Article: Don't Let a Break Break You: A Guide to Returning to the Gym After a Long Break
Don't Let a Break Break You: A Guide to Returning to the Gym After a Long Break
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Introducing a comprehensive 4-week plan of action that will help you get back to your full capacity with ease. By following this plan, you'll be able to optimise your performance and operate at your highest level of intelligence. Don't let another day go by without taking action towards achieving your full potential.
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In week 1, you just want to get back into the groove of movements you haven’t done for a long time.
Your body has forgotten how to move loads through those movement patterns as efficiently as it used to be able to.
PICK LIGHT WEIGHTS. Go for 60% of your old 1RM and stop well before failure (3 reps or more)
Remember, we’re not trying to build muscle with these sessions. We’re just practising movements. DON’T be overeager to find out where you stand with your lifts. What good does it do to attempt to lift 90% of your previous 1RM “just to see where you are” and then fail at it? All you’re doing is putting stress on your joints and frying your capabilities for the rest of the workout and making it more difficult for yourself to recover for the next workout.
You’ll be needing to prioritise recovery in this stage, so don’t make it harder for yourself. 2 or 3 workouts per week will suffice. I’d go for full body. There’s no point in blasting every muscle group by dedicating a whole session to it. There’s no use in 25 sets of chest exercises in a session right now. Go for full body routines with 2 compound exercises per muscle group.
Don’t work yourself too hard (remember, light loads stopping well before failure) or you won’t be ready to do it again in a couple of days.
In the second week, you want to increase the intensity slightly. That means heavier loads and lower reps, going closer to failure. Err on the side of caution, you’re still a long way from ready to go back to your old training style. Use 70% of your 1RMs at most, and still keep about 3 reps away from failure. Stay with the full body routine for now. Don’t add more sessions, or if you do, the volume per session should drop.
We’re going to ramp things up just a little bit now by going slightly heavier and introducing some sets closer to failure. Work with 75% of your 1 rep max on your work sets and go about 2 reps away from failure. Add in some more isolation work if you feel like it, don’t go crazy with lots of sets to failure. Stay with 3x full body or switch to 4x per week upper/lower. Stay away from 5x per week or 6x per week push/pull/legs routines for now, unless the volume per session is very low – for example, 2 compound exercises of a few sets each.
This is the final week. It will be used to get you ready to return to normal training. Work with 80% of your 1RMs and add a couple of sets where you go 1-2 reps away from failure. Stick with a full body or upper/lower routine. If you respond OK, return to a cautious version of your normal routine the next week. Recovery Throughout all of this, make sure you are prioritising recovery. This is not a time to be in a calorie deficit. Eat food. Eat at maintenance. Get enough protein. Track your calories and protein to be sure you’re getting enough. Prioritise sleep. Don’t sacrifice your sleep to do something else. If you can get off devices and dim the lights a couple of hours before bed, and cut down on caffeine, that would be a good thing.
Don’t rush your comeback and injure yourself:
Even if you’ve been doing what you can to train at home and maintain most of your muscle and strength, you don’t want to rush back too quickly with movements you haven’t done in a long time under heavy load. You really don’t want to mess this up and give yourself an injury.
Even if you haven’t lost ANY visible mass if you’ve not been training lifts you used to lift heavy on, you WILL have lost strength on those lifts.
You need to ease back into it. You can’t rush the crucial ramping up period in acclimating your joints and nervous system to heavy loads again.
Be smart and lift safe.
Over and out.