If you’ve been quarantined without dumbbells or other exercise equipment, you’re probably sick of doing nothing but bodyweight exercises and can’t wait to trade in your pushups for bench press. But don’t just go jumping right back into your old routine as soon as the gyms open their doors.

If you’ve been out of weightlifting for a while or have been limited to a few dumbbells or exercises, you’re in for some serious muscle soreness. But if you’re worried about getting back into it for fear that you’re going to feel just like a newbie again, don’t be.

All those gains you made mean a quicker return to your old training routine. Returning to the gym with this 4-week training routine will help you gain back your strength and muscle mass fast.

How do I get back into my workout routine?

While there is not just one perfect way to get back in shape after a break, the one thing that you should definitely not do is just jump back into your old workout routine. While the strength that you built prior to taking a break gave you muscle memory that will allow you to perform the same exercises, your muscles will have an increased sensitivity to the effects.

While this muscle sensitivity means that strength and muscle can be gained back quickly, it also means that you will be much more prone to soreness and muscle damage which can ultimately slow your progress by forcing you to skip workouts or preventing you from adding weight. So, the best way to get back into your old routine is by spending the first few weeks back in the gym perfecting your technique and easing your muscles back into heavy weightlifting. 

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What is the best workout routine for getting back into weightlifting?

If you are a serious weightlifter or weightlifting was a significant part of your workout routine before taking a break, this 4-week comeback routine is for you. By completing 3-5 workouts per week, you can safely and effectively build back your pre-break strength and muscle while focusing on perfecting your technique in specific exercises. To make this routine most effective, be sure to:

  • Warm up before every workout
  • Train each muscle group at least two times a week
  • Rest about 90 seconds between sets and about 3 minutes between exercises
  • Use the highest weight that you can for the range of reps you should be completing

The exercises that you do each time you work out for the 4 weeks will depend on how many days a week you want to train. Below are the suggested workouts for each day of a 5-day per week routine. If your routine consists of 3 or 4 workouts per week, you can chose from the 5 workouts, but make sure that you are training each muscle group at least twice a week. 

Workout 1: lat pulldown, barbell curl, barbell deadlift

Workout 2: triceps pressdown, barbell squat, barbell bench press

Workout 3: triceps pushdown, barbell bench press, hamstring curl

Workout 4: Barbell curl, dumbbell rear lateral raise, barbell bench press

Workout 5: Military press, barbell squat, dumbbell side raise

The number of sets and reps that you should do of each exercise in a workout is determined by whether it is an isolation exercise focusing on a specific muscle group or a compound exercise like deadlifts, squats, overhead press, and bench press. Below are the recommended sets and reps for each type of exercise for the 4-week training program:

Week 1

Isolation: 2 sets of 12 reps

Compound: 1 set of 2 reps

Week 2

Isolation: 3 sets of 10 reps

Compound: 2 sets of 3 reps

Week 3

Isolation: 3 sets of 8 reps

Compound: 3 sets of 4 reps

Week 4

Isolation: 3 sets of 6 reps

Compound: 3 sets of 5 reps

The good news on getting back into weightlifting

If you were a serious weightlifter in the past, all of that time spent in the gym is not wasted just because you took time off. The more times you repeat an exercise, the more efficiently your muscle fibers will be able to activate while doing that exercise due to muscle memory. So while at first you might experience soreness like you did when you first started training, you have a huge advantage over your pre-weightlifting self.

Research has also shown that, while you might feel weaker and smaller after a break, most strength and muscle is actually retained for several months after stopping your regular routine. If you were doing bodyweight exercises or other strengthening workouts during that time, you’re even more likely to have retained your previous gains.

With the benefits of the training you’ve done in the past and this comeback program, you should be able to get back into or even surpass your old weightlifting routine in only four weeks!