How Long Does It Take To Regain Strength After A Long Break?

ease in slowly
October 14, 2022 0 Comments

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In this article I will be answering the question “how long does it take to regain strength after a long break?”. This is a very common question and an issue that many people who workout face.

Life can often get in the way of training, sometimes you might take time off from the gym due to an injury or personal reasons. In rare cases like COVID pandemic, a lockdown could be enforced which stops you from going to the gym.

How Long Does It Take To Regain Strength After A Long Break?

Thanks to muscle memory it is a lot easier to regain lost size and strength the second time around than it is to gain it in the first place.

How long it takes to get back to your peak strength will depend on the length of time you took off and also the level of physical activity that you did in that period.

If you did no physical activity for a long time then it would take a lot longer to get back to peak strength. This is because your body will be completely deconditioned and will require extra time to get acclimated to your training again. 

As a rough ballpark figure it should take around 2 months to regain most of your lost strength after a layoff. This is assuming you took a layoff of less than 6 months. If you stopped training for longer than this then it will take more time.

It should also be stated that everyone is different. Some people can recover lost strength faster than others. Your nutrition also has to be on point and you must be consistent with your workouts when you return to training.

Short Break

As an aside, I will discuss quickly what to do if you only take a short period of time off from the gym. By “short period” I am referring to less than 2 weeks. 

In this case you can return to the gym and carry on where you left off from your last session. Keep the weights the same as your last workouts and build up from there.

Ease Into Training Slowly After Long Breaks

After longer breaks of a month or more it is crucial not to rush in where you left off and use the same weights. After this length of time away your body will be more deconditioned.

You should ease off a little bit first and go through the motions for the first week or two back after a long break. This is to get your body acclimated to workouts again and recondition the muscles.

It is also important to get the movement patterns dialled in. The longer the break that you take, the more rusty you can become when performing exercise. Repetition and consistency is what builds proficiency and efficiency of exercises.
ease in slowly

Case Study – What Happens When You Rush Back In

I am going to go over a case study illustrating the risks involved when you rush back to your training too quickly after an extended time away.

Two people that I know who train in the same gym as me both injured themselves after coming back to the gym after the covid lockdowns. Both of them hurt their lower backs from squatting too heavy in the first workout back.

This set them both back significantly in their training and it took them a long while to recover from their respective injuries. This just goes to show how important it is to gradually build your way back up after a long layoff.

You have to check your ego in at the door and be willing to take a couple steps back for the greater good long term. If your ego can’t allow you to do this and you go ahead anyway where you left off, it is likely that you will experience similar problems. 

How To Structure Workouts When Coming Back To The Gym

When coming back to the gym it is important to follow simple workouts for the first few weeks. You don’t want to overcomplicate things and do too much too soon.

My preferred workouts are full body workouts. They are easy to structure and don’t involve being in the gym for many days per week. These are a good way of easing back into training after a long layoff.

Even if you only do two full body workouts for two days a week total, you are hitting all your major muscle groups twice per week. This is the beauty of this style of training. It is simplistic and efficient.

Maintaining Strength During A Layoff

An important topic to discuss that is closely linked to this question is that of maintaining strength during extended time away from the gym.

Naturally, it stands to reason that the better you can maintain strength during time off from the gym, the faster you will regain lost strength and size.

I have touched on the all or nothing mentality in a previous article – you can read it here. In that article I mentioned my friend from the gym who completely let himself go during lockdown.

He exhibited this “all or nothing” mentality that is very pervasive in the lifting community. A lot of people believe that if the conditions are not perfect then they should just let themselves go.

If you are unable to go to the gym for a long time due to a lockdown, you should do the best that you can with what you have. The first thing you should do is to ensure that you stick to a solid nutrition plan as you were before.

With regards to training, you should make use of equipment at your disposal. I have waxed lyrical about resistance bands many times on this site. This is not for no reason – they are an incredible workout tool.

If you get a solid set of heavy duty resistance bands you can do full body workouts and maintain muscle very easily. You can even build strength in certain areas. You could do bulgarian split squats using bands, push ups and rows using bands, RDLs with bands, etc.

There is simply no excuse. I used heavy duty resistance bands during the lockdowns and made great progress. By using them I was able to maintain all my size and lose only a tiny bit of strength. This is a far superior approach compared to letting everything go downhill and making excuses. 

>> To see which resistance bands I love and use myself click here!

Final Thoughts

 How long does it take to regain strength during a long break? The answer is it depends on many factors. You can regain lost strength a lot faster if you maintained your fitness better during the layoff.

If you did little physical activity during time away from the gym, and took a very long time off, it will take a lot longer to regain lost strength.

The best advice would be to maintain strength and size as best you can during extended layoffs. Don’t fall victim to the all or nothing mentality and always ensure that your nutrition is on point!

Please leave your comments below if you wish to discuss this topic further. As always, stay safe and enjoy your training!

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