Better after time off?

Jeff Almeyda

Senior Consultant
For those of you who care, I've been studying hand technique with Bill Bachman for about a year now. He is getting my hands together after my injury and surgery. He's awesome.

But that's not the point of this thread. What I noticed was that, after an extended period of heavy practice, I had a couple of frantic weeks at work and didn't pick up a stick for 10 days.

I come back to the pad and kit and my hands are a notch better than ever!

It must be the muscles getting rest and coming back stronger. However, I believe there is also a mental thing going on. My mind seems to have worked on assimilating this stuff even while away from the pad because some technique motions were smoother and flowed more easily as well. Stuff that couldn't be attributed just to muscle recovery.

I noticed a similar thing with my swivel on double bass. I hadn't done it in a week and came back ripping singles at 220 BPM. Endurance could have been better but the motion was THERE and smooth.

I'm sure pro exercise physiologists can explain what happened but I'm just happy right now that my time off didn't cause me to lose progress.

Realize that I had been practicing religously for a few weeks before the break, I'm sure that is a pre-requisite .

Pretty cool though.


Silver Member
I've definitely noticed this in my own practicing...and have wanted to discuss it and find the right schedule.

For instance, if I'm doing repetitive work on heel-toe or on improving my single kick speed, there is a level of repetition after which I'm not gaining anymore or improving....but possibly adding bad habits. Likewise, there is a period of rest required before I can pick it back up and perform as I did when I first set out on the last session. I have found this a little frustrating and also something that severely limits my ability to move forward at a pace my mind would like.

I liken it to bench press where you are doing repetitive exercise and also trying to increase your max weight; at a certain point of fatigue, you stop performing the motion strictly and you start using other parts of the body and cheating; which is probably not good for developing the refined motion. The muscles are broken down and you cannot achieve what you could when you started the lifting session. Additionally, there is a rest period required for the muscles to heal and for you to take advantage of any advancement.

If there are songs I'm learning that may be fatiguing to my kick foot (immigrant song) or Left Hand (Texas Shuffles), I am unable to repeat them too many times in one session or fatigue sets in and the strokes are weak, flawed and not improving. I have found that a morning session (without repeating until completely broken down) and then a night session can usually allow me to make single day progress.

After too much of this, however, I will need at least 2 days off of those particular motions to allow muscle repair...and to see any improvement in the motions.

These are my findings at least...for someone like me that is trying to advance to a serviceable level of technique, this is a great conversation.

Anon La Ply

Makes sense to me, speaking from my position of zero expertise. You come back after a break with fresh ears. The better we listen, the better we play.


Platinum Member
It could be muscle memory kicking in. Also, with a lot of practice/training, there are two elements......overload, and recovery. During the recovery phase the body assimilates and absorbes the practice/training. This from an athletics coach point of view. Just a thought.


Staff member
Of course, I can't speak from a position of dedicated practicing like you Jeff, but in many areas of endeavour requiring concentration, there's something about a break that delivers fresh imputes & clarity. I have no idea what the mental to physical ratio is in that affect, but it's there for sure. Even if you examine "muscle emory", how much of that is brain control & how much is physical conditioning? I don't have the answers, just posing the thought.


Platinum Member
I wonder if there's also an element of lower expectation, which may reduce any subconscious pressure, thus enabling ourselves not to get in our own way.


Platinum Member
Similar experience here as well Jeff. As a cyclist, I liken it to the "taper" before a race where you gradually cut down on volume, frequency and/or intensity of training to optimize your event performance. Of course, drumming doesn't require nearly as much physiological effort and endurance but the break can do you good both physically and mentally.

The biggest difficulty for me has always been knowing and trusting that I'm not going to lose anything but in fact, will gain something for taking time off. Glad to hear things are going well with your recovery from surgery.



"Uncle Larry"
Lately, when I practice the day of a gig, I haven't liked the way I felt.
Conversely, prior to a gig, if I have a bunch of days "off" where I didn't play at all, usually I like the way I feel while playing.

I'm starting to think it's better to have a break before a gig. Like what spleen said. So when I do get to play after some time off, it seems more fun than if I was on the kit practicing hard really close to the gig. The recordings sound basically the same to me, but my inner self is happier when I haven't played for 4 or 5 days before a gig.

I'd say it's part mental, part physical. Like say you love steak, and you have steak 3x a week. If you didn't have steak for a week or more, and then you had some, you would likely enjoy it more than if you just had steak 2 days ago.

Plus, your muscles need rest to complete and absorb the practice cycle. So between your muscles having some recovery time, and your mental craving because you haven't played in a while, that's probably all it is.


Platinum Member
I dunno. I've recently had a lot of stress and late nights at work, plus a new dog, and that has led to zero practice. The times I have played at church as scheduled, I've felt like a total novice, and a couple of Sundays ago I really was struggling to get and keep a tempo (!) I should get back to practicing, once the day job settles down a bit.