If you’re a lifter and had to take time off due to illness, injury, life changes, or because a global pandemic shut down your gym, you’ll need to start back with a plan.
Yes, you may have lost a little strength, but it will come back.
Here are 7 tips on how to get your lifting program back on track.
If you’ve been off for weeks or months, you’re in a slightly deconditioned state. Your connective tissues (tendons, ligaments) have also been on break. Ease into it. I would not recommend working to failure on anything. Leave a few reps in the tank on every set.
Don’t lift heavy.
Reduce your loads by at least 10% of what you were lifting before if the break was only a month or two. If it was longer than that, you’ll have to guess what load would be appropriate for the rep range you are using.
Work in the mid-rep range, 6-10 reps.
If you can’t get 6 reps, the load is too heavy. If you can fly by 10 reps, it’s too light. That last rep should be a little more difficult, but not a grinder.
Reduce the number of sets.
If you used to do 4 sets of a movement, do 2 or 3 during the first couple of weeks back in the gym. You’ll build back the volume over time.
Do full body splits.
If you’ve been away from the gym for months or years, start with 2 to 3 full body lifts during the first week or two. One or two sets per each major muscle group is enough. The smaller muscle groups will see some action when you’re working the larger muscle groups.
You’ll be sore.
Expect some soreness from DOMS, even if the workouts aren’t as challenging as what you used to do before the break. Make sure you’re drinking a lot of water, warming up before, and cooling down afterwards. You may want to add in a little extra mobility work on the rest days.
You will get your strength back. And if the break was only a few weeks or a couple of months, and you were lifting regularly before, you’ll get it back a lot faster than it took to build it. You aren’t starting over. Might take a couple of months be back up to speed, but it will happen.
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Hi! I'm Tammy! I was a busy, stressed, and unhealthy teacher until I decided to take control of my health. I did not become an athlete until I was in my 50's!
I earned personal training and fitness nutrition certifications, then retired from teaching to dedicate my work life to fitness education for other busy women over 40.
My results are obviously not typical because most people don't train to compete as a bodybuilder.
But I believe everyone can make positive changes with healthy habits! Each of us has a unique combination of strengths and challenges that need to be considered to customize a program that will work for us. Science-based principles, flexibility, and consistency make all the difference.