June 2, 2008 posted by

Recovery Week

My second block of P90X has ended with our marriage/housewarming party this weekend. I think just hosting the party was enough to cause overtraining. It’s time for a recovery week.

In 90X, the “recovery week” is really more of a transition week because it’s not really easier than actual blocks themselves. In fact, many people find P90X recovery week to be the hardest weeks of all. And though they may feel like harder weeks they aren’t on most of the systems being targeted. They feel hard because they include a lot of synergistic movements that are just plain difficult to do. But the overall breakdown that occurs is much less.

It’s a little difficult to understand growth curves, recovery, and how or when to actually peak while doing 90X (or any program). We’re getting so many questions about it that I’ll be writing an article on it soon for the Beachbody newsletter. I’ll explain, in brief, what’s going on. It’s in the X guide (I know, since I wrote it) but here is some further explanation. The concept is simple but understanding it in relation to your own training is more subtle. Many people feel like they won’t make progress unless they’re training hard all the time, but that’s not how the body works.

A block of training generally targets something specific. You may target muscle growth (hypertrophy), muscle strength, pure power, endurance, increased VO2 max, etc. A block generally assumes that a foundation has been laid, or a “Foundation Phase” can also be a block. Each phase goes through an adaptive period followed by a growth period (also called mastery). Once your body masters the said curriculum it tapers off. This tapering is referred to as a plateau because the ascending curve associated with the fitness gains levels off because your body has gotten used to the training.

A recovery period allows the microtrauma of the above training to heal. If done correctly other aspects of fitness can be gained as the main elements are healing. When the recovery period ends you should be stronger and ready to begin the next phase (or block) or training or to do an event you’ve been training for. Recovery periods don’t necessarily have to be easy but they do have to rest whatever was targeted during the preceding block. Harder recovery weeks, such as in P90X, are often referred to as transition phases because they are designed more to aid transition than simply speed recovery. Essentially, as you are resting the targeted areas of your latest block you are targeting new areas. In this case, stabilizer muscles, flexibility, and coordination. If you were recovering for an event in which you wanted to peak, you would choose an easier recovery period that focuses more on resting and less on improving other areas.

The length of a recovery period varies as do the length of training blocks. The 3 weeks “on”, 1 week “off” 90X plan is an advanced scenario. Training blocks are often set up differently. 6 weeks on and 2 off is common. An effect block will almost never exceed 10 or so weeks. The perfect scenario is variable, meaning that you would graph off of your training and begin recover once your gains declined. Then you would begin your next round as soon as you were recovered.

In my example, I have overtrained slightly on the bike over the last few weeks but my abridged workouts in X mean that my growth curve there is still accelerating. So my week on the bike will target full recovery while my week of X will target improvement. My X training is going to begin to incorporate some climbing. My bike/cardio stuff will begin adding more runs/hikes (still can’t run yet, hmmm).

Progress update: My strength has improved a lot. I’m doing more push-ups during sets of workouts than I could do as a max in April. Almost ditto for pull-ups. My shoulder, which felt awful at the start of the program is moving with much less impingement. I’m tired on the bike but with the virtual Giro that was to be expected. I think my time trial this week will show that I’m fitter. Given the stress level of my life over the past few months I feel pretty damn good. I think the next block is going to be great.

Recovery Week – I plan to bike most days and run/hike the others. All biking will be easy except for a time trial up Emigration and one up Mill Creek. I will try and begin climbing a little, but no hard days at all.

X Sched:

M – Core Syn
T – Yoga
W – Stretch
T- Core Syn
F – Yoga
S, S – play outside


  • Hi Steve! Congratulations.I was looking into the Beachbody stuff and saw that you are an expert on their site. . . My husband Rob is a friend of Brians – you all were neighbors as kids, and Rob remembers spending the night in your video store. He and I visited your parents in Tahoe on our honeymoon 15 years ago. What a small world!! Any suggestions or advice to give on the Beachbody info/products?Amy

  • Small world indeed. Hi Amy!We have products for pretty much any level of fitness but the best start to begin to check stuff out is on the Message Boards. Just click around on any forum that sounds interesting and you’ll get all the info (and motivation) that you’d ever need. Careful, it can get addicting in there. But it’s a good addiction. Have fun.

  • Hey Steve – congrats on getting to another recovery wk. I know you’ve been working your butt off. Thanks again for all you do for BB. I use the knowledge I’ve gained from you everyday in helping myself and others around me, which includes my wife and 4 kids 🙂 So I couldn’t post a comment without a question…right? I’m coming up on a recovery week for doubles in a couple of wks. After that recovery wk, I’m going to do another round of doubles. Do I just use 1 recovery wk between doubles or should I use the P90X recovery wk plus another recovery wk of walking, biking, whatever else you suggest, thus giving me 2 wks of recovery before starting another round of doubles? Thanks. -Sterling

  • hey steve – hope the wedding weekend was great. I’m into my 3rd week doing P90X….love it! Fell super strong, but am still sore…the pull up bar is kickin me ass. I haven’t biked in 2 weeks (i so miss it)….except for work, which is nothing. Can I bike more during my recovery week?

  • Recovery periods can and should be anything you want them to be, just so you’re not going hard. How intensive and intricate is a matter of, more than anything, how you are feeling. There are times when recovery for me means lots of laying around and some stretching. Other times it’s 5 hour zone 1&2 rides and things like Core Syn. So, sure, you can ride. I think anything is on as long as each day you feel a bit more rested and recovered than you did the day before. The only time when this may not be the case is if doing something new, such as is often the case during the first recovery week of 90x.

  • Hi Steve, just found your blog for the first time a few minutes ago, searching for an answer to what my "recovery" week should consist of since I just finished p90x yesterday! I have p90X+ but after reading the documentation…it says wait a week. Should I not do much or perhaps do Kempo several times? What do you think? I wasn't sure about just sitting around for a week, doing stretches….Thanks,Josh

  • Congrats on finishing!I think I wrote an example for the guidebook, didn't I? We've revamped the book a bunch over the years, making it smaller. Maybe they want you to go to the boards now for stuff like that. Pretty much anything easy will work post-X. So doing things like Kenpo, Yoga, Stretch and some easy stuff on your own will aid recovery. There's no magic the the one week number. Recover until you feel ready to go again. It could take anywhere for a handful of days to a month. Btw-this post was hard to find when alerted to your post. You could try our Message Boards for such questions, as posting on the blog could be overlooked when the post is this old.

  • Very Helpful!! Its actually interesting to sit down and plan a recovery cycle and not follow it since you never know when your at the point of taking a recovery week or when you pretty beat down. But the 3 weeks inn and 1 week out thing works pretty well.

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