Russ Howe PTI's Dropset City

Time to read:

3 minutes


Should you workout when sick? Some say YES (sweat it out!), some say NO. Let’s see what does science says regarding training when you are ill.

should you train when you are ill

Do you know the worst thing about being sick?

It’s not the banging headaches, or the tissues stuck to the side of your face.

If you’re a gym rat like me, it’s the impact it has on your workout schedule!

Missing a few days at the gym sounds about as appealing as pooing a hedgehog, because all you wanna do is gulp your pre workout, flip your cap backwards like Stallone and smash the f**king s**t out of the dumbbell rack… but you can’t.

… or can you?

There’s a lot of confusion about this question among gym members. Some people believe training while ill will prevent your body from a speedy recovery, and others believe it actually help you recover FASTER by letting you “sweat it out”. I even ran a poll for my Twitter followers, and the results were 50/50!

So it’s time to get real.

Today I’ll be looking at what science says regarding training when sick. Let’s get to the bottom of this one.

exercising while sick


If the question was “Can you still build muscle when you’re sick?”, then the answer is YES.

As far as the body is concerned, the process for building muscle is exactly the same and it doesn’t know any different.

However, that’s not the question.

Because even though the body is CAPABLE of hypertrophy, it is unlikely that we will be able to provide it with the necessary stimulus to do so. This is because the rate of perceived exhaustion (RPE) is significantly lower for most people when they are ill, resulting in a below-par workout where you simply “go through the motions”.

Plus, if you’re ill then it’s worth taking other gym members’ health into consideration (we don’t want another lockdown!). Nobody wants to be the inconsiderate f**k who wiped out half the gym with flu.

This begs the question; are we trying to train because it’ll make us feel better? Or are we trying to train because we hate the thought of a day off?

should you workout when sick


Unfortunately, humans don’t work this way.

I love the idea of walking into the gym full of snot and walking out feeling like a million bucks but sweat is just water.

Weight loss gurus and fitness memes which claim sweat is “toxons” are dead wrong.

It’s pretty common for people to believe that exercising while ill helped them to feel better, but what’s actually happening here is their body produced dopamine as a response to exercise, and this makes us feel like everything is Lego Movie awesome.

Once those endorphins fade, the illness remains.


The immune system is at war with the illness you’re suffering from.

It is a battle your body will eventually win (otherwise you would die), but it doesn’t help the process if you place additional stress on the immune system via exercise at the same time.

So how do we know if our illness is something which requires full rest, or something which isn’t so bad?

Enter the so-called “neck check” system.

A 1996 study published in the Journal of Athletic Training recommends looking at WHERE your symptoms are occurring.

  • Below the neck (chest pains, coughing, shortness of breath, tightness, vomiting, etc)
  • Above the neck (sneezing, headache, etc)

If your symptoms are below the neck then you’d be very restricted in the weights room and it’s advisable to miss the gym until you feel better. If your symptoms are above the neck you can probably still train, but will be forced to greatly reduce the intensity of your workout. (1)

Personally I’d rather you just go buy some red Lucozade, climb inside a blanket, and post to Facebook about how sad you are for a few days. Job done.

Who Is Russ Howe PTI?

russ howe pti

As featured in Men’s Fitness magazine and voted in the world’s top 50 fat loss coaches by HuffPost, Russ is among the UK’s most subscribed personal trainers with 105,223 men and women receiving his free weekly fitness tips e-mail.

In the gym, clients range from busy parents, to models, to athletes and actresses. Russ also worked alongside the UK government for 8 years in a venture combating childhood obesity in England.

Outside of the gym, he’s a proud Dad to three young lads.

You can receive free tips by joining the e-mail list above, or you can hit the big button below to unlock full workout programs!



  1. Weidner, T. G., et al. Sport, exercise, and the common cold. J Athl Train. (1996)


  1. I think it depends on how ill a person is. I never really thought about checking where symptoms are, that’s a fantastic piece of advice.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

russ howe pti programs

Grab a membership to have access to all training programs, diet plans, supplement research and the famous Daily Trainer workouts from Russ!

Click here to see more.

russ howe pti musclefood live clean

I’ve partnered with Musclefood to make meal prep easier than ever. Tell ’em your calorie goal and they’ll send your entire diet to your door. Bosh!

Click here to see more.

  • How To Get In Photoshoot Shape In 2 Months

    In this article I’m going to give you a quick and easy nutrition plan you can use to whip yourself into photoshoot shape in just 8 short weeks.

    Click Here To Read

  • The Rules To Ripped

    These ten tips will help you to lay the foundations of a rock solid body transformation. I call them “The Rules To Ripped”.

    Click Here To Read


    What is the best pre workout of 2020? Don’t waste your money – it’s time for The Russ List 2020, my yearly breakdown of the best pre workout supplements!

    Click Here To Read

  • How To Make Your Own Pre Workout Supplement

    Want to learn how to make your own pre workout from scratch? This guide teaches you the four ingredients you’ll need.

    Click Here To Read

  • How Much Volume Do You Need For Muscle Growth?

    Explode your results by hitting each muscle group with the correct amount of volume to grow.

    Click Here To Read

  • Did You Spot These 4 Easter Eggs?

    There are several little Easter eggs built into which most readers never notice.

    Click Here To Read

  • Why Arnold Is Still The Best Bodybuilder

    Many people are hailing Chris Bumstead as the greatest bodybuilder of all time. Here’s my take on why Arnold is still #1.

    Click Here To Read

  • Creatine Myths Busted!

    There are many myths surrounding creatine and it’s potential side effects. This article addresses them one by one.

    Click Here To Read

  • Eating Fat Won’t Make You Fat

    Fat was demonized in the 1980s and is still misunderstood today. Here’s the science on optimizing your fat intake for results.

    Click Here To Read

  • Eat More Protein For Muscle Growth

    How much protein should you eat per day to build muscle? More than most people do. Here’s the lowdown on protein requirements for athletes.

    Click Here To Read

  • Omega-3: Behold The Alpha Omegas!

    Omega-3 supplements are an afterthought for most people, but more fool them!

    Click Here To Read

  • Ashwagandha: The Stress-Busting Fat Burner?

    You want a supplement which can reduce stress, boost fat loss and give you better sleep? You got it!

    Click Here To Read