How to Get Back Into Working Out in 9 Steps

Looking to get back to working out and finally build a physique you always wanted? The key is to have a specialized plan that allows you to ease back into exercising.

It’s nothing uncommon to fall off the track of pursuing your fitness goals.

In fact, for most Americans improving health has been the most popular New Year’s resolution for 2020. Nonetheless, about 80% of resolutioners tend to forget about their target by the mid-February.

I am glad if you are one of those people who want to get back into working out. Moreover, this article explains how to do it in 9 easy steps, ensuring that you don’t fail again.

1. Figure Out Why You Stopped Working Out

Before we get down to the nitty-gritty of how to get back into working out you must know the reason that forced you to stop. To have a successful fitness journey going forward you need to know what went wrong last time.

  • Were you too busy with your work?
  • Did you stop due to injury or illness?
  • Have you lost interest in fitness?
  • Found your workout program too boring?
  • Did your gym close due to some unforeseeable event?

By knowing what led you to go off track is important for making sure that you don’t repeat the same mistake. Of course, if it is something that you can control.

Better time management and prioritizing fitness could lower the chance of you skipping workouts. Furthermore, hiring a fitness coach could provide you with the necessary knowledge, a workout partner could keep you more accountable.

Perhaps you should change your attitude to exercise. Moreover, finding the best workout split and picking the right exercises that you enjoy doing could help.

Once you know the underlying reasons why you stopped working out, you can adjust and set yourself up for success going forward.

2. Get Ready to Follow a Special Plan

When getting back to working out after a long break, you would be making a mistake by picking up where left off. Unfortunately, that is what most inexperienced athletes do when focusing on ways to get back in shape fast.

Note, that after a long break of not working out, your strength level would probably be much lower. In addition, your body would not be ready to deal with the “old” training volume and would require much longer recovery time.

In a way, after not working out for months, for the first few weeks you would want to train as a beginner.

That’s just something you have to understand and be friends with.

So, get back into shape as fast as possible, while keeping it safe you want to ease back into working out. Therefore, such a comeback plan would differ from your regular workout program in a variety of training variables.

To create your own workout routine and track the progress with ease consider using my free Google Sheets Workout Template.

For instance, even if you have been working out 7 days a week you shouldn’t get back into working out daily right away. Thereby, you would better off by reducing your training frequency.

3. Cut Down on Training Volume

If you are aware of how to make a workout plan, you know that normally you would want to do somewhere between 10-20 sets per muscle group per week. Nonetheless, when you start working out again after a long time, your training volume should be considerably lower.

For example, it could be somewhere in the range of 6-10 sets per muscle group per week. Similarly to the first phase of lower training volumes with an aim to acclimate the body for higher volumes, as shown in the guidelines for resistance training.

Such a phase could last about 2-6 weeks, where week-by-week your training volume would increase. Nonetheless, it’s not worth increasing volume if your muscles are very sore the day after a training session. Wait until you adapt to the current volume before increasing it further.

4. Decrease the Total Load

It’s certain that you will feel weaker than before when you get back to working out after a break. For that reason, it’s wise to do exercises with lower loads. Especially when performing compound movements, like bench press, squat and deadlift.

Thus, in the beginning, you should be looking to decrease the weight by somewhere 20-50% of what you could have done in the past. Still, the amount by which you would want to decrease the total load depends on the break length and the reason why you stopped working out.

For example, if the reason is an injury, then you may have to decrease the load by more than 50%. However, if you just stopped training for about 3-4 months, then you could just decrease the load by about 50% and start from there.

Such a significant decrease in load might feel very demotivating, yet it’s a starting point in your journey of getting back into shape. Nevertheless, keep in mind that week-by-week you will be able to increase the load and other training variables.

You will probably be surprised how fast you will be able to rebuild your muscle and strength due to “muscle memory”. Anecdotally speaking, to regain your muscle and strength it shouldn’t take more than 50% of the time you spent without training.

5. Think About Exercise Selection

Speaking of the exercise selection, this is where you should pay more attention to details and how you feel when doing the exercise.

You have to see for yourself if any exercises:

  • Put any discomfort on your joints, connective tissues
  • Make you feel very fatigued
  • Or leads to performance decrease

If any of the exercises cause any of the outcomes above – try to avoid them. Especially when you are getting back into exercise after a long break.

To give some examples, you could probably switch:

  • Romanian Deadlift → Lying Leg Curl
  • Heavy Narrow Stance Leg Press → Leg Extension
  • Rack Pull → Cable Row
  • Chest Flys → Chest Press Machine
  • Heavy Barbell Biceps Curl → Dumbbell Biceps Curl
  • Triceps Extension → Triceps Pushdown

Be aware that the examples above tend to be less fatiguing for most people. It might not be the same for you, so take it with a grain of salt.

