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Can't Lift For A While?

Learn How To Keep Your Gains!

Posted by Scott_Herman - January 5th, 2016

Whether it is because you are busy during the holidays, have to travel for work or maybe you have an injury I thought it would be great to talk about what you can do to minimize the damage if you can’t train for a while so you can try to maintain your gains!

What Happens When You Can’t Train For A Long Period Of Time?

The first thing we need to do is talk about the general timeline of what happens when you cannot exercise for a long period of time.  If you stop training for a week, you are not going to lose your gains.  However, you may feel SMALLER because you do not have the daily inflammation from the damage you do to your muscle tissue when training and you are also losing the “PUMP”. So you might feel like you are losing muscle, but you really are not. You are just deflating a bit.

Now what happens after the first week will largely depend on how fit you are.  If you are extremely fit from lifting for a number of years and have built some solid muscle, you are going to last much longer than someone who is new to lifting.  There was actually a review in a Sport Science Journal saying that if you are extremely fit you will maintain your strength and mass even after one month of inactivity.

But if you are a new or occasional lifter, which is someone who casually trains only a couple times a week, you will start losing muscle and strength much faster and chances are that after 3 – 4 weeks you could be back to square one.  

A general timeline would be something like this.  Week one you will be fine, by the end of week two you may experience some muscle and strength loss and by week three you are going to be gradually losing your gains.

I know this is not what you want to hear, but that is the reality my friends.  But do not lose hope completely, there are some things you can do to slow down or minimize your loses!

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Set Your Meal Plan To A “Maintenance Level”.  

The first thing we need to talk about is your meal plan so that you can keep feeding your muscles, but not get fat.  This means we need to set your meal plan to a “maintenance level”. Think about it, if you are not lifting you are not getting the same stimulus to your muscles and you are not burning the same amount of calories and that entire surplus is going to turn to bodyfat.  

What I recommend to fine tune your meal plan would be to lower your carb intake. We use carbs for energy, but if we are not training then it would seem pretty simple that the answer would be to lower them.  If you do not, that extra-large surplus in calories NOT burned from not training will result in you gaining fat!

However, the last thing you want to do is be in a calorie deficit.  That is a recipe for disaster because your body is going to catabolize your muscle tissue. So basically do not eat too much or too little, eat at a maintenance level.

Now when it comes to protein, you need to make sure you are 100% eating enough protein each and every day.  If you do not eat enough protein and fill your meal plan with junk food you will be on a super crash course to muscle loss.  

It is well known that research has found that maintaining your protein intake helps preserve your muscle tissue during a long break.  So if you do not keep up with your protein, you will start to see losses in both strength and muscle mass at an accelerated rate.  

Train Extra Hard the Weeks Leading Up To Your Time Off.

A few weeks before your “time-off” you are going to want to kick things into high gear.  Increase your weights, decrease your rest periods, add more sets or supersets to your workouts or even start training multiple muscles groups twice a week.  Basically, look at your current workout plan and do whatever you can to make it more intense.

The goal here is to cause enough damage so that during that following week when you ca not train, your body will utilize it as a “recovery week” and you will STILL be building muscle instead of starting the process of going downhill.  Keep in mind that if you are going to do this you may want to make some changes to your meal plan and boost your calories to make up for the increased intensity and recovery period.

Use The Help Of Supplements To Combat Muscle Wasting.

  1.  Protein Powder: If during your time off you are having a hard time reaching your protein goals, I recommend you having a few shakes a day to combat this.  You guys know I like to use BSN SYNTHA-6 ISOLATE, I keep a small tub in my gym bag no matter where I go.

  2. BCAAs: BCAAs are great because they provide a source of energy for your body and inhibit muscle breakdown, especially Leucine.  

  3. Glutamine:  If you are injured or under a lot of stress, glutamine is a great supplement to help with preventing muscle breakdown because in these situations your body will take glutamine from your muscle tissue.  All you need is 15 grams a day to prevents this from happening.

  4. Fish Oil: Research has shown thatOmega 3 fatty acids help you increase the synthesis of protein in your muscles and has been shown to combat loss of muscle mass, especially when aging.

The bottom line here, if you are taking the training out of the equation then you need to make sure that all the other aspects of your fitness regimen stay the same.  Make sure you are eating enough to maintain your muscle mass, do not go nuts on alcohol, make sure you are sleeping enough to keep your hormones balanced and make sure you are managing your stress to keep your cortisol levels low as well.

At the end of the day it is going to come down to how determined you are with your goals.  If you do not take these tips to heart, all your gains and hard work will mean nothing.  Period.

Now to end on a positive note, muscle memory is real so if you have worked hard and achieved a great physique you may lose a bit when you stop training, but once you get back to it you will be back on track much faster as long as you keep things in check!

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My ABS Workout! - Scott Herman

I thought it was time I shared with you the current routine I am doing that’s been helping me smash my abs, and keep my 6-pack...


Nobody likes to be away from the gym for a long period of time...but it's always good to know you don't have to lose your gains during that time if you're smart about things!


Good stuff Scott! Important stuff here for the ones who are scared to take that extra time out of the gym for fear of losing it all. You got to have those weeks once in a while.


Question so 1-2 weeks "off" can actually make muscles shrinking if eating still is on pair with normal diet for training. And if so isn´t the so called muscle memory people tend to talk about working in such a way that you rather quickly would regain that size again ? .

Brolle81  Edit  Delete  Close

Just like I thought then. Now it will be full blast until July 5 days a week.

Adawg38  Edit  Delete  Close

Not your muscles just your overall body size may shrink a little with the loss of tissue inflamation and pump. Once you're back in the gym again you're back to normal so to speak. If you did lose size and strength for say being out of the gym for some time due to an injury for example that muscle memory would allow you to gain any lost back quicker with the right nutrition and regular training than if you were just starting from 0.


I like this article very informative and videos!:)


These tips will save your gains Nation!!!!!