Training consistently is a fundamental aspect of getting results in the gym.
But, what happens when you miss one training day? Will you lose your gains? Will your strength suffer? Will all your hard work go to waste?
No, the idea that missing one training day will result in losing progress, muscle, and strength is incorrect. Just like one good day of eating or working out won’t lead to results, missing one day won’t take them away either.
That said, the frequency of how often you miss training days certainly does matter. For example, if you miss every other day this is significant. But, if you only miss one workout out of 20, for instance, this won’t significantly impact your training results.
In this article, I’ll discuss:
- Should You Be Concerned If You Miss a Day of Lifting?
- Valid Reasons for Missing a Workout
- Less Valid Reasons for Missing a Workout
- How to Return to Training After Missing a Workout
- 5 Ways to Ensure You Don’t Make Missing a Workout a Habit
- What Happens if You Miss More Than One Training Day? 1 Week? 1 Month? 6 Months?
- Final Verdict: Will You Lose Gains After Missing One Training Day
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Should You Be Concerned If You Miss A Day of Lifting?
Missing a day of training should not be overly concerning to you as one day out of the month of missing a workout will not result in muscle loss or diminished results.
Missing more frequently, however, is a different story.
If you miss a workout, it is important that you first determine the reasoning and behaviors behind missing the workout. We have laid out some valid and less valid reasons to miss a training session below, which can help you keep yourself on track in the face of missed workouts.
As a general rule, you should aim to train at least 3 days a week for average results in the gym.
This means 12 workouts per month on average. If you have more specialized goals, such as gaining significant muscle and strength, I suggest you train 4-5 days a week (16-20 workouts per month).
Key Takeaway: If you miss a workout, make it up. Do it on a day you would normally not go to the gym. Treat your workouts like deadlines for school or work. Get them done when they are due, but if you need an extension, do them ASAP, and don’t let that back up other workout deadlines.
Valid Reasons For Missing A Workout
The measure of validity when it comes to reasons for missing a workout is pretty subjective, and these are reasons that you need to establish for yourself based on your goals, expectations, lifestyle, and responsibilities.
That said, working with thousands of individuals, we have come up with a few “valid” reasons for missing a workout.
Remember, missing a workout doesn’t mean you don’t do it, it just means you push it back a day and pick up where you left off.
It also means that the next training week should not be affected by this missed workout, so make sure you make the workout up prior to moving on to the next training session.
You Are On Vacation
When on vacation, it can be great to get a quick workout in. I personally enjoy getting a workout in a new gym wherever I travel, to start off the day right. I just enjoy how I feel when I workout regularly, but that doesnt mean I will be training as much as usual.
If you are on vacation, and train hard throughout the year, and don’t feel like working out, then don’t!
It’s a vacation. If you want to workout, great, workout! Unless you have a competitive event or workout schedule that is designed with a vacation in mind, you can choose whether or not to workout on vacation.
Just know that when you get back, it’s back to work. Don’t let a vacation turn into a workout rut when you come back home.
You Are Sick
If you are sick, do everyone a favor (including yourself) and stay home.
If you have some light sniffles but feel 90%, sure, then just make sure to wash your hands, cover your mouth and nose, and wipe down your machines after use. But if you are really sick, or feel under the weather, you should probably stay home and take a nap or rest.
If you do feel sick and get to the gym and feel miserable, or are performing poorly, go home.
It’s not worth having a trash workout, beating the body up more (prologning recovery), and potentially getting others sick.
You Are in Serious Pain/Injured
If you are in pain or are injured, and it is not an acute discomfort, it may be best to not train that day until you determine a better workout plan moving forward that allows you to accommodate your pain/injury.
For example, if your knee is swollen and painful to bend it, but you think putting knee sleeves on and Tiger balm are the solutions, you are most certainly working out on borrowed time.
If however you have shoulder pain and it is leg day, you can most certainly still workout lower body and modify movements to accommodate for your shoulder pain during a back squat, making a swap to a hack squat or using a specialty bar are easy ways to work around injury and still train hard as usual.
In most cases, pain or an injury is often isolated to one joint or area of the body. This means that you can still train in all other areas and also begin to rehab the injury area. Don’t let a bum knee or shoulder derail your entire body.
Your Have a Work/Life/Family Emergency
Work, family, and life responsibilities are another valid reason to miss a day of lifting. Millions of people find a way to fulfill those and still train hard and get amazing results.
That said, if there is a time when something pops up and you need to choose between dealing with an emergency or getting a workout in, you need to do what is best for your work/life/family.
The issue here arises when people start to believe everything is an emergency, or they do not carve out other times of the day that they could work out and still deal with the emergencies of daily life.