6. Avoid Soreness & Slowly Apply Progressive Overload

Soreness is a result of muscle damage and is shown to be one of the factors that are responsible for muscle hypertrophy.

Muscle damage on its own is not responsible for muscle growth. Thought, the combination of muscle damage, mechanical tension and metabolic stress is what stimulates muscles to grow.

When you start exercising after a long time, soreness is something you should actually avoid. Of course, some soreness the following day after a workout is fine. However, high levels of soreness have shown to impair muscle strength and lead to longer recovery periods.

Higher muscle stimulus is better if it doesn’t come with the cost of a longer recovery period. The longer your muscles need to recover, the less time they have to adapt, resulting in less progress being made.

Illustration of positive muscular adaptation after training

Therefore, apply progressive overload gradually only when you feel very little or no soreness the day after training. The simplest ways would be increasing training volume through sets, total load or the number of reps. Remember that just an increase of one or few training variables could be enough to induce new muscle stimulus.

Training VariablesWeek 1Week 2Week 3Week 4Week 5
Volume (Sets per Muscle Group per Week)678910
Load, % of 1RM (Main Exercises)50%60%65%70%75%
Rep Range (Main Exercises)4 – 64 – 64 – 64 – 64 – 6
RIR – Reps in Reserve (Assistance & Accessory Exercises)43322
Rep Range (Assistance & Accessory Exercises)8 – 128 – 128 – 128 – 128 – 12

The example above is a general illustration of how you could apply progressive overload to your workout program. Therefore, be aware that it may not be best for your personal training goals.

To ensure that the program is well-suited for you you must know how to create a workout plan for your personal goals. As a result of knowing that would be to apply the steps listed in this article in alignment with your goals.

7. Fix Your Form

With total loads being much lower, it’s easier to ensure that the form of performing exercise is proper. That is why you benefit a lot by focusing on improving it when getting back to working out.

Besides that, if more additional focus is put on improving the form, you could increase your skill of performing movements more substantially. Speaking from my own experience, it is also easier to progress and add more weight to the bar once the form is good.

Even though exercise form is something most people neglect, you shouldn’t do that!

Especially when you take into account all the benefits better exercise technique could provide:

  • Lower chance of injury
  • Better muscle contractions
  • Increase in muscle strength
  • Increase in muscle growth

Therefore, focus on your exercise form and try to perfect it, before adding more weight to the bar.

8. Focus on Proper Recovery

When you have figured out how to get back into a workout routine properly, you should ensure that other aspects of fitness are intact. Specifically, your recovery.

A sufficient recovery process is crucial for maximizing your progress. For that reason, your recovery must be not only effective but also efficient so that your muscles recover quickly and adapt to deal with future stimulus.

Firstly, you should be having rest days in between your training days. For example, you could have a rest day in between every full-body workout, if it’s done 3 times a week. However, if you train more frequently perhaps a rest day after two or three consecutive workouts could be better.

Secondly, sleep is another area you should be looking to optimize. As a rule of thumb, you want to sleep at least 7-9 hours a day. As it’s the time when your body actually recovers and grows stronger, as opposed to training when muscle breakdown occurs.

9. Optimize Your Diet

Lastly, I would assume that most people that have fallen off track would want to know how to get back into working out and eating healthy.

At first, it’s important that you know what are your maintenance calories. Thereafter, you should adjust your daily calories intake to your goal – fat loss, muscle gain or maintaining current physic. To lose fat, you must be in a calorie deficit. To gain muscle mass optimally, you would want to be in a slight calorie surplus.

Above all, you can read my articles on how to lose fat without losing muscle and how to build lean muscle for a better understanding of how to reach those fitness goals.

And if you are curious about whether you should focus on building muscle or losing fat I recommend you check out the article that can help you decide whether you should cut or bulk.

Meanwhile, a healthy diet contains mostly minimally processed foods like:

  • Lean meat and fish
  • Eggs and dairy
  • Potatoes, beans, lentils and grains
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Natural nut butter, healthy oils
  • Nuts and seeds

Further, balanced diet recommendations include about 1 gram of protein per 1 lb of body weight or 2.2 grams per 1 kg of body weight. Moreover, somewhere between 15-30% of fats of the total daily calorie intake. At last, the rest of the calories should come from carbohydrates, about 30-50% of your daily calorie intake.

Healthy, Balanced Diet Guidelines

If you are unsure how to implement such guidelines in your diet plan read an article about how to create a meal plan. In addition, I believe that someone who wants to get back into working out after gaining weight, a personalized meal plan would probably be the best option.

Final Thoughts

Think what led you to fall off track last time, and don’t let it happen again. Thereafter, develop a plan that will allow you to get back in shape after not working out for a long time.

Make sure to recover well and eat a healthy, balanced diet, and you are up for success – it’s as simple as that.

I hope this article taught you how to get back to working out after a long break.

Contact me if you have questions about getting back in shape fast or any other fitness topic!

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