Blog Fitness Fitness Tips Taking A Week Off From Lifting: How Rest Days Could Help You Maximize Your Gains

Taking A Week Off From Lifting: How Rest Days Could Help You Maximize Your Gains

What would you say if someone told you that taking a week off from lifting could help you lose weight and even build muscle? Chances are you’d think they were lying through their teeth.

If you’re on a weight loss or bodybuilding journey, you know how important weightlifting is to your goals. However, dedicating ample time to the gym and not taking enough rest could actually cause more harm than good to your gym endeavors.

In this article, we’re going to look at how to tell if you need to take a week off from weightlifting, highlight the benefits of taking a week off from lifting, and examine why rest days are necessary, what to do on rest days, what happens when you take a week off from training, and much more.

Are Rest Days Necessary?

Yes, they are, and not taking sufficient rest can have a negative impact on your health, muscles, or fitness goals. But, what exactly are rest days? 

The name speaks for itself. They are days when you take some time off from your usual workout regimen, which gives your body, mind, and muscles time to recover from the strain of exercise.

Rest days come in two forms (23): 

  • Passive rest days aka passive recovery – Passive recovery requires no form of exercise at all. This is your chance to relax or be a couch potato. Whether you choose to read, sleep, or binge on your favorite shows, the choice is yours.
  • Active rest days aka active recovery – Unlike passive recovery where you do absolutely nothing, on an active rest day, you’ll still do some physical activity. Unlike normal workout days where you have a structured workout, during active recovery, your physical activity should be limited to low or moderate intensity such as walking, stretching, yoga, hiking or Tai Chi (1).

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So are rest days necessary? 

Yes, they are. 

Taking a week off from lifting every once in a while can be an effective way to progress your physical and performance results. If you want to see results, rest is non-negotiable. Rest allows your muscles to repair and rebuild themselves. 

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Dynamic Warm Up Exercises To Do Before Your Workout

When we work out, the strain causes microscopic tears in the muscle fibers, but rest gives the body time to repair and rebuild these muscles, which makes them stronger for the next challenge. 

According to Runners World, the body requires a minimum of 36 to 48 hours to rebuild (5). Without this essential muscle recovery time, you’ll end up being extremely sore, and you won’t achieve the gains you wish for.

This time is also essential as it helps prevent muscle and body fatigue and can even boost your overall performance while training (6). Rest days are typically one to two days, sometimes three (26), but this can be extended to a full week, particularly for people who do incredibly intense exercises.

taking a week off from lifting  

How Can You Tell If You Need to Take a Week off from Lifting?

Sometimes when you’re training incredibly hard, your body can start to turn against you, showing you signs that it needs you to take a break and stop being put through so much. 

Some signs that you need a week off from the gym and lifting include (2,21):

1. Decreased performance

This is the most obvious sign that you should consider taking a week off from lifting. Have you noticed that your strength and muscle endurance has decreased? This could manifest as an inability to lift for as long as you once could or the weights that you were more than comfortable working with suddenly feel like boulders. If this is happening to you, it’s high time you said a temporary goodbye to the gym and took a week off to recuperate and rest.

2. Plateaued progress

Plateaus are often associated with weight loss, where the scale stops going down despite consistent exercise and a proper diet. In some cases, the weight may even start going back up instead of simply stopping at one number.

Exercise already places stress on the body, and overdoing it will cause more stress. In such a case, the body responds by pumping out more cortisol (3).

In regular amounts, cortisol is a useful hormone, but in excess, it can cause a number of problems, such as increased appetite, inflammation, insulin resistance, and slow metabolism. These can all ultimately lead to fat storage in the body and weight gain (11).

Plateaus aren’t limited to weight loss and they happen with muscle growth and strength gains too. This generally manifests as a lack of progress despite consistent efforts in strength training.

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As stated above, working out tears down muscles, and rest days give them time to heal, recover, and grow. Without this break, your muscles will take longer to recover and may have a hard time fully healing. Continuing to work out will lead to muscle damage where you lose muscle strength and muscle mass (17).

3. A compulsive need to workout

There is a stark difference between dedication and obsession. If you realize that you’re always thinking about your next workout and doing so several times a day, you should reflect on why this is, and consider taking a week off for not only your physical health, but your mental health.

Research has shown compulsive exercising to be linked to eating disorder pathology, perfectionism, neuroticism, narcissism, and obsessive-compulsive traits. This issue has further been linked to negative consequences such as injuries, social impairment, and depression (10).

