Taking a break from the gym…

I just got back home from a week long trip to Niagara Falls with my girlfriend Patricia.

Lee Hayward & Patricia Crocker In Niagara Falls

The reason for our trip was to attend Vince & Flavia DelMonte’s wedding.
(Note: Vince is the author of the No-Nonsense Muscle Building Program.)

But of course we had to make a mini-vacation out of it as well and take in all the sights of Niagara Falls. It was our first time there and we absolutely loved it!

And while we were there we never once stepped foot inside of a gym!

Now I know some hardcore fitness fanatics out there would freak out at the thought of going a week without working out. But by cycling your training, and even taking the occasional break away from the gym will help you make better gains and enjoy the process even more over the long run.


How To Cycle Your Workouts For Long Term Muscle Growth

Working out and keeping fit is one the best things you can do for yourself. When your body is in shape you feel 100% better about yourself both physically and mentally. You will have a lot more energy, it’s a fantastic stress relief, and the list of benefits just goes on and on.

However, despite all the benefits of working out you CAN get “too much” of a good thing. Some people are so obsessed with working out and bragging about how they “Workout Everyday” that it takes over their life.

I know people who actually get stressed out if something comes up and they can’t workout for a few days. They fear that they’ll become fat out of shape slobs and have their muscles melt away just like ice cream on a hot summers day.

I’ve even gotten e-mails from guys who were afraid to go on a family vacation because it would take away from their gym time. In my opinion that’s going too far and borderline obsession. We workout and keep fit to enhance our life, not to have working out consume our life.

The Different Phases Of Training

I remember several years back reading an article written by 3 time Mr. Olympia, Frank Zane. In the article Frank was talking about how no body can grow and make gains nonstop forever. He went on to say that there will always be phases where you are growing, other phases where you are just maintaining, and even phases where you just need to take a break and rest.

He compared bodybuilding training to the seasons in nature. The spring and summer is the peak growing phase. The fall is the harvesting phase (reap the rewards), and the winter is the rest phase.

Your workouts need to go through similar types of phases. No body can push it 100% and grow nonstop 365 days a year. And if you try to force it, your body will fight back and you’ll experience things like overtraining, plateaus, and maybe even get sick or injured.

Frank Zane - 3 time Mr. Olympia

With my own training I don’t always have things planned out and structured perfectly, but I do cycle though different types of training phases.

For example;
During the months leading up to a bodybuilding competition I’m in serious training and will push myself 100% and be very consistent with my training, nutrition, etc. This is when I’ll put on my blinders so to speak and have tunnel vision focusing my full attention on achieving my training goals. During this phase I’ll make my best progress.

However, right after the contest I’ll usually take a few days or even a week off from working out completely to give my mind and body a rest. Then when I resume training I’ll just take it easy in the gym, mainly doing active recovery type of training. This down time is a much welcomed break especially after months of strict dieting and hard training.

After about a month of taking it easy I’ll usually start to get into a more serious off season “power bodybuilding” workouts. During this phase I’ll focus my training around basic hardcore workouts in effort to gain muscular bodyweight and size.

For most bodybuilders this off season “power-bodybuilding” phase is where they’ll spend most of their training time. But even within this phase there will be ups and downs in your training. Again, no one can give it 100% and make nonstop gains forever.

Most advanced guys will find that they can push it hard and make really good gains for about 6 weeks or so. After that they’ll start to plateau. When this happens the best thing to do is switch to less intense workout program for a couple weeks, also known as a “cruising phase”. This will allow your mind and body to get some active recovery before you crank up the intensity again for another 6 week hardcore training phase.

Most advanced guys can push it hard and make really good gains for about 6 weeks before hitting a plateau.

After a few months of consistent training I even recommend taking a full week off from the gym entirely. Just like I did with my mini-vacation to Niagara Falls. This will benefit you both mentally and physically.

First off, it will allow your body to fully rest and recover from your workouts. Any little aches and pains that you may have from training usually ease up within a week off from the gym. It also gives your mind a break and will make you hungry to train even harder when you resume working out again.

In my case I usually travel away from home 3-4 times each year (usually for a week at a time) and I’ll use these trips as my mini-breaks away from the gym. But even if you don’t travel that often, you can purposely schedule a week off from the gym every few months.

I like to compare it to how our school system is scheduled. School starts off fresh each September, then after a few months they have a winter break (usually over the Christmas holidays), after another few months they have spring break, and then they finish off with a summer vacation before repeating the entire cycle again. No body would ever want to go though 52 weeks a year of nonstop schooling without a break. And the same applies to your workouts as well.

Even though it may seem like you’ll lose muscle from taking a break, trust me you won’t. Muscle isn’t that fragile, it isn’t going to disappear if you take a week away from the gym. In fact that mini-break maybe just the thing you need to rejuvenate your body, renew your training motivation, and help take your physique to the next level of muscular development.

