Weight Training and Lifting After a Break
Ready to return to weight training after a long break? Getting back into lifting after a while away from the gym? Here's a guide to help you plan your return to the gym safely and effectively, so you can get your strength and fitness back.
After an extended break, it's normal to have lost some strength and in your fitness levels, but the good news is, you can build up to the strength and fitness you had prior. Whilst you may feel like you lost all the hard work you put in before your break, those efforts were not all in vain. If you were regularly weight training or lifting, you'll likely reap the benefits of muscle memory to help you get back on track.
You may be tempted to get straight back to your usual weight training routine but it's important to restart lifting at a reduced capacity, particularly in the first few weeks to allow your body to get used to weight training again and to prevent injury. How much you reduce this by will depend on how long you've been away from the gym.
As a general guideline, if you've not been weight training for 4 weeks or more, you can start at give or take 50% of what you would have normally done in the first session. This session should primarily aim at getting used to being in the gym again and focus on your movement pattern when lifting weights, not about going hard and seeing how much you can lift. Reflect on the session over the next few days, checking in with how you're recovering, and make sure to allow enough time for your body to recover.
By starting small you can always gradually build up and continue to make progress, which can also boost your confidence and build you up mentally in getting back into your weight lifting routine.
Remember to work at your own pace - keep in mind that getting back into things faster doesn't necessarily mean that your results will be better or more sustainable.
SET SOME LIFTING GOALS
When getting back into weight training, it's useful to set some goals you really want to achieve to help you stay motivated and allow that to direct what you do in the gym. Whether it's a performance based goals such as achieving a 100kg back squat, an aesthetic goal such as building muscle on our back, or a goal based on neither - set ones that you want to achieve or gives purpose, and set some timeframes for when you can realistically achieve them by. Try to avoid spreading yourself too thinly by setting loads of goals - pick key ones you want to focus on now and break those down into smaller goals that you can implement into each session or on a weekly basis.
If you need some help with this, check our how guide on how to set fitness goals.
CREATE SOME STRUCTURE
Now that you've decided on the goals you want to work on, you know your reason to train ( i.e. your purpose) and you're prepared to get back into lifting, it can be helpful to give some structure to your weight training, based around your weekly schedule and needs.
Have a think about what commitments you might have, what your priorities are - taking into account things like your work life, time for family and friends and any other things that are important to you. Build your fitness routine into this so that you can address all your important things, and also do your fitness alongside.
Whilst we all may have 24 hours in a day, we all will have different priorities, needs and things going on in our lives. What matters is how you fit fitness into your life, not the other way around. If you can only realistically make it to the gym 3 times a week whilst you used to be able to go 5 times a week - allocate 3 days in your diary for weight training. Ideally you would want to leave a rest day in between for this case if you can, for example training on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Having these set days to train, which fit around your schedule can help you get back into your lifting routine, and you can always adjust if necessary.
FOCUS ON QUALITY OVER QUANTITY
When getting back into things, it's common for people to have high motivation levels in the start, and want to do everything on the get go which is great - but if you've had a break for some time, your body will likely need time to adjust. Going too hard too fast, too soon, can result in overtraining, which can lead to some serious DOMS (more on Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness here) and injury, which is probably not what anyone would want when just getting back into weight training.
Focus on performing lifting exercises with good technique, rather than how much weight you're using or how much work you're doing. You can always build up gradually as your body gets stronger and used to your weight training routine.
Ensure a good warm up routine to help you prepare for your workouts and a good cool down routine to help you recover from them.