“Be clear about your intentions, thoughtful in your choices, simple in your desires and content in your days.”Mark Sisson
We occasionally get asked whether missing a workout will hurt a client's progress. Even though many of our clients only come in for the short weekly 10 minute workout, our answer is still always no based on the hundreds of workouts we've done with clients. We even have examples where clients going on vacation for a week actually resulted in them breaking out of a plateau when they came back in (see below). There are numerous factors at play here, but occasionally missing a workout by taking a vacation to allow your body to destress, relax, and recover with good sleep and nutrition can be just what it needs to come back revitalized and ready to go.
Recent example of a female client that has been training at Quantify Fitness for the last six months still making progress after missing a week…
For muscles to grow stronger it's important to allow appropriate time for recovery. Workouts on our adaptive resistance equipment (ARX) require more recovery time than a typical resistance training workout due to the volume of eccentric contractions that cause more micro-trauma to the muscles, which is why we recommend no less than four days between workouts for clients doing a total-body Big 3 or Big 5. We do have some clients that come more frequently but we modify the workouts to split up the exercises and only focus on specific muscles with each visit, or we spend most of the time doing high-intensity cardio and body-weight programs (exercises that cause little to no damage to the muscle fibers) on non-ARX days.
Just Because You Don't Feel Sore Doesn't Mean You're Recovered!There’s no link between muscle soreness and protein synthesis, long-term growth, and muscle fiber damage. Muscle soreness occurs when you create enough damage to aggravate the tissues, and this will occasionally correlate with a muscle-growing workout, but frequently it has nothing to do with muscle growth. With high-intensity strength training workouts where you are really fatiguing the muscles, your central nervous system (your brain and spinal cord that connects to your muscles through the peripheral nervous system and tells your muscles to fire and contract) can take a couple days longer to recover than your muscles. It might feel good or satisfying to be sore but it's not a replacement for exercising smarter, not longer.
What Does the Research Say About Missing a Workout?Since we frequently tell clients not to stress about missing a week we wanted to provide something more objective to back up our anecdotal experience with hundreds of clients, and fortunately, recent research in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning does just that. In the paper titled, Resistance Training Induced Elevations in Muscular Strength in Trained Men Are Maintained After 2 Weeks of Detraining and Not Differentially Affected by Whey Protein Supplementation, the authors state that the participants were able to increase their muscle strength and also maintain their positive gains after short-term detraining.
It's important to point out that this study was done on men and focused solely on leg press strength. Unfortunately, there are no other experimental studies to date that have explored the effects of short-term detraining and subsequent retraining in resistance-trained individuals so this is all we have to go on outside of our own experience, but we feel confident in saying, there's no reason to stress out or get discouraged for missing a workout as long as it's not too frequently!