For example, if you are used to working out after work, but find it tough to do so since your work life could be hectic in the late afternoon/evening, or your family commitments sometimes force you to skip workouts (after school responsibilities, being home with kids), then you need to start working out earlier in the day before those “emergencies” present themselves.
There is always a solution to this, you just need to be motivated enough to seek it out.
Less Valid Reasons For Missing A Workout
As discussed above, the validity or a reason for missing a workout is subjective, however here are some of the reasons that are used from time to time that may be red flags. If you find yourself providing these reasons as to why you are missing a workout, you need to first determine if missing workouts is a rare occurrence or something that has a pattern.
Often, rare cases pop up and that is not reason for concern, but if it happens more than once a month, it most likely is an issue and something that needs to be examined in the future, because missing more than one of your workouts per month is 100% going to derail your results.
Note: The below “less valid” reasons for missing a day of lifting may be some tough love topics for some of you.
You Are Tired
Being tired is a real issue for most people, and while this is a valid reason at times, it is often overused and over emphasized by many people who skip workouts. If you had something so important in your life that you wouldn’t miss it, you would make it work.
If your workouts are important to you, then get them done. If you are chronically tired, then rearrange your lifestyle and sleep habits to get more sleep. If you are missing workouts more than once per month due to this reasoning, then you need to fix the behavior behind being tired, as this is not a valid reason to skip any longer.
You Don’t Find Working Out Fun
Workouts don’t always need to be fun, but if they are not effective or leave you feeling food when you leave, then there is an issue. If you are not having fun with a workout, try other forms of training that can also help you reach your goals.
If however you are doing workouts that are getting you towards your goals, yet just don’t find them fun or are bored, well then you may need to embrace that for a period of time.
You Don’t Want To
If you don’t want to workout and get healthy, then that’s a decision you can make for yourself.
But if you want the outcomes of a healthy lifestyle and regulatory working out, yet don’t want to do the necessary work, well that just isn’t how the world works.
If you don’t want to do something, yet the outcome is what you want, the only way to get there is to do the work. Just like a job, relationship, or anything good, it all takes work and going through times when you don’t want to do the necessary things for success.
If you are finding you don’t want to do workouts because they aren’t fun, or because of other reasons listed in the article, then you need to dissect those further. But, just know, sometimes it’s not about what you WANT, it’s about what you NEED.
You Don’t Have Enough Time
When you tell yourself you can’t workout because you don’t have time, you are simply saying that you don’t care enough or reaching your goal is not as important as other things in life.
You can restructure your day to find time if it’s a priority, even if it’s 20-minutes.
You Don’t Know What to Do for a Workout
Lucky for you, the internet and apps offer thousands of workouts for any goal, ability levels, and budget.
This is a barrier that is completely illegitimate, and if this is why you are not working out, you simply have not sat down to find a program because it wasn’t important enough to you.
If you are looking for a workout program to meet you where you are at, and to build custom programs based on your goals, needs, and equipment, check out the Fitbod app.
How To Return To Training After Missing A Day of Lifting?
Assuming you have only missed one day of training, and it wasn’t due to a more serious issue like an injury, you should be fine picking up where you left off.
This means, do the workout you were supposed to do the day you skipped. Never skip a training session, as any good program has designed the training to work together to produce a training effect. Therefore, simply do the workout you missed, and push your other workouts back a day.
Many people may get flustered at this because what they normally would do on Monday for example is now Tuesday, but just know your body doesn’t go by a calendar.
If this really bothers you, then make it your best to not skip a workout. You could also workout on days you normally would not train, and then be able to reset yourself back to normal the following week (this is more doable for people who don’t train 6 days a week).
5 Ways To Ensure You Don’t Make Missing A Workout A Habit
If you are finding your workouts are inconsistent and you are missing more than one workout per month, then you need to change your habits and tactics to create a better system for driving success. Below are five ways to ensure you don’t make missing a workout a habit.
Adjust Your Training Split
If you are someone who is consistently missing one or more workouts per week, and it’s something you simply cannot fix with holding yourself more accountable at your comments, then you may want to scale back your training program a bit.
This is really only an option if you are training more 3 days a week or more, as scaling back from 2 workouts per week to once per week will leave you with minimal results as is (training one day a week).
For example, if you are trying to train five days a week and always skipping one of those days, you are better off getting on a four day a week program.
A five day program is designed with the premise that you are doing all five days. Each program is designed in a way to balance itself out with the other days of the week, so if you skip days, you are better off being honest with yourself and getting on a program that is built for four days.
Make Your Workouts Shorter
If you only have 30 minutes to workout but your program calls for you to train 60 minutes each session, you need to find a program that can fit your needs better.
