Training

4 weeks off training – How much does the human body change

By June 6, 2011 17 Comments

[PICTURE ABOVE] I always read Men’s Health when on the road. It’s amusingly bad most of the time and gives me something to write about.
Those that have been paying attention, may have noticed I’ve been in the USA for the last 4 weeks. It’s a difficult realization to endure when you think to yourself just before you depart.

I’m in peak physical condition – how will I look in 4 weeks of basically nothing?

The answer is – You won’t look ‘that much different’, but there will definitely be noticeable changes to both how you look and feel.

Did I lose much muscle after 4 weeks off training?

Yes and no.

A week or so ago I posted about the mini-routine I had going whilst on the road. I’d do a workout in between nights out on the booze, huge buffet breakfasts and hours of driving on long freeways with nothing but Dr Pepper and a bag of pretzels by my side. These workouts stimulated ‘some’ of the muscle groups, but not as effectively as a proper gym-routine can (more on that below).

The nutrition wasn’t great…

Besides feeling sluggish most of the time, I could feel the physical strain from a lack of good fruit, vegetables and vitamins – plus a HEAVILY reduced protein intake. Sure, I’d grab a muscle milk from a gas station when I could, but these protein injections were hardly ideal – full of sugar with the quality of the actual protein itself being questionable.

How much does the human body change after 4 weeks off from training?

Points to note on the photo…

Besides the obvious tan that was achieved (thanks Mexico :)), the following can be observed:

#1 You can see that my triceps/biceps have atrophied considerably. The stimulus on the road was little more than some curls using my suitcase, and some close-grip tricep pushups.

#2 The shoulders also took a beating. These weren’t worked once in the 4 week period – the only stimulus coming indirectly from decline pushups.

#3 Fat gain around the lower abdomen. The abs, whilst still visible (I have no idea how!), disappear somewhat around the waistline. This, I expected to happen. The way I was drinking and eating, it’s hardly a surprise.

Things you can’t see..

My legs aren’t visible in this shot – they were probably worked more than any other muscle group due to the large amounts of walking we were doing. The body-squats and one-leg dead-lifts (thanks Nate Green), probably had something to do with their conditioning. When I returned to the gym again last week, I’d only dropped around 10kg’s from my squat, which I was particularly happy with.

Some of the training I pulled directly from Nate’s video below…

To sum it up…

You will look marginally different after 4 weeks of vacation whether you train now and then or give it up completely whilst you’re away. The point is, you’ll come back refreshed when you return and your body will be repaired and ready to take on any program you decide to throw at it.

The first 2 weeks will be hard, but once you bust through it – you’ll gain it all back and THEN some. I’m looking forward to seeing how hard I can push myself in the next 6 months.

Bring it on.

Clint’s Note: Notice any major changes the last time you went on vacation? Comment below.

Clint Nielsen

Author Clint Nielsen

Clint is a dad and husband trying to stay in shape. He's also a highly opinionated fitness enthusiast and author of Reveal The Steel. Follow him on: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Google+

More posts by Clint Nielsen

Join the discussion 17 Comments

  • Clint,
    Not much of a difference from what I can see. Very slight change but hardly any. Once you get back on the workout plan you definitely will be back to your peak in about 2 weeks.
    -Sam

  • Consider that was a month without training, I’d say you’re in great position. The differences are marginal at best. Assuming you are as dedicated to your training as you were before vacation, you’ll be completely ripped in no time.

  • Clint Nielsen says:

    Thanks guys :)
    I know it’ll come back in no time. If I had done absolutely no training – the results would have been a lot different no doubt.

  • Mike says:

    Perhaps just look at it as a bulking period, with more raw material to work with now. Did you measure your weight before and after?

  • Darrin says:

    I think you’re being too hard on yourself, man! I doubt anyone would notice any difference at all. Good job at keeping in shape while still having a great time!

    • Clint Nielsen says:

      Thanks Darrin :)
      It does pay off to at least do ‘some’ training whilst on the road.
      Everyone is their own worst critic arent they?

  • Mike says:

    (You don’t look at all heavier, it case it sounds like I was implying otherwise)

  • Yeah, overall not bad at all! Muscle look a bit more full and dense before hand, but I’m sure you’ll be back in “top” shape in no time.