In my latest e-book “Blast Your Biceps” I cover this stuff in more detail and actually structure the training phases of the program to include mini-breaks away from the gym to help you fully maximize your overall muscle gains.

I highly recommend you pick up and copy, if you haven’t already done so. Even though “Blast Your Biceps” is an “arm specialization” program, it still focuses on building size and strength throughout your entire body. One of the key principles that I teach here is that in order to build bigger arms, you have to get bigger and stronger all over. And that’s exactly what this program will help you do.

Blast Your Biceps Book
Blast Your Biceps

To get more information and to pick up your copy just visit:

About The Author


Lee Hayward is a former competitive bodybuilder and muscle building coach who has been online coaching people since 1997. His work has been featured in several international magazines such as: FLEX, Muscle Insider, Muscle Mag International, Testosterone, Ironmag, and Forbes. Lee's main focus right now is with helping men over 40 - who don't want to be fat anymore - lose the gut, build muscle, and get back in shape. If you're ready to "Start Again" for the last time and finally build a lean healthy body that you can be proud of, just e-mail Lee to discuss a realistic action plan that's right for you... lee@leehayward.com


  • Mike

    Blast Your Biceps is a great program! I gained an inch on my arms!

  • Danny

    totally agree on this article…

  • bigrich81

    i agree as well lee, i take a week off every 4-5 weeks and when i do get back to my heavy training i dont lift as much as before the break and i fee flat, weak pumps and not as strong, why is that lee?

  • Skinnyman

    maybe coz u taking dat break too often. i read in flex magazine dat u shud take 1 week off after every 12 weeks of training. personally i havent been able to train for 12 weeks in a row so i wudnt know if its true

  • Ts

    I feel stronger after a week break and more alive and it feels like I can push harder and longer.

  • Nick

    Hi Lee, Your spot on as always.

  • Nick

    Hi Lee, I used to hate having a few days off but now realise how important it is to have a good rest and let your body re-charge it’s self.

  • Matt

    dude, everytime i read something you write i trust your knowledge more. This article is no different.


  • Morning lee, Hope you and Patricia had a good time on your vac. I saw your photos on facebook, it looked like fun. As for your time off. I agree with your readers… I am 56 yrs old, retired and like to stay in shape. I work out every day and play sports on weekends, but I don’t want to get big because at 5’6″ and a stocky build I don’t want to bust out of my clothes, so taking time off lets me regain my love for weight training, bodybuilding and sorts. I feel great after a workout and even better when I come back after a minnie break.

    Good article Lee, Keep up the good work… Herc.

  • Rick

    That’s good advice. I’ve known bodybuilders who take a week off every 6 weeks and some every 12 weeks. I would also keep your protein intake up while you’re off.

  • sean

    I take a week off every 8 weeks. During the middle of the week i do a little workout of press ups and pull ups. My training is based around squats, deads and bench so after 8 weeks my body is starting to ache and i feel little niggles. By the end of my week off i’m itching to get started again.

  • Nick

    Do you suggest taking a break from cardio also on an off week?

  • alan

    well us irish work hard play hard lol,i agree with taking a week off every 8 to 10 weeks,its good for mind and body,great work lee keep it up lad

  • Gordon

    I agree but one trick i have learned and you touched on it is i may take a day or a week and just workout easy like you mentioned active recovery. I don’t put pressure on myself to get a certain amount of weight or reps just pump blood into the muscles and joints. this is a good break from the pressure i put on myself but it keeps me in the routine of going to the gym at the same time of day so when I get ready to push hard again i don’t feel the lull from taking time off completely. I call it it “time off in the gym”

  • i agree as well lee, i take a week off every 4-5 weeks and when i do get back to my heavy training i dont lift as much as before the break and i fee flat, weak pumps and not as strong, why is that lee?  

    You may feel a little weaker right after a break (even though I know a lot of folks actually feel stronger). But once you are back into the swing of things for a week or two you should feel even stronger and more energetic than before.
    Almost like taking 1 step back, then taking 2 steps forward.

  • duryodhunsingh ramsurnsing

    I agree with you Lee. A break of a couple of days is really very important. It gives ample time for muscle recovery.


    hey lee i was wondering do you still take your protein supplements etc. even on your mini vacation?

  • Tyler

    I agree taking breaks like this every few months are important because after that break, chances are you will be more excited to workout and push it a lot harder in the gym. This is great advice Lee.

  • Shawn

    Lee, I appreciate all the hard work you put into your blog and programs. I just recently received my “blast your bench” program, and I am having a hard time understanding phase 2. I do not seem to see what the routine will be (is it the same as phase 1?) And if it is not, can you e-mail me at knutson.shawnd@gmail.com with some help.


  • Rudy

    100% agree with you Lee!!!