How Long Does It Take To Lose Muscle?

Dear Davey,

I am not allowed workout for almost 2 weeks due to doctors orders. I normally workout 5 days out of the week with cardio and/or weight training. I am in good shape currently, but sightly worried I will lose time and muscle mass by not being able to go workout for this long and I have never gone this long without working out. All I can do is walk.

What is the time frame you start losing muscle?


Hey Mike,

For a committed exerciser, skipping a few weeks of the gym is a scary prospect. Our muscles, strength and performance are hard earned - and we don’t want to take steps backwards. As such, recovery from surgery, an injury or even a gym-less vacation can set of warning lights.

As it turns out, several factors contribute to how quickly you’ll lose muscle including age and fitness level.

According to a study in the Journal of Applied Physiology, competitive athletes start experiencing atrophy (muscle loss) after 2 - 4 weeks of detraining. For more recreational athletes, atrophy and decreased strength occur after 12 weeks of detraining. That’s three months!

A separate Australian study found that minor atrophy started occurring in subjects after 3 weeks.

And a Japanese study compared two different groups of exercisers. The first group exercised continuously for 15 weeks. The second group did 6 weeks of training, took a three week rest and then trained again for six weeks. At the end of the study, muscle size and one rep max was the same for both groups.

In other words, missing a few weeks isn’t a big deal once or twice a year. In fact, it can actually be a good thing - and it can give your body and your muscles some much-needed and well-deserved rest.

The key to detraining, however, is your ability to bounce back. Once you return from your vacation or recover from surgery, get back into the swing of things. Don’t let your break deter you from your goals or dampen your motivation.


P.S. If you’re having trouble increasing the size of your muscles, download Size Matters: Davey Wavey’s Foolproof Guide to Building Muscle.

About Davey Wavey

Davey Wavey is a certified personal trainer and YouTube sensation with more than 250 million video views. For Davey's fitness tips and secrets, sign up for his free monthly newsletter - or download any of his affordable and effective workout programs.


  1. Mike must very young. As time goes by you’ll have many, hopefully minor, conditions that cause you to miss training time. The graph doesn’t go up steadily. There are peaks and valleys. Two weeks is no biggie. Might take a month to get back. And, as Davey mentioned, it is advisable to take breaks in lifting. One week off every 12 weeks is a good schedule. You’ll come back refreshed and stronger.

  2. Ive been side-lined by illness and injury many times.. The worst time I missed a whole year of playing sports and gym.. I could walk (sort of) and that was about it. I have rebuilt my body many many times. I’m 50 now, and recovery takes longer and I don’t gym everyday anymoar. I love my gym time and it blows to miss out on it. I guess what I’m rambling on about is that like most things, you learn to adjust, re-evaluate down time into rest time and do what you can to stay active. If that means all you can do is walk, then walk. Embrace it. Walk to interesting places. Make an adventure of it. Cheers..

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