    What amazes me the most is the pose … it’s exactly the same, awesome! :D

  • If that’s what I looked like every time I took 4 weeks off training, I’d be vacationing a lot more! But seriously, nice job on keeping up with the mini-workouts on the vacation. I find that when I go on vacation, working out in some way helps keep me somewhat consistent.

  • Clint Nielsen says:

    @Mike
    I’m not heavier at all, I think i actually lost a bit of weight due to the muscle loss. (only a few kg’s however)

    @Kevin
    Yes, a lot more full. you can lose that even after a week off, so it’s no real biggie. I’m not sure how I nailed the exact pose either. Freakiness :)

    @Ahmed
    Cheers mate :)
    The mini-workouts were fantastic. 20mins here and there really makes a difference.

  • Clint,

    Congrats on not letting yourself go while on vacation! I tend to gain a few pounds from just a week’s vacation but I promptly lose it back the week I come back with a combintation of aggressive dieting and training. It’s good to take some time off every once in a while and enjoy yourself.

    Alykhan

  • I definitely put on a few pounds around the stomach area and that was only after 10 days. I try to do some body weight stuff when I am in a hotel but still don’t feel I know enough diverse exercises at the moment for it to really make a difference.

  • Sam Childs says:

    Not as bad as one might think, and you are correct, Mens Health is really bad, they should not be allowed to get away with it!
    Im going around Europe for about two weeks, so this routine will be useful, thanks!

    -Sam Childs

  • Edward says:

    Hi Clint , I have a few questions i wanted to ask you and i really hope that you can answer them. First is does our abs and obliques muscles look different on how the way we work ( not meaning that your arms your arms get bigger when you lift which equals a change in the appareance on your arm but the way i am talking about is the shape and definition). First example is how swimmers body look like, they are toned and you can see some definiton on their abs but they have great obliques and v on their hips, soccer players tend to have bigger obliques than swimmers ( maybe its caused of all the running they do?) and many more sports if you look at rugby players, american football players etc. Well if you look at david beckhams physique and compare it to a swimmers body there are some difference , one is that swimmers tend to have more of the v shape than david beckham or any other soccer player , second is that they are more muscular and third is that they have broader shoulders and bonus is that they have a better obliques with that v on their hips. But one thing that keeps bugging me is why is cristiano ronaldos physique different than anyother soccer player in the world!? I mean look at him, his body is perfect ,the six pack and his obliques are also perfect ( obliques can make a body a lot better or destroy it ). One thing i see when he plays is that he always sprint, not running like almost every soccer player does , but he sprints and he is one of the fastest soccer players in the world.Is this his secret for having good abs and obliques? compared to beckham who has not as much muscles but they train exactly the same ( with all the soccer training, gym and their diet becuase they gotta eat clean to perform their best in their games ) so why is his physique so different?? When i mentioned swimmers, it was becuase swimming gives you a v shape like ronaldo but not the same ab definitio, obliques and that “v” on your hips. So does sprinting cause all of this!? I havent seen any sprinter with good abs and body like ronaldo but he stills have a better body than them. To sum it up, does sprinting cause a better ab definition and give you a better shape on your abs( compare ronaldo to beckham and you know what i mean) ? Does sprinting give you that kind of obliques and v like ronaldo? Does swimming also give you a nice set of obliques ( search on google for “swimmers body” and look at their obliques and “v” and compare it to ronaldos so i wanna hear your thoughs about this )

  • Great article to give people an idea of what rest does tot he body. I too have battled with the idea of taking time off, and have realized a week or so in between consistent months of working out is beneficial for the body. Furthermore, when you return to the gym, you feel rejuvenated and that you can conquer the world. It is important to give your muscles a break from the constant tearing that takes place as you work on your muscle development. This website’s detail is great, Keep up the good work!

  • Clint, if you hadn’t pointed out the differences I would have seriously struggled to spot the them. Looks like you can get away with it!

    I think the difference is often in your mind, not the mirror. I remember being away with the boys drinking far too much, and sleeping far too little. I was convinced my body was finished……but after being back a couple of weeks it was all good.

    After reading your post I think it may be time for another trip!

    Michael

  • Clint,
    I love the honesty, a few other sites could do with a dose of it. On another note, it’s great to see another aussie out there offering something to the fitness world. If you are ever up Brisbane way, let me know and we can catch up for a coffee or beer.
    Niko

Leave a Reply