I like three hard and one easy week. I examined my journals (all the way back to 1971) and found that I naturally do it with illness, injury or crappy efforts. So, I decided to just learn to plan it. It is really a hard thing to teach young athletes, but the same holds true with everybody, I think.
There is a book called “Consistent Winning” which I think really gives some good ideas about how to do it. You may disagree with the premise but it works.
When I use my “Body as One Piece” program with all the triple pyramids and overload lifts, you find that you come back stronger. Of course, you only squat twice a month on this program, so you are really fresh. Note: this program works for someone off the learning curve. It is fairly advanced. But, I would still recommend for someone who has a year or so under their belt to unload regularly. Joe Mills recommended going back to the York Courses when he noted a lack of progress. At the PBBC, we “bodybuilded” for a couple of weeks, usually just lots of arm work, inclines, hypers and assorted crap, along with bodyweight for reps contests in the squat and bench press. I can almost predict when a person is going to crash in a program by just looking at the structure of the month after month after month of expected training. Life is not linear.
I have never been convinced that improvement in lifting (or throwing or life) is linear. So, I like the idea of planning off weeks. But, what most people misunderstand is that I think you really need to load those weeks before the off-week. I guess I straddle two theories here:
1. You are going to end up taking time off sooner or later, or submit yourself to endless crappy workouts that you will soon convince you that you are genetically inferior.
2. When you train, you really have to train hard. I like Brooks’ idea of picking twelve exercises and trying to attain Hoffman’s Gold standards. Attempting a bunch of bodyweight snatches, cleans, and presses as well as a host of one arm lifts is hard work. In the “Body as One Piece” program that I have my throwers use (the fourth week is off), the squat workout is PR squats for 7 sets of 5 followed by jumps. We overload these lifts whereas the athlete stands and goes down under their own power then we help them come up. (Don’t try this without talking to me more.) They can never grind these lifts nor slow down coming up. But, that is 35 reps (on paper) with their max, once a month. In reality, the first two sets are done with PRs, but the last ones are just pathetic attempts. Paul Northway once had to do 135 on his last set. He could snatch 265 in high school, but on his seventh set could no longer lower himself.
This is hard work in my world. Supersetting triceps x and arm curls is not.
I think you are on the right track with your son, but get him going on floor to overhead lifts, the clean and press at least, as soon as you can. This is the lift that got a lot of us going in the right direction.
So, what does time off mean? For me, it might be a week of arm work and circuit training. Or, more rollerblading. It is active, but not killer. Joe Mills used to recommend the York courses when guys got stale in the weightroom. Whatever you choose to do, keep your eyes on four or ten year progress rather than week to week or even month to month.