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  • Writer's pictureJaime Chase

Returning to Lifting

Updated: May 20

Whether you’ve been sidelined by COVID-19 or have had trouble with your workout consistency before this global pandemic, the possibility of returning to freshly reopened gyms is quickly approaching. After weeks, months, or even years away from the gym or serious training, most people want to jump back in and GO HARD. Many people think, “I’ve got to make up for time lost and work as hard as I possibly can!”. This mindset is a great recipe for injury or quick burnout… leading you right back to the couch. Want a better plan? Approach returning to lifting or advanced exercise after an extended break with a methodological and gradual increase in volume and intensity.

Methods for returning without injury include the following:

Listen to your body and don’t be stupid: You WILL need to adjust to your current strength and conditioning levels. This is not being weak or taking it too easy, it’s wise. Work with where you are and slowly progress toward your old capabilities. If you’re patient and remain smart about your approach, returning to your old strength will take a lot less time than you think.

Cut training volume: If you were following programming before, cut your previous training volume by about half. Slowly ramp up this newer lower volume each week until you are back to a normal level of volume.

Start back with conservative working percentages: Either calculate working sets off of a lower 1RM (85-90% of your old 100%) or just plan to start back working in the 50-75% range for at least a month before pushing higher percentages again. The good news in cutting volume and dropping percentages is that you get to once again experience the newbie phase—at this point your body doesn’t need quite as much volume or intensity as it was accustomed to, therefore you get to make progress with a lower level of training stress.

Focus on GPP (General Physical Preparation): Now is a good time to emphasize more general training methods, particularly if you train for a specific sport like Powerlifting, Olympic Lifting, or marathons. Be sure you gradually build your basic base of strength back up before getting specific with programming for your sport.

Aim to perfect your movement quality and improve mobility: With lower training volume and intensities and more general programming, make a point to perfect your movements. Correcting errors with lighter weights and improving overall movement quality will ensure you smash through your old lifting PR’s!

Prioritize recovery: Get your hydration, nutrition, and sleep in line. Anybody who has made significant physical progress knows that time spent in the gym is only one part of the equation. Each piece of recovery is vital if you want to make progress as quickly as possible!


Still not sure where to start? Check out my Services page for more information on personal training (Austin, TX), online personal training (anywhere you are!), or customized training programs.

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