If you realize that you’re constantly obsessing over how much time you spend in the gym, how many calories you burn in a session, how you can burn more next time, and how many calories you eat in a day, then it’s probably time to analyze the situation and consider taking some rest.

4. Loss of appetite

A loss of appetite due to too much exercise isquite common, particularly among competitive athletes.

In a study published in Nutrients in 2017, researchers found that exercise can put a lot of stress on the body, which can lead to a hormonal imbalance. This imbalance affects ghrelin and leptin, the hunger and satiety hormone, causing food consumption to significantly decrease. (9)

This typically occurs in individuals who participate in intense exercise regimens such as professional athletes and bodybuilders. If you feel you are experiencing a loss of appetite start paying attention to the intensity of your current exercise regimen, your nutrition intake and your hunger cues.

5. Insomnia or restless sleep

In normal circumstances, exercise is a great tool to help you sleep. However, too much exercise can do the exact opposite. When you work out too much, your body becomes more exhausted and stressed, keeping you from sleeping well and restfully.

Sleep is important for weight loss and also great for muscle building (12). Without it, you may end up losing muscle (18) and gaining weight (19). The average adult requires 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night (16), so you should reduce your gym/lifting time and allow yourself to sleep more if you notice this happening. It’s not lazy, it’s healthy.

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Read more: 17/7 Intermittent Fasting: A Practical Approach to Time-Restricted Eating

6. Loss of enthusiasm and lack of energy

It is not unusual to want to skip a gym session or feel too exhausted to go and work out after a long day. However, as an exercise enthusiast, if you constantly lack the energy to go to the gym or work out at home, it may be time to take a week or two off from lifting.

taking a week off from lifting  

7. Lowered immunity

Moderate workouts have been proven to help build a strong immune system, lower the risk of diabetes, and even prevent certain cancers. However, overtraining has the opposite effect. Overdoing it with your weightlifting routine can make you susceptible to illness for up to 72 hours (8).

8. More injury and pain in muscles and joints

When you train too much without giving the body the time it needs to recover, you end up working out in a weakened state. This increases your risk of injury as you are unable to keep the correct form or lift heavy weights as well as you previously could. You may also end up aggravating old injuries.

Overused muscles and joints also tend to feel heavy, sore, and stiff (22). Taking a week off from lifting is essential if you want to prevent these gym/exercise-related injuries, in addition to preventing stiffness and soreness of joints/muscles.

9. Depression and other mental health problems

Taking a week off from lifting could actually save your mental health. In many cases, people use exercise as a way of dealing with mental health issues, but overdoing it can have the opposite effect.

Frustrations from not sleeping well can cause poor performance and high expectations, the habit of not eating enough, plateaued progress, and increased stress levels (4) may lead to depression, irritability, and agitation.

10. Insatiable thirst (7)

This may be because your body is in a catabolic state – burning and consuming muscle as energy – which can lead to dehydration.

While this can be solved simply by drinking plenty of water, it is a sign that bigger trouble is on the horizon, and taking a week from weightlifting could prevent worse damage.

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11. Chronic fatigue 

It is not normal to feel constantly fatigued and in this case, you should take a break from your routine to allow your body to recover. A passive rest week could be more beneficial than an active one.

What Are the Benefits of Taking a Week off from Lifting?

There are several benefits to taking a week off from weightlifting, both mental and physical:

It helps with muscle recovery and building

This is probably one of the biggest benefits to having a rest day or a rest week. As previously mentioned, whenever we are engaged in strength training, the stress we put on our muscles ends up causing microscopic tears in the muscle tissue. The more you work out, the more the muscles tear.

Resting gives the muscles time to heal, repair, and grow. To anyone who may not be aware of it, when you take a rest day or a rest week, fibroblasts (24), through the process of muscle fibrosis, heal and repair the muscle tissue, which makes them bigger and stronger.

Prevents muscle fatigue

Muscle fatigue is a decrease in maximal force or power production in response to contractile activity (contraction) (20). When we consume carbohydrates, they’re later turned into glycogen that the body and muscles break down during exercise to use as fuel (15). 

Resting allows the body and muscles to replenish their glycogen stores, which will be later used during the next workout session. Without this, the stores remain empty, which can lead to muscle fatigue.

Reduces risk of injury

When you overtrain, you’re exhausted and this means that your form could be off, your balance could be compromised, and you may drop a weight or miss a step, which could lead to injury.

Even worse, if you’ve been injured before you’re more likely to re-injure an area without proper exercise and rest.

