How Long Can You Take Off From Doing Bench Presses Before Losing Your Strength?

By John Shea

Weightlifting is a vital component of all strength development activities. Muscle atrophy steadily increases over time when muscles typically worked during exercise become neglected. The pectoralis major is the biggest muscle in the chest and is used during intense strength-training exercises like the bench press. Developing new lean muscle in the chest and arms is a product of extensive lifting during concentrated exercises, although it’s also important to allow your body sufficient rest time. Muscle degeneration doesn’t happen overnight, which means taking some time off from heavy lifting activity could actually benefit your ability to gain new muscle mass.

Maximizing Strength Development

Lifting regularly is advantageous for workout enthusiasts who want to develop strength. However, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends limiting strength-training activity to two to three times per week. The body’s major muscle groups need ample rest time to recover from strenuous activity. It’s a scientific fact that muscular strength increases in the days following a stoppage from strength training, according to the American College of Sports Medicine, which means taking a few days away from the gym can help you gain strength, as opposed to losing muscle mass.

Maintaining Bench Press Strength

Maintaining bench press strength requires a regular commitment. The American College of Sports Medicine states that it’s possible to maintain strength gains by executing one-third of your regular workout program over the course of 12 weeks. Therefore, it’s likely that you won’t lose any muscular strength if you bench press the same amount of weight you’re body is accustomed to just once per week. However, the American College of Sports Medicine further asserts that muscle atrophy will naturally begin to occur after an extended period of non-bench press activity, resulting in a significant strength decline.

Muscle Atrophy

Losing strength is simply an outcome of inactivity, which is why it’s critical to stay active. In 2001, "Medicine and Science in Sports Exercise" performed a study that examined the muscular characteristics of detraining in humans and found that strength-trained athletes may undergo rapid decrease in strength after four weeks of inactivity. Furthermore, sport-specific power and relative isokinetic strength will decrease, which means more effort will have to be exerted when normal activity is resumed.

Alternative Modes of Exercise

The most prominent reason for strength-building aficionados to become inactive on the bench press is injury. Muscle atrophy doesn’t need to be an inevitable phenomenon if you’re still able to execute other modes of exercise, however. It’s important to supplement your workout program with alternative types of activity so muscular endurance is maintained, and strength isn’t diminished. Resistance training, for example, is an effective method of building muscular strength, according to Get Fit, Stay Well! Resistance training doesn’t require hefty gym equipment and includes body-weight exercises such as pushups and pullups.


About the Author

John Shea is a fitness enthusiast and team sports fanatic. He's currently a featured columnist for Bleacher Report and Pro Football Spot journalist. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications.

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