That is not a viable reason, that is an excuse.
Ideally you could carve out more time in your day by being more regimented, but sometimes 30 minutes is all you have, and that’s OK. Something is better than nothing, and once you build out 30 minutes on a regular basis, you will find it easier to bump that up to 45 minutes in no time!
Just know that while working out once per week is not as effective as working out 2, 3, or 4 times a week, it is much more effective than working out zero times a week! In fact, working out only once a week, when compared to not working out at all has immense benefits for strength and fitness building.
Break Your Workouts Up
In some cases, you may have time to workout, you just may need to do multiple small workouts in a day rather than one long session.
Maybe that means going for a brisk walk or bike ride first thing in the morning or in the evening, and hitting weights at lunch.
Breaking workouts up may seem like a lot of work, but in reality is a great way to get workouts in, and build workouts around a hectic schedule.
Plus, by breaking workouts up you often are able to push yourself harder in those shorter sessions than you could by combining the sessions.
This is a popular choice for many elite fitness goers, and it can work for you too!
Get On a Real Workout Program
As discussed above, there are a ton of workouts you can access online for free or for a very reasonable price. That said, you do get what you pay for, so investing in your fitness is a great way to make sure you are doing workouts that work.
With the Fitbod app, you can get workouts that have been designed for you based on your goals, equipment needs, and workout progress. Get 3 free Fitbod workouts when you download the app!
Find a Coach or Workout Community
Finding a coach, either online or in person is a great way to have some accountability and someone looking out for you, offering insight, and keeping you on track.
Likewise, a workout community can also help, as long as you are willing to offer accountability and feedback to others in the community.
Either way, finding a coach or workout community can help you boost your accountability, provide support and feedback, and help you navigate issues that pop up that may stop you from working out.
Looking for a workout program? Try using the Fitbod App, which will design your program based on your logged training data and goals. The workouts will adapt automatically to your levels of recovery and rate of progress. With over 600 movements and exercises videos, you can be sure to perform the movements correctly for optimal results. Take the guesswork out of your workouts. Try 3 free workouts on Fitbod.
What Happens If You Miss More Than One Training Day?
Nothing will happen during this missed day, other than potentially providing your body with a little more recovery.
If you are someone who only workouts 1-3 days a week, missing that workout and not making it up will have a larger impact than someone who trains 5-6 days a week but missed a workout.
If you normally workout two times a week, which is already a low training frequency, you are looking to gain muscle and strength (even if they are total body workouts), missing one of the workouts is missing 50% of your training that week.
That’s a very significant and detrimental factor on your results.
Comparatively, if you miss one training day but usually train five days a week, you only missed 20% of your training that week — a much better situation to be in.
What Happens If You Miss More Than One Week of Training?
Missing one week of training will not have a significant negative effect on your long term performance, just like working out for one week won’t have a significant positive effect on your performance.
You will likely find it difficult to get back into the gym or push hard in the first few workouts following your lay off, which is why it is advised to ease back into your training and to do just enough to get a good workout but not crush yourself.
After the first week or two back, you will notice you will be right where you left off, and probably even in a better spot!
What Happens If You Miss More Than One Month of Training?
Missing one month of training will likely result in decreased peak performance, however you will not lose as much fitness and muscle as you may think.
Your body composition will certainly change, as this can take only a few weeks to increase body fat depending on activity levels and diet.
Strength will have a decrease, however a lot of this is due to lack of specificity and neuromuscular drive, which can come back quickly after a few weeks of training.
What Happens If You Miss More Than Six Months of Training?
If you miss more than six months of training, you can expect decreased cardiovascular fitness, endurance, VO2 max, strength, muscle mass, and potentially increased body composition (weight gain and/or muscle loss).
Six months off from training will be much harder to come back from, however not impossible, yet just know that it will take you months if not longer to even get back to baseline.
Final Verdict: Will You Lose Your Gains If You Miss A Training Day?
Missing one training day will have no significant negative effect on your overall goals and performance, as long as one day does not snowball into taking more days off.
Depending on the purpose of missing a training day, such as illness, excessive fatigue, or lifestyle stressors, taking a day off from training and focusing on resting the body and mind may actually help improve your performance (this is more relevant to more advanced lifters or individuals who are training 5+ days a week).
In the end, missing one training day will not result in you losing your gains.
About The Author
Mike holds a Master’s in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor’s in Exercise Science. He’s a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), USA Weightlifting Advanced Coach, and has over 10+ years of experience working with collegiate athletes, national level lifters, and beginners alike. Mike is Founder of J2FIT Strength and Conditioning, a growing global training company with gyms in New York City, Cincinnati, and online offering personal training, online custom coaching programs.