How To Get Back Into Weight Training And Lifting After A Break
Page last updated: 26th May 2022
Ready to return to weight training after a long break? Whether you’ve been recovering from an injury, have had a baby, or simply wanted to take time away from the gym, there’s plenty of reasons why you might not have stepped foot in the gym for a while.
Getting back into weightlifting after a break can feel like a big step, both physically and mentally. For some people, the fear that they’ve fallen behind and won’t be at the same ability holds them back from returning. For others, the temptation to jump straight back to where they left off means they risk injury.
If you’re looking to make a return to lifting weights after time away, here’s a guide to help you plan your return to the gym safely and effectively, so you can get your strength, fitness, and confidence back.
If you’re new to weight training and starting for the first time, we recommend checking out our weight training for beginners guide instead.
How to safely get back into weight training
Start with smaller, lower weights
After an extended break, it's normal to have lost some strength and in your fitness levels, but the good news is, you can build up to the strength and fitness you had prior. Whilst you may feel like you lost all the hard work you put in before your break, those efforts were not all in vain. If you were regularly weight training or lifting, you'll likely reap the benefits of muscle memory to help you get back on track.
You may be tempted to get straight back to your usual weight training routine but it's important to restart lifting at a reduced capacity, particularly in the first few weeks to allow your body to get used to weight training again and to prevent injury. How much you reduce this by will depend on how long you've been away from the gym.
As a general guideline, if you've not been weight training for 4 weeks or more, you can start at around 50% of what you would have normally done in the first session, easing your way back into training in a gentle, safe way. This session should primarily aim at getting used to being in the gym again and focus on your movement pattern when lifting weights, not about going hard and seeing how much you can lift. Reflect on the session over the next few days, checking in with how you're recovering, and make sure to allow enough time for your body to recover.
By easing your way in, you can gradually build up and continue to make progress, which can also boost your confidence and build you up mentally in getting back into your weight training routine.
Remember to work at your own pace - keep in mind that getting back into things faster doesn't necessarily mean that your results will be better or more sustainable.
Set some clear goals
When making a return to weight training, it's useful to set some goals you really want to achieve to help you stay motivated and allow that to direct what you do in the gym. Whether it's a performance-based goal like achieving a 100kg back squat, an aesthetic goal such as building muscle on our back, or simply heading to the gym a certain number of times each week, set goals that gives you purpose, and then set some timeframes for when you can realistically achieve them by. Try to avoid spreading yourself to thinly by setting loads of goals - pick key ones you want to focus on now and break those down into smaller goals that you can implement into each session or on a weekly basis.
If you need some help with this, check out our guide on how to set fitness goals.
Create some structure and plans
Now that you've decided on the goals you want to work on, you know your reason to train (i.e. your purpose) and you're prepared to get back into lifting, it can be helpful to give some structure to your weight training, based around your weekly schedule and needs.
Have a serious think about what commitments you might have (like work), and what your priorities are (such as family time, hobbies), and then factor how you can build your weightlifting routine into your schedule without missing out on what’s important to you.
While we may all have 24 hours in a day, we all have different commitments, priorities, wants, and needs in our lives, and these can change across time. What matters is how you fit fitness into your life, not the other way around. If you can only realistically make it to the gym 3 times a week whilst you used to be able to go 5 times a week - allocate 3 days in your diary for weight training. Ideally you would want to leave a rest day in between if you can, for example training on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Having these set days to train, which fit around your schedule, can help you get back into your lifting routine, and you can always adjust if necessary.
We have plenty of free weight training and lifting workouts in our app you can try - plus workouts plans you can follow to help improve your strength and fitness in the gym. Download the free PureGym app today and take a look at some workouts you may want to try when you visit the gym.
Focus on quality over quantity
When getting back into any kind of fitness activity it's common for people to have high motivation levels in the start, and want to do everything on the get go which is great - but if you've had a break for some time, your body will likely need time to adjust. Going too hard too fast, too soon, can result in overtraining, which can lead to some serious DOMS (more on Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness here) and injury, which is probably not what anyone would want when just getting back into weight training.
Focus on performing lifting exercises with good technique, rather than how much weight you're using or how much work you're doing. You can always build up gradually as your body gets stronger and used to your weight training routine.
Ensure a good warm up routine to help you prepare for your workouts and a good cool down routine to help you recover from them.
For more tips about returning to the gym, check out our Getting Back to the Gym guide and more related articles in our Back to the Gym section. Ready to dive in? Find your nearest gym here.