Getting back into lifting after a long break? So what is the best way to lift weights after a break from the gym, resistance training, or any form of exercise for that matter?
If you haven’t lifted weights in a long while, then your body will not be used to it and so it is important that you go about this the right way and with the correct mindset.
Before you undertake a new workout program, It is important that you see your doctor for a check up first. There is most likely nothing wrong, but it is very important to be sure that you don’t have any underlying health issues before beginning your fitness journey!
First off, it’s great that you have decided to get back into the gym and to get lifting weights again. Any form of exercise is very good for you. Resistance training in particular can help contribute towards a decreased cancer risk, and increased overall health and well-being. Below are a couple of studies that highlight how weight training can improves ones health and reduce the risk of developing obesity and insulin resistance related illnesses and diseases.
Set Your Goal and Sort Your Mindset
Before you embark on your journey back to weight lifting and overall fitness, it is going to be very important for you to get your mindset in order first. What are your short term and long term goals? Do you understand that there will be obstacles and challenges along the way? Are you prepared to overcome these setbacks?
Another thing that is important for anyone to understand who is coming back to fitness, is that they will not be able to just pick up from where they left off. If you try to do that, then you risk injuring yourself which will then put your fitness regimen behind schedule.
What I suggest you do, is make up something called S.M.A.R.T objectives. You may have heard of these before, but if not, I will explain them here.
Set S.M.A.R.T Objectives
S.M.A.R.T objectives stands for; Specific, Measurable, Achievable Realistic and Timley.
Writing down your objectives in accordance with this formula will be very beneficial to you. It will help you work out what realistic and achievable steps you will need take in order to get to your ultimate goal. whereas if you ‘bite off more than you can chew’ right away in terms of goals, then you are setting yourself up to fail.
So what I would do, is write down what your long term goal is. This is your ‘why’.
“In two years time from today, I would like to be at 10% body fat with a visible 6 pack and 15 pounds of muscle gain.”
Now that’s a great goal to have, but it is a long term goal and it may be quite a long way from where you are now. Therefore, you want to break down this large goal into smaller S.M.A.R.T objectives.
”I aim to begin a weight based workout plan, and low carb/high fat diet which will allow me to burn my first 15 pounds of fat and build 1 pound of lean muscle mass within my first 3 months on the program”
Notice how this 1st S.M.A.R.T objective says specifically what I will be doing, to achieve what measurable result, and by when. Also notice that the goal is fairly realistic and not too far fetched. We need to build our confidence and reduce the risk of not meeting our target.
Now you need to come up with a number of these objectives to take you to your ultimate goal.
Sort Out Your Diet First
When you are making a big lifestyle change or getting back into something that you haven’t done for a while, is best to change one behavior at a time. If you try to change your diet and incorporate a weight regime, all around work and other commitments, then you could be setting yourself up for failure.
However, if you change one thing at a time, then you allow that to become routine first before incorporating the next thing.
When it comes to building muscle and getting in shape, diet is always the most important thing. Especially if you are wanting that illusive six pack! Remember the saying;
“Abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym.”
This is very true. About 70% of your results rely on your diet being on point. Also, it is not very productive to begin a fairly intensive exercise regime if your are not fueling your body properly. You will be low on the vital nutrients fuel your workouts and to repair and build new muscle afterwards.
Therefore, for the 1st month of your health and fitness comeback it may be a good idea to just focus on your diet.
I have written other articles on this blog that go into more depth on diet for building muscle, so I wont go into too much detail here. You can read the article HERE (opens in a new window on this website), and learn more about diet.
I will however, highlight some of the basic and most important points to remember when getting back into healthy eating for fat loss and muscle gain;
- Consume Plenty of Protein – Protein is vital for building and maintaining muscle mass, and it is literally the building block of muscle and other body tissue. You should try to consume at least 1-2 grams of protein per 1 pound of body weight. Good sources of protein are; Nuts, eggs, chicken (and other lean meats) and fish, etc.
- Eat Your Veggies – Vegetables contain vital micro-nutrients such as vitamins and trace minerals which are not only important for overall health, but they also help the body process and absorb macronutrients such as protein. Generally, those vegetables that are brighter in color are more densely packed with healthy nutrients. Try adding more veggies such as the following to your diet; Peppers, broccoli, spinach, and green beans, etc.
