Returning to training after time off
It’s not always possible to continue training – life happens, and sometimes that means taking time away from the gym. Whether that is a family issue, work commitments or, in my case, a simple holiday where gym access isn’t available.
Most people who have been training for a while develop ‘the itch’ when they take time away from the gym. This feeling that you need to get back to it, can’t wait, let’s go. It’s important to temper that itch with some common sense, however.
As a general rule, much like injuries, whatever time you spent out of the gym will probably be the bare minimum to get back to where you were. If you took three weeks off, it will take you at least three weeks to build back up. I prefer to use the rule of 2:1 – so where I was away for three weeks, I will take six weeks to build back into my training volumes and frequency.
This ‘ramp up’ time is used to re-acclimate to training, slowly building the volumes over a number of weeks. It’s also used to prehab/rehab anything that’s been ignored for a while due to other priorities, or (in my case) fixing up any niggles from activities done while away.
I tweaked my shoulder while we were away snowboarding, so my next few weeks will look something like this: Week 1 – Low volume, return to movement patterns and rehab work.
Week 2 – As above, with slight increases in weight. Add conditioning.
Week 3 – As above, with slight increases in weight
Week 4 – Increase frequency of bench press, begin structuring workouts as normal (main lift/accessories)
Week 5 – Slight increases in weight and volume
Week 6 – By this point, I should be ready to return to the start of a full training cycle.
Now to many this might seem like overkill. But over a lifetime of training, taking this time to ensure my shoulder is healthy and that I am ‘training fit’ is simply prudent. It would be a waste of time to delve back into a training cycle that I wasn’t fully prepared for, only to find in 12-16 weeks that I’ve made no progress and am potentially still carrying a slight injury.
As a physiotherapist I see this all the time, lifters/athletes returning to sport because they feel they have to rather than taking the time to properly rebuild and give themselves a solid platform from which to make concentrated change.