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How fast will you lose gains if you stop strength training?

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Summary of a study comparing 3-day and 5-day training cessation influence on maximal strength performance.

Who

19 powerlifters (3 females, 16 males) aged 23.8±4.1 years who trained (competitive and non-competitive athletes) in a university powerlifting club (USA).

Design

Experimental design (4 weeks of strength training) with pre- and post-testing; Wilks-scores-matched pairs randomly assigned to 3 or 5-day training cessation

3D group

  • 4 weeks of strength training
  • 3 times per week
  • 3-days training cessation

5D group

  • 4 weeks of strength training
  • 3 times per week
  • 5-days training cessation

Outcome measures

  • performance in a mock powerlifting competition
  • upper-body (isometric bench press) and lower-body (isometric squat) maximal strength
  • body composition, hydration
  • stress and recovery state via Short-Recovery Stress Scale

Main results

How fast will you lose gains if you stop strength training? - Infographic

  • Athletes have got stronger after the 4 weeks of training in the squat, bench press, deadlift, and powerlifting total.
  • Lower body maximal strength performance (measured via isometric squat) could be preserved after both 3-day and 5-day training cessation.
  • Upper body maximal strength performance (measure via isometric bench press) could be sustained after 3-day cessation but not 5-day cessation.
  • Only 5-day cessation group increased body mass. Fat mass was higher in 5-day cessation group compared to 3-day cessation group.
  • Physical performance capability (as rated by the athletes) increased only in 3-day cessation group.

Take home message

For a clinician & coach
Upper body maximal strength performance (measure via isometric bench press) could be sustained after 3-day cessation but not 5-day cessation. Lower body maximal strength performance (measured via isometric squat) could be preserved after both 3-day and 5-day training cessation. Physical performance capability (as rated by the athletes) increased only in 3-day cessation group.
For a parent
Lower body maximal strength can be preserved for 5 days after stopping the training, but the upper body cannot. Athletes felt increased physical performance capability 3 days after stopping training.
For an athlete
Lower body strength can be preserved for 5 days after stopping the training, but the upper body cannot. After 3 days of stopping the training, athletes felt increased physical performance capability.

Original article

Travis SK, Mujika I, Zwetsloot KA, Gentles JA, Stone MH, Bazyler CD. The Effects of 3 vs. 5 Days of Training Cessation on Maximal Strength. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. 2021 Dec 23.

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