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4 Reasons You Should Consider Taking A Week Off From Working Out

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For people who love lifting weights or working out, the idea of taking a week off from working out or taking a week off from gym sessions may be wholly incomprehensible or may even stir up anxious feelings of losing fitness and strength gains.

So, what are the benefits of a week off from the gym? How often should you take a week off from lifting weights or doing other forms of exercise?

In this guide, we will discuss the benefits of taking a week off from working out, tips for how to know when to take time off, how often to take a week off, and how to take a week off from working out when you have a gym addiction or just love your fitness routine.

In this guide, we will cover: 

  • Do I Need to Take a Week Off From the Gym?
  • 4 Reasons You Should Consider Taking A Week Off From Working Out
  • How Often Should I Take a Week Off From the Gym?
  • What Should I Do When I Take a Week Off From the Gym?

Let’s dive in! 

A person at the gym.

Do I Need to Take a Week Off From the Gym?

If you are not a competitive weightlifter or bodybuilder, or even super “strong” in terms of how much weight you lift or the intensity of your strength training program, you might wonder, “Do I have to take rest weeks from working out?”

The short answer is yes, every athlete, even beginners and recreational lifters and gym goers, should take a rest week from working out periodically.

Taking a week off from your workout routine gives your body and mind a break from the demands of hard training.

4 Reasons You Should Consider Taking A Week Off From Working Out

Understanding the benefits of taking a week off from working out will help potentially make it easier to physically and mentally allow yourself to take the break that your body needs.

Here are the primary benefits if you take a week off the gym:

The days of the week.

#1: A Rest Week Aids Recovery and Helps Prevent Injuries

The primary reason that weight lifters need to schedule off weeks in strength training programs is to give the muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, bones, and other connective tissue time to fully recover.

Although the microtears and muscles can heal up within a matter of several days if you are taking adequate recovery between each workout before hitting the same muscle groups again, tendons, ligaments, and bones require much more time to fully heal.

This means that some amount of the microscopic damage that occurs to these tissues is sustained for a long period of time and never fully heals if you keep hitting the weights and never take a week off from training.

If you take a week off the gym every so often, you can reduce the risk of injury and allow these tissues to fully strengthen so that your body actually makes all of the gains that you are working so hard to achieve.

A person on the floor burnt out from a workout.

#2: Rest Weeks Prevent Workout Plateaus

A rest week from training gives your body a break so that you can maintain the intensity you need or even increase the intensity to prevent strength plateaus

#3: Rest Weeks Prevent Mental Burnout

Intense strength training is mentally taxing, and taking a week off from lifting weights can help you feel reinvigorated to hit your training hard without burning out or experiencing boredom with your strength training routine.

How Often Should I Take a Week Off From the Gym?

If you are not strength training particularly intensely, you probably only need to schedule a week off from lifting weights every few months (2-3 times per year).

But, what does “not very intensely” mean?

Generally, recreational weightlifters who are doing strength training workouts simply to meet the guidelines for physical activity fall into this category.

A person on the floor of the gym, burnt out.

So, if you are doing 2 to 3 total-body strength training workouts per week with the goal of mainly maintaining muscle mass and strength or improving functional fitness and strength, you should still take a week off from working out every so often, but you probably only need to do this every 3-4 months.

That said, if you are an older athlete or tend to recover from workouts slowly, you should take a week off from working out every 2-3 months or less.

Plus, in all cases where you are feeling particularly sore and tired—no matter how young, old, strong, fit, you are—you should heed the signals from your body that you need time off from working out to recover.

You should also potentially consider building in more recovery in your training program moving forward if this type of pattern continues.

Otherwise, most beginners should take a week off from training every 8 to 12 weeks.

Advanced strength athletes can either take a full week off every 6 to 8 weeks or program in deloading weeks where you scale back the volume and intensity of your training every 3 to 4 weeks with one full week off after peak training or strength competitions.

A person hiking.

What Should I Do When I Take a Week Off From the Gym?

If you love your workout routine or the gym is a big part of your social life, taking a week off from working out can feel isolating or even depressing.

Having a plan about what you are going to do when you take time off from working out can help mitigate these challenges and may actually help you enjoy your week off from the gym.

One good tip for how to take a week off from working out when you find that you look forward to your gym sessions as the highlight of your day is to schedule your periodic rest weeks when you are going on vacation or traveling, have lots of work commitments or other social events or some other obligation.

That way, it would actually make it harder to stick with your usual workout routine anyway.

The other thing to keep in mind is that just because you are taking a rest week from working out doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to do no exercise.

A person resting on a couch.

Complete rest days are days when you do very little physical activity. 

A true off week from the gym is good when you feel like you are experiencing symptoms of overtraining because full rest will help your body recover more than active rest. 

Furthermore, if you are finding that you have hit a strength plateau or fitness plateau, seem to be physically or mentally burnt out, or otherwise have symptoms of overtraining, you may want to take more than a week off (ideally 2-3 at the least) from your workout routine.

Speak with your healthcare provider if you have concerns about overtraining syndrome or are not recovering well from your workouts.

Otherwise, if you don’t have a vacation or busy schedule, but you still know that there are benefits of taking a week off from working out, you can opt to do some “active recovery workouts” on your rest week from the gym.

Active recovery can be any form of light exercise. This can include walking, hiking, easy cycling, playing with your kids, using a foam roller, stretching, etc. 

A person on an exercise bike.

An active rest week from weightlifting is ideal if you are feeling well and are not brand new to fitness but want to build in deliberate rest weeks to give your body and mind time to fully recover so that you can hit your next training block feeling 100%. 

Even though you are still getting some exercise, taking a week off from gym workouts by getting outside and doing some hiking, biking, or yoga on some of the days during your rest week can be a good compromise between taking a full week off from the gym and continuing to do long workouts every day.

Remember, your body needs rest in order to recover, decrease the risk of injury, and maximize your potential improvement in strength.

You will actually be doing yourself a disservice if you never preemptively schedule time off from your workout routine, and it’s always better to be proactive rather than reactive.

If you are struggling to get yourself to take enough rest, check out our guide to workout addiction here.

A person running.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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