Muscle memory: Getting Back In The Gym After A Layoff How should you approach training after a long break?

When people begin training with weights they think they will be doing it forever. Building muscle is more addictive than drugs – once you start getting stronger and looking better, there is no coming back. This creates an ego addiction and bodybuilding maniacs are often afraid to take even one day breaks.


Since real life does not care much about your stupid weightlifting mania, problems get in the way. It can be an injury, lack of motivation or even laziness.

If you train long enough, at one point you will need a break. When that happens, don’t be scared and don’t insult God. It’s not his fault.

One of the good sides of being a natural bodybuilder is that it’s harder to lose your hard earned strength and “muscle” compared to a steroid based physique. The longer it takes to build it, the harder it is to lose it – unless there’s a terrible accident.

A steroid user who takes a complete break from both training and drugs will suffer more losses, but that’s expected since guys on steroids have more muscle mass and strength to lose.

Muscle memory comes to safe the day after a long break.

The body, similar to the mind, starts remembering when you do something long enough. If this wasn’t the case, everybody would have to relearn how to ride a bicycle after a break. Thankfully this is not the case at all since the body is more intelligently created.

When it comes to bodybuilding the same process is observed. After a break your strength and muscles are far from lost. They are just put in a deep safe and require your assistance to get out.

Many people think that once you stop training for a few months everything is lost, but that isn’t true.

Let’s say that when you started out you were able to deadlift 95 lbs and got your deadlift to 405 lbs. Then you stop lifting barbells for a while and after a few months you want to get back to training.

Your strength will be down without a doubt, but it will take you much less time to regain your 405 deadlift than you first needed. Doing something for the first time is way harder than repeating what you’ve done before.

Recovery after a break from weights is also helped by the fact that lifting iron does not require amazing circus like skills. It’s not skateboarding or gymnastics. That’s why it’s easier to get back into the game and recover a lot faster. There is just less skill involved. You lift things from the ground and you put them down.You don’t have to do backflips, jump down stairs, ride an elephant, kiss a lion…etc.

I did it once. I will do it again.

When you’ve done something before, it’s less difficult to get back to that level. Your mind knows that you were once strong enough to lift the required weight, and therefore the process is easier on the nervous system. Of course, adequate time will still be needed to recover your strength to its previous level.

When you’re getting back in the lifting game, you need to first make logical evaluation of your situation. If you were 180 lbs and you lost 20 lbs or more during your break, it’s obvious that your strength will be nowhere near its previous level and you will have to start very light and build back up again over the course of a few months.

If during the break there was almost no loss or gain of bodyweight, you can start heavier because you will be stronger. Recovery will be quite fast.

Why are you eating so much when you don’t train?

Bulking out during a break doesn’t work. You will just get fat. That’s why you should keep your caloric intake at its normal level or even a little bit below since you’re not training. During layoffs the biggest negative damages usually come from poor nutrition rather than the lack of training. That’s because nutrition has direct affect on one’s body composition.

You have estimate how much calories you burn during your training. Lifting weights does not burn a lot of calories regardless of what people say. Strenuous cardio, however, does. People need to take that into consideration when planning a long break from training.

If Michael Phelps was following his so-called high calorie diet without training, he would start to look like a sumo wrestler.

In conclusion

Breaks will come. Don’t be afraid, be prepared.

Start slow. Your body and mind remember everything. Dig deep to get your strength back.

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