Body Building Resources

Coming Back From a Break? How to Get Back To Your Workout Routine
By Jean Lam

It can be tough to get back in shape after you've been on a break from the gym. Whether you've been out for two weeks or two years, you definitely can't start up again where you left off without risking injury. It's important to start slow and take certain precautions to keep yourself safe. There are also a few things you can do to maximize your muscle gains and get back in shape more quickly. Here are a few tips for getting back into your routine after you've been on hiatus.

Talk to your doctor. If you've been sidelined because of an injury, surgery, pregnancy, or any other issue that could have weakened your body beyond what's normal for an extended break, talk to your doctor about starting your workout routine again. Your doctor can tell you what exercises should be avoided and which ones may actually enhance your recovery period. Be sure to talk to a medical professional about a new training regime before you get started.

Start slow. Every exercise expert out there will agree that you shouldn't jump right in where you left off before your break. If you've been out of the gym for more than two weeks or so, you will have seen some losses in strength and muscle mass. However, if you were fit before your break, you should have an easier time making gains this time around than you did when starting from scratch. But start light and increase your weight as you see your strength improve.

Perform compound exercises. When coming back from an extended break, the first thing you should do is concentrate on rebuilding your muscle mass. Stick to compound exercises including squats, lunges, and bench presses to stimulate as many muscle groups as possible with a single exercise. These exercises build muscle more quickly and efficiently than isolation exercises, and as long as there is no medical reason why you shouldn't be doing them, they're your best bet for a fast recovery.

Stick with free weights. Free weights often force you to use multiple muscle groups, as opposed to workout machines, which are often designed to target individual muscles. If you are recovering from a serious injury and must be careful not to target a certain muscle group, isolation machines may be better for your body. But if you don't have this issue, free weights will help you recover strength faster and more efficiently.

Do some cardio. You won't just see a loss in strength and muscle mass after your break. Your endurance may suffer as well. You'll need this to lift to your full potential. Incorporate cardio into your workout, including jogging, walking, swimming, stair climbing, or stationary bike riding. If you do, you should see a greater increase in stamina and you'll be able to lift longer and harder-all things that will help you get back to where you were before your break.

Warm up thoroughly. A good warm-up is a crucial part of your workout. And when you're coming back from a hiatus, it's especially important to make sure your muscles are ready to get back in shape. Perform 20 to 25 reps of exercises that target each muscle group in your body, and do them quickly under very light weight. This will promote flexibility and blood flow to your muscles, and make sure you're ready for heavier weight.

Stretch regularly. Stretching is important to any workout routine. Be sure to stretch after your warm-up, between sets, and after your workout is through. Stretching promotes flexibility and can actually stimulate muscle growth, allowing you to get back to where you were more quickly and efficiently. After your first few workouts you'll probably be sore, as well-and stretching can reduce next-day soreness significantly.

Listen to your body. If your body is trying to tell you something, listen. Be alert for unfamiliar twinges and stiffness in areas you never had before, especially during reps. These may be a sign that you're working that muscle group too hard. If you're recovering from an injury or surgery, your body will have weaknesses it didn't have before-and it's important not to push yourself past your limits. Move forward cautiously, and reduce the intensity of your workout for your own safety if your body is telling you to.

Stick to a routine. Aside from the physical aspect, it can be mentally difficult to get back into a routine once you've gotten out of one. Pick a time that works for you, and go to the gym every day. Don't let yourself deviate from this routine, at least not for a few weeks until you've gotten accustomed to it. If you do, it's possible you could find it very easy to let it go altogether. Find a time that works for you and stick with it-all it takes is one skipped day to put you off your routine again.

The bad news is that you can start losing ground very quickly once you've been out of the gym for more than two weeks. The good news is that if you were fit to begin with, it can be easier to gain that muscle back than it was to build it the first time. Take it slow and don't try to start where you left off before your break, and you should be able to get safely back into your routine.

About the author

Jean Lam is the webmaster of Body Building Resource which provides articles on weight training, nutrition and fitness, body building book and DVDs.

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