How to Maintain Muscle During Breaks in Training

 Sometimes we stop training for various reasons, and at this stage, keeping the muscles from collapsing is our only goal.

How to Maintain Muscle

Let's face it, there is no guarantee that you will not lose muscle mass if you stop lifting weights , but … we can slow it down until we start exercising again and get out of the downtime with minimal losses.

So if you've been taking a break from training for a while and are looking for a way to avoid losing the muscle you've built. This article will help you.

How long does it take to lose muscle mass?

In fact, there is no specific period during which you can maintain muscles without doing any exercise, but rather it is related to several factors.

But there is a temporal pattern in which we can identify the loss in muscle volume, and it goes like this.

The first week

There will be no significant loss in muscle size, you may feel that the muscles have become a little less, but there is no actual loss of muscle mass.

The reason for this... First, the first three days are normal days during which muscle recovery takes place and the muscles increase as a result of the stimulation caused by the exercises.

After 4-5 days, the blood pumping in the muscles calms down, and thus the level of muscle glycogen stored in the muscle tissue decreases. This causes the feeling that the muscles appear smaller, but in reality there is no muscle loss.

The bottom line: You can maintain muscle if you stop training for a week without any weight loss at all.

After two weeks

This period depends on the size of the training unit before stopping.

What does this mean ?? If you exercise hard before stopping, this will increase the time needed to start losing muscle mass.

The volume of muscle loss can reach 5% to 10%, but so far this is not considered an actual loss of muscle tissue.

Rather, this is due to the decrease in the level of muscle glycogen and water, as the body stops storing it because it is no longer needed.


So far, you are still safe. You can stop for 3 weeks without a noticeable loss, and once you return to training - you need one week - until you return to your level before stopping.

After a month of hiatus

According to research , the actual muscle loss begins if you stop for more than three weeks. “Before you worry, remember that there are some ways to increase this period, just wait for the next part of the article.”

As it is not a general rule, some people may increase this period as it varies depending on several factors such as:

Factors affecting the amount of muscle loss when you stop training

1- Training period

If you're a veteran you're undoubtedly in luck, as one of the largest studies on this matter found that experienced weightlifters can maintain their strength after a three-week break from training.

It took a full five or six weeks for their muscles to begin to decrease.

2- The type of training you were doing

Another factor affecting the speed of muscle loss is the number of training repetitions .

For example, people who train with a small number of repetitions, ranging from 3-6 repetitions, are faster than those who train according to 8-12 repetitions.

Although the method of fewer repetitions is one of the fastest ways to build size and strength, the fact that what comes quickly and goes quickly proves itself here.

3- Downtime lifestyle

1- The more active you are during the break from training, the longer you will keep your muscles.

2- The more concerned you are with your nutrition, the longer you can maintain muscle.

How quickly do you gain muscle again

This is the good half of the article, before moving on to the tips that will help you maintain your muscles while you stop training, there is one last point, which is:

Gaining muscle when you return to the gym will be faster than the first time.

Because of muscle memory - this is not a myth - it is scientifically proven .

Since muscle cells are much larger than most other cells, they are also multinucleated.

As the muscles are stressed during training, new nuclei are added to the muscle cells, allowing them to grow larger.

In fact, the number of nuclei within muscle fibers is one of the most important factors regulating muscle size.

Fortunately, these new nuclei do not disappear even when you stop training for long periods, and this is what helps the body build muscle quickly when returning again to training.

In short: 

If you are forced to stop training, do not worry too much about the muscles you can gain again, especially if this stop is inevitable.

There are also several tips that will help you keep your muscles as long as possible until they return again.

How can you maintain muscle despite the interruption of training?

One of the biggest mistakes that many people make when they stop training is to stop everything they were doing right during training, such as nutrition, rest, massage, and more.

This is a big mistake, because muscle building does not depend only on training, but is only a stimulus.

So if you are forced to stop training, do not neglect the following things, start until you return again.

1- Don't completely stay away from training

How to Maintain Muscle

The first advice to maintain your muscles, is to seize any possible opportunity to train, even if it is once a week.

Even if it was for half an hour to do some compound exercises that target the largest amount of muscles in the body.

This will make you keep your nervous system strong, and will also work to preserve glycogen in the body.

Unless you are standing due to an injury, it is preferable not to train completely until your injury is over, because the muscles are linked to each other and it is not possible to isolate a muscle from the rest of the body by 100%.

2- Daily calories

This is a very important point, which is not to neglect the amount of calories that enter your body during the cessation of training.

Where some tend to eat more calories during training, and this is useful because the surplus is either used as energy for training or to repair and rebuild muscles.

But since you are not training, this surplus will be stored in the form of fat .

Also, you cannot eat less than your daily calorie need, as this will cause faster muscle loss to provide the body's energy needs.

So the best range is to take your daily caloric need to stay on weight.

To determine your daily calorie needs, use this calculator .

Or you can simply use this formula "your body weight in lbs * 15".

For example if you are 70 kg “154 lbs”, 145 * 15 = 2175 calories per day.

3- Get the right amount of protein

As with protein, it is very important for building and maintaining muscle .

Because you will not exercise, so you will not need the same amount of protein needed for muscle amplification , but you will need what helps you to keep the muscles from shrinking.

The protein needed to prevent muscle loss can be provided by eating .6 to .8 grams per kilogram of body weight.

Some research also indicates that eating more than that will also be beneficial.

4- Stay active

How to Maintain Muscle

Lifting weights is not the only way to build muscle.

Where simple daily activities such as walking, washing the car or dishes, and even cleaning the house provide more incentive to build muscle than you expect.

And you should not forget that there are many exercises that depend mainly on body weight, such as push-ups, horizontal bars, squats without weights, and others.

Take advantage of these exercises to maintain your muscles during the break from the gym, and remember that the more active you are, the more muscle loss will slow down.

5- Additional advice

Do not stray intellectually from training. You can take advantage of the downtime to read books on exercise and nutrition.

Also, arrange your training program by adding new exercises, improving your diet , and learning about different foods and recipes.

Finally, take a step back and look at your body and look for ways that can help you develop the weak muscles in it.

All of these things will help you return more quickly than resume training again.


If you stop training for a week, you will not lose any muscles. If you stop training for two weeks, you will lose 5% of the volume, but it is from the glycogen stored in the muscle. It is not an actual loss. If you stop training for 3 weeks, you will start losing some muscle mass.

There are several ways that can help you slow down the process of losing muscle while stopping, follow them well.

Do not worry, when you return to training again, you will be able to gain muscle quickly thanks to muscle memory.