How Often Should You Take a Break From Lifting Weights?

Exercise class
An exercise class lifting weights. (Image: Comstock/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Lifting weights has many benefits when it comes to building muscle mass, strength and burning calories in a fat loss program. It also puts stress on your body, meaning you need to take breaks. Not only do you need short breaks between individual workouts, longer breaks at more infrequent intervals can also help you avoid injury and maintain your progress.

Rest Between Sessions

A muscle group needs about 48 hours of rest between sessions according to personal trainer Chad Tackett. This means if you train your chest on Monday, you shouldn't train it again until Wednesday. If you're training your whole body in every session, this means training one day on and one day off. If you work one or two muscles in each workout, you don't need rest days between sessions if you're doing different muscles each day.

Workout Schedule

How you plan your breaks depends on your workout schedule. If you're on a bodybuilding-style split routine, you can train every day but still get the required rest for each muscle group. A typical split could break your workouts into individual sessions for your back, chest, legs, shoulders and arms, which would allow you to train daily. As you train one body part, the others are getting a rest. On a full-body routine, you'll need a full day of rest between sessions.

Deloads

A deload involves taking an intentional long break between sessions. Strength coach Jeff Barnett recommends taking a deload once every four weeks. This might sound counterproductive, but a week off means you'll come back to training rested, well-recovered and stronger. During the deload, lift at around 40 to 60 percent of your single repetition maximum for every session that week. Concentrate on form and do more stretching and light cardiovascular exercise.

Increased Breaks

If you're lifting weights close to your maximum, you may need more frequent breaks. Coach Jon-Erik Kawamoto says you can become exhausted if you constantly push your body to its limits with high loads, frequency and volume. He says you should plan your deload and recovery weeks in advance. Strength coach Stephen Bergeron of Built Lean says you can recover faster if you include non-impact workouts like yoga or swimming in your scheduled breaks.

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