I know I should take a break from training every so often but I feel like I’ll lose muscle. When should I take a break?

June 17th, 2011
By Paul Cribb Ph.D. CSCS.
Filed Under: Questions & Answers

It’s hard to convince most people who love working out that they will achieve better results by employing a planned break from training. Taking strategic breaks from intense weight training will actually enhance muscle gains overall. The big question is, when to take a break?

Some good advice is learn to listen to your body. Pay attention to how you feel in the gym and look out for these symptoms. If you find that you’re struggling through your workouts, not making regular gains in at least one or two exercises, or, if you’re starting to dread the thought of going to the gym, it maybe time to take a break.

I firmly believe in the Max-OT philosophy of performing a block of structured training followed by a break of at least one week where no weight lifting is performed. I’ve found that a 8-10 week block of intense training works well for me, as well as most people I’ve worked with.

A smart approach is to schedule your break to coincide with an appropriate time of life, such as a vacation. It’s a very rejuvenating experience to have that time completely to relax and spend time with people you enjoy without having to concern yourself with finding a gym and scheduling workouts when you’re on a trip somewhere. Another appropriate time to schedule a layoff is when you know other aspects of your life are going to be particularly demanding, such as exams or a big project at work.

Either way, I’m sure you’re starting to see my point. Select a time that will be advantageous to you and your goals. Strategic, thoughtful planning for your lay off from training will ensure that illness or injury does not force you to take a layoff at a later time when you don’t want to. 

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