Posted On January 23, 2024

Unanticipated Layoffs: How Much Conditioning do You Lose?

Unplanned layoffs can disrupt our training occasionally. How much conditioning a person will lose is always on our minds when our regular training schedule is disrupted.

An ice storm hit my city this week and shut down gyms, food stores and other businesses. When the thaw finally arrived, it was nearly impossible to find a parking spot near the gym.

For those of us for whom working out is part of our regular routine, a few days of unplanned layoff can seem like a big deal.

But how much do we regress when life decides we will completely alter our schedule?


Type of Impact

It helps to specify what type of deconditioning we may face if kept away from our weight toys for a week or more.

My personal list of deconditioning includes five different areas:

Small muscle control and precision movement

Muscle endurance

Capability to put out full power (1 rep max)

Range of motion

Muscle mass

One key variable in this is how many years one has been training. IMHO if you have been doing regular lifting for 3 years or more, you can probably take 2 weeks off and notice only a tiny difference when you begin regular lifting again.

The most likely place you will notice a minor erosion of your skills is in small muscle control. However, this deficiency will quickly vanish when you do some light sets to reestablish precise lifting technique.

Muscle endurance may even improve a bit because of the extra rest you get from not training.

The ability to put out full power is something of a wild card since most competitive lifters only peak two or three times a year. If your training was disrupted during a contest peaking cycle, the impacts will depend on the individual.

Peak output is likely to be recovered in a week (or less) if you were in the later stages of the peaking cycle.

Range of motion should be unaffected by a short layoff.

Muscle mass is not likely to be impacted much by a short layoff. The biggest issue here is likely to be worrying about shrinking into a tiny person with pencil neck and spindly arms.


Mental Health

Working out feels great and all of us love to do it. Not being able to lift, run, etc. is like going to 4th Grade and not having recess.

A small percentage of gym rats (>10%) are into excessive working out that can become unhealthy. Being hooked on excessive exercise is very bad for you and probably for your friends and family.

If you go nuts during a forced layoff, take a hard look at how much and how often you are training.


Bottom Line

The significant majority of lifters will not be negatively impacted by an unplanned layoff of 2-3 weeks. Any impacts you experience will be corrected quickly when you begin training again.

As most of us know (but frequently ignore), the primary reason for sub-optimal performance is overwork and poor recovery.

Sometimes overwork will lead to injury and that really sucks!

In the meantime,

Lift Big!


Written by Richard

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