, so even if you’re stumped, it should work anyway 🙂

      About easy workouts and deloads:

      – Easy workouts are part of your plan and you do them even when you’ve been making regular gains. You do just one and then move on to a hard workout.
      – Deloads happen when you’ve stopped making progress. They last 2-3 workouts (

      I hope that makes more sense.

      If you’ve been deloading quite a bit recently, I would start with the level 4 programs. Those include just 1 easy workout every 3 workouts.

      All the best,