- Reduce Your Sugar Intake – Refined sugar is one of the most fattening substances added to our food. Not only this but refined and added sugar is responsible for many of today’s most common health ailments such as type 2 diabetes and obesity. Try to significantly reduce the intake of foods that are high in sugar. Foods such as; Cookies, cake, sugary drinks, candy, etc.
- Easy on the Carbs – Foods that are high in carbohydrates also increase your blood sugar levels. Eating these kinds of foods stimulates the secretion of the fat-storage hormone insulin. This in turn causes you to store body fat. Try to reduce the number of foods you eat that are high in starchy carbs. Foods such as; Bread, potato chips, fries, rice, and pasta, etc.
- Try Intermittent Fasting – One of the best ways to ensure you don’t gain and extra body fat while trying to build muscle is by intermittent fasting. Not only is fasting great for burning excess body fat, but is also great for increasing your levels of human growth hormone, testosterone, and muscle mass. If you want to learn more about intermittent fasting and its benefits, then go HERE, and read my in-depth article on the subject. The article opens in a new window on this website.
Ease Yourself Back into Lifting Weights
Now that you have your goals, mindset and diet in order; let’s look at how to actually get back into the gym in a safe and effective way.
When getting back into lifting weights after a long break, you need to make sure you take it easy at first. Your body will not be used to intense exercise and you really want to avoid injury. If you do sustain an injury then you will most likely put yourself out of training for at least a few days, probably a few weeks or even months.
Take it easy at first and take plenty of time to rest in between workouts to let your body recover.
On the topic of giving your body time to recover, prepare yourself to experience rather intense D.O.M.S (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness), where your muscles will be sore and in mild pain for a duration of time after a workout. The muscle soreness may be so delayed (especially in the beginning) that the peak of the soreness could manifest itself up to two or three days after the actual workout! Just prepare yourself mentally for this, and expect to have difficulties performing simple everyday tasks such as walking down steps and getting up off the sofa etc.
This is nothing to worry a bout and a little bit of pain means that your muscles are repairing themselves and growing bigger. Just take it easy, eat well, and be patent. As your body becomes more accustomed to exercise and you become fitter, the D.O.M.S wont be as extreme after workouts in the future.
Below are some of my top tips for easing your way back into weight lifting;
- Use weight machines – If you have been out of the gym for a while, then your body will have lost some strength and will not be conditioned fully to exercise. When lifting free weights (weights that are not attached to a machine), you need more muscular strength and coordination to support the weight because it is not supported by anything else. I suggest you spend your first month back in the gym using only the weight machines rather than free weights. This will allow you to ease back into things gradually without the risk of injury.
- Train Large Muscle Groups – Use the weights machines to focus mainly on the large muscle groups in your first month. Forget bicep curls and tricep cable pull-downs. Train using compound exercises. Compound exercises refer to exercises that involve the movement of more than one joint in the body. These types of exercises work a larger muscle area and so you will get more bang for your buck’ in terms of muscular conditioning, muscle growth, and even fat burning. Examples of machine-based compound exercises are; Chest press, shoulder press, leg press, and lat pull down, etc.
- Train Light to Start – Don’t go into this too heavy in terms of the amount of weight you lift in the beginning. Focus on technique first. Technique ALWAYS trumps the amount of weight lifted. Even for more advanced bodybuilders! Lift light, use a full range of motion, perform your repetitions slowly, and don’t rush. You will see much greater gains much more quickly this way.
- Allow Time to Recover – As I mentioned earlier, you will most likely experience quite a lot of muscle soreness in the beginning. This is totally normal. However, it is also common for people not to give their bodies enough time to recover before training the same muscles again. Remember, it is in the recovery phase that your muscles repair themselves and get bigger. This process is called muscle hypertrophy. While one set of muscles are recovering, you could go to the gym and train a different part of your body instead.
So there you have it. If you are looking at getting back into weightlifting, or indeed any form of fitness, then I applaud you. There is no better way to look great, feel great and increase your lifespan than partaking in physical exercise and eating a clean and healthy diet.
Just remember the tips I have shared with you in this post. Don’t aim for the stars straight away. Aim for the moon first. Take it easy, start light, and give your body plenty of time to recover afterwards. Don’t forget to change your diet first so that your body is fuelled correctly for the exercise to follow.
Finally, always remember to consult a health professional first before engaging in any new form if exercise and diet program. The content on this website is intended to serve as a helpful, informative and entertaining resource, that hopefully you will benefit from. However, you must consult with the relevant professionals before beginning anything new in life. Health and fitness is no different.
I wish you all the best on your fitness journey!