Getting Back Into Weight Training After a Long Break: The Right Way

It happens.

You might have taken a long break from the gym for a reason. Maybe you had a health issue, got injured or that hectic schedule staked it’s claim on your training time. Family or work issues, loss of motivation, or any number of life stuff can force you to lay off your weightlifting routine. But hold up; you might be making a mistake if you think getting back into lifting weights is going to be easy.

Getting back to the gym and throwing some weight about might not be as straight forward as easy as you think. In this guide, we’re going over all the safety tips and things you need to get back to lifting weights after a hiatus.

Return to form

No doubt, most weightlifters find it really frustrating getting back into lifting weights once again after a long break. That’s because the process is demanding – both physically and mentally.

For this reason, you need to be properly guided to be able to comeback quicker and feel better.

The following are some things you need to know while getting back into lifting weights.

Understand the power of muscle recovery

If you were used to a training routine earlier and during those periods you got stronger and more muscular, you have forced your body into two forms of physiological adaptations- muscular adaptation and neurological adaptation. 

  • Neurological adaptation

If you’ve been strength training a lot earlier in your life, your nervous system has been forced to recruit muscle fibers more effectively to express greater levels of strength. That’s why you got stronger during those periods.

So now that you’re not training, your nervous system’s efficiency will be lost. But the good part is that as you try to get back to lifting weights, you’ll get your efficiency back much quicker than what is required to begin from start. 

Remember: you have the ability to regain a lot of strength fairly quickly once you resume your gym sessions.

  • Muscular adaptation 

Your muscular adaptation has to do with your body’s response to building your actual muscle fibers to promote greater levels of strength and endurance. The good part is that once you get back into lifting weights, your body is capable of restoring previous levels of muscle mass.

It’s not far-fetched. While you followed a weightlifting routine before your lay off, you have increased your numbers of myo-nuclei within your muscles. And these myo-nuclei stay in your muscles for long that they return to their previous condition once the training resumes.

Weight training after a long break

So knowing that you can regain both your strength and level of muscle mass is enough motivation in getting back into lifting weights. 

That’s why you need to keep the “muscle memory” in the back of your mind as you hit the gym after your break. 

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Our Best Tips to get you back into Weightlifting After A Long Break

Now that you know that you have a chance of getting back your muscle mass after a long break, here are some useful tips on how to set up your training program:

  1. Accept that you will lose some of your abilities

You don’t expect to resume your weight lifting routine after a long break and still do 30 reps on the barbell on the go. Don’t be deceived, you will feel weaker for a while. 

But that does not mean you’ll never be able to get back to the same level or even surpass it. The point is that you must start slow and lift lower weights or same weight for fewer reps than what you used to do.

If you took a break for about a week or two, you may not feel much difference in your abilities because your body will still maintain its adaptation. 

But you will start to see some lean muscle mass if you stay about 2-4 weeks away from the gym. So expect to feel weaker if you’ve been away from the gym longer than 3-4 weeks.

However, like we said earlier, the good news is that you will regain your muscle and strength quite fast because of muscle memory.

  1. Train easily at the starting phase

It’s okay to have the zeal to get back in your abilities, but you just have to ease into your training. And this means starting out easily during the first 2-3 weeks. Don’t feel down or over ambitious, you will surely get there, but just train fairly easy. 

The reason for this is that it takes time for your joints, tendons, and ligaments to recover from your lifting than your muscles. So you can sustain injury if you go hard too early. 

Besides, you need to ease into your training to avoid excessive soreness. It’s normal to experience soreness if you haven’t done a good workout in a while, but it isn’t a good indicator of whether you’ve had a great workout session or not. 

So start out easy to keep muscle damage to a moderate level and in doing so, you can get back to your previous performance level more quickly.

To ease into your training, you can cut the number of sets into half and try weights that are 15-20% below what you’re used to, or even less if you had a very long break. 

Start with this in the first week and then add in more sets and weights slowly as the weeks progress. You’ll most likely get back your previous performance level or even surpass it within 4-6 weeks.

Man about to lift weights

  1. Be patient

This is an important tip to remember. You need to be patient and stay consistent. Keep up with your workout routine and within weeks, you’ll see the result. 

Remember, if you push yourself too hard, you’re increasing your risk of injury, and this may cost you more time in the gym.

How long does it take to build my muscle and strength back?
That’s the question most people ask when they resume the weightlifting routine after a long break. Well, the time it will take to build back the strength and muscle you once had depends on a few factors including:

  • How much muscle mass you had in the past
  • How much you have lost
  • How you’re training
  • How you set up your diet

So if you only worked out for one hour every month in the past before the break, you will have muscle memory for that specific muscle mass you gained. 

But if you worked out for three times a week for four years before the break, your muscle memory would stretch more giving you a higher potential for growth.

Final Remark

You can actually get back your muscle, strength, and fitness levels after a long break- thanks to muscle memory. But ensure you are not overambitious while getting back into lifting weights. You need to take it slow and train easily at the starting phase. Be patient and consistent and follow a good diet plan, and within a few weeks, you’ll see yourself getting back into your muscular self.

Resources and further reading

Tom Armstrong

Hey! I've been training in all kinds of places, with all kinds of equipment for the best part of 30 years. I love training with my weights at home and writing about new products and training methods online. Well, with a name like Armstrong, I would have to be into training, right?