Helps you sleep more/better

A rest week means you’re not pushing yourself to the limits (or as much as you’re used to). This means that you can prioritize getting the recommended 7 to 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep every adult needs. Getting enough sleep means better immunity, better weight loss/management, mental clarity, reduced stress, and better moods (14).

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It’s good for your mental health

Weightlifting is not just a physical endeavor, it’s also a mental one, and overtraining can lead to depression, lack of motivation, and moodiness. Taking a week off from lifting can prevent all of these factors and once you go back to working out, your mind will be clearer and more enthused.

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Is It Okay to Take a Week off from Lifting?

As seen from the above side effects of too much working out and the benefits of rest days, it is 100 percent okay if you want to take a week off from lifting.

What Happens After Taking a Week off from Weightlifting?

When you take a week off from the gym every 8 to 12 weeks, your muscles, tendons, and ligaments get a chance to repair themselves and the glycogen energy stores in your muscles and liver will be fully replenished (30). 

Testosterone levels in men, which decrease during overtraining, recover. Your motivation for working out also increases and you may even find that your intensity levels go up (28).

If you’re worried about losing your gains by taking a week off from training, you can rest easy. While your aerobic conditioning may reduce slightly (27), your gains can easily survive a week-long break. Loss of muscle is said to only become visible if you take a break of two to three weeks from weightlifting (29).

Read more: Time Restricted Eating vs Intermittent Fasting: Are They The Same?

taking a week off from lifting  


  • Is it OK to skip a week of lifting?

Yes, it is. There’s no need to beat yourself up for having or wanting to take a week off from lifting. Limited workout breaks will actually help your weight loss and muscle gains more than you think.

  • Does taking a week off from lifting help?

Yes, it does. It is helpful to both your muscles and your mental health.

  • Can taking a week off from lifting help painful joints?

Yes, it can. Overworking your joints during exercise can cause them to flare up and ache, so resting for a week can help. However, if the pain doesn’t subside within two weeks, it is advisable to see a doctor, as you may have injured yourself (21).

  • Will I lose muscle after 1 week off?

No, you won’t. Muscle loss is said to happen after two to three weeks of not working out (29, 13).

  • Do you grow muscle during a rest week?

Yes, you do. As stated above, muscle recovery time is 24 to 48 hours after light or moderate exercise. Intense workouts may require up to 72 hours for recovery (25). When muscles repair, they grow bigger and stronger.

  • Is taking 2 weeks off from the gym Bad?

While taking a week off from exercising is perfectly okay, taking two weeks or more off isn’t advisable. Cardiovascular fitness often starts to decrease in the first week and after two weeks, you start to lose muscle mass and strength (29). If you don’t need to, you should keep your gym breaks to just a week and no more than two weeks.

The Bottom Line

Yes, taking a week off from lifting is absolutely beneficial for your physical and mental health. It is advised to take a week-long break from weightlifting as often as every 8 to 12 weeks. I

A rest day or two every week is a better way of preventing overtraining. If you feel that this is not enough, then taking three days to a week off from weightlifting could work for you. You should always do what works best for you and your body. Weight loss, toning, and muscle gain are not worth causing injury to yourself.


This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!


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  2. 12 Signs You’re Overtraining (n.d.,
  3. 5 Exercise Mistakes That Can Actually Halt Weight Loss (2023,
  4. 5 Questions to Ask Yourself If You Feel Depressed After a Workout (2023,
  5. 6 Ways Rest Days Can Improve Your Running (2023,
  6. Are Rest Days Important for Exercise? (2019,
  7. A Review of Overtraining Syndrome—Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms (1992,
  8. Can Too Much Exercise Decrease Your Immunity? (2020,
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  10. Compulsive exercise: links, risks and challenges faced (2017,
  11. Cortisol (2021,
  12. Exercise and Sleep (n.d.,
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  14. Get Enough Sleep (2023,
  15. Glycogen (2017,
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  17. Intramuscular mechanisms of overtraining (2020,
  18. Lack Of Sleep Can Make Dieters Lose Muscle Instead Of Fat (2010,
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  24. Skeletal Muscle Fibroblasts in Health and Disease (2016,
  25. The Science of Muscle Recovery: How Long Should You Rest Between Workouts? (2021,
  26. This Is How Many Rest Days Experts Say You Need Per Week (2023,
  27. This Is What Happens To Your Body When You Take A Break From Working Out (2016,
  28. Using A Recovery Week To Propel Your Muscle-Building Efforts! (2018,
  29. What Happens to Your Body When You Stop Working Out for 2 Weeks (2022.,
  30. Why you need to take a week off from the gym (2016,