Taking Time Off Martial Arts Training: How Long Is Too Long?

If you’re wondering how long you can take time off from martial arts training without significantly reducing your skills and physical attributes like speed and power, this article is for you. 

We all know how beneficial training hard can be, but taking time off training can be equally beneficial. It might be what your body needs to recover from minor injuries you’ve developed over time, or it might be what you need to get past a plateau


How Long You Can Take A Break

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The practice of taking time off athletic training endeavors like martial arts training or significantly reducing your workload is called detraining. Detraining is a vital part of martial arts training, especially if you compete. You often must take time off after competitions to recover from the event. You detrain heading into tournaments to ensure you can compete at a high level. Fighters typically spend more time working on their skills leading into competitions, and less time on their strength and conditioning. 

There’s a popular table by Vladimir Issurin titled Residual training effects that estimates how much time you can take off training without seeing a significant reduction in the following physical attributes:

  • Max strength: 30 days ± 5
  • Aerobic endurance: 30 days ± 5
  • Strength endurance: 15 days ± 5
  • Aerobic glycolytic endurance: 18 days ± 5
  • Max speed: 5 days ± 5

From the table, we can see that you can go up to 30 days not training your aerobic endurance and max strength without any significant issues. However, some attributes like maximum speed start diminishing within five days. However, this table doesn’t factor in what happens when training is only reduced. 

Various factors affect how quickly some of these attributes start diminishing. These include: 

  • Activities Performed During The Detraining Period: Activities performed while detraining help to preserve the attributes listed above. Many exercises work multiple attributes at once, helping to preserve them. Low-intensity, light workouts during detraining allow you to take longer periods off without losing your skills.
  • Your Experience Level: People who have trained an attribute for longer tend to maintain them for longer periods while detraining. For example, if you already have a solid strength base and bench 100 kilograms, you won’t have to work your way back up to it if you take a few months off training. That’s not the case for someone new to weightlifting who worked their way up from 50 to 70 kilograms. They might have to start closer to 50 kilograms after taking a few months off.


Figuring Out How Long You Should Detrain As A Martial Artist

It’s impossible to determine how long martial artists should take off training since many factors affect how long you maintain your attributes. Many martial artists take about two weeks off after competitions, which typically doesn’t significantly reduce your skills. 

If you plan to take more time off, low and moderate-intensity workouts can help to maintain your skills. Depending on how many training-related activities you take part in during your detraining period, you might be able to go up to a month without any reduction in your attributes. Anything longer than that, and you should expect to see some attributes decline. Depending on how long you’ve been training, restoring these attributes should take significantly less time than it took to build them up initially. The longer you’ve been training, the faster you can restore skills lost from taking time off. 

You can also preserve your physical abilities by training hard heading into scheduled detraining periods. Studies show that athletes who increased their training volume before detraining preserved their attributes better than those who didn’t. 


Signs You Need A Break From Training

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While taking time off training can lead to diminished skills and physical attributes, overtraining can do the same and prevent you from training. Getting quality rest consistently is just as important as training hard since it boosts recovery, leading to improved results. 

Add at least two rest days a week when designing your training schedule. You should also take breaks from training every few months so the wear and tear you picked up can heal, allowing you to train harder when you return to the dojo. 

Some of the signs you need a break from martial arts training include:


1) Poor Mood

If you’re normally happy and cheerful but find yourself feeling down recently, it might be a sign you need a break from training. Overworking your body impacts your mood to the extent that people around you notice the change. It’s time for a break if you’ve reached that point. 


2) Falling Sick Often

A weakened immune system might signal you need to take some time off training. If you find yourself getting sick more often than usual or end up with a cold that keeps coming back after a couple of weeks, you probably need a break. 

Of course, simply feeling sick doesn’t automatically mean it’s training-related since many things can cause it, but rest always makes things better regardless of why you’re sick. If you’re sick and exhibit some of the other signs listed here, you definitely need a break. 


3) Training Plateaus

If you notice your lifts aren’t progressing and you’re not getting better in the dojo, it might signal you need a break. Time off gives your body a chance to recover from all the hard work in the gym and gives your brain a rest. Taking breaks from training is one of the most effective ways to get past training plateaus. 


4) Insomnia

Overtraining often affects your sleep quality, especially your ability to fall asleep. If you notice you’re having difficulty sleeping along with other signs on our list, you’re probably due for a break from training. 


5) Nagging Injuries

If you have an assortment of minor injuries that are starting to impact your training, it might be time to take a break. Working through an injury is typically a bad idea and often worsens things. Give your body a chance to heal by taking some time off training. It’s okay to train around injuries if you can’t stay away from the dojo for long. Find activities you can do that don’t require using the injured body part. 


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