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Return To The Gym Workout!

Recently, after training steadily for 18 months, I decided to take a long absence from the gym. It was difficult at first, since the gym atmosphere has been my second home for eight (8) years now. Here's how to get back into it.
Recently, after training steadily for 18 months, I decided to take a long absence from the gym. It was difficult at first, since the gym atmosphere has been my second home for eight (8) years now. This was very difficult for me, not only because of the great physical catharsis that working out provides, but also because a lot of my friends work out and the only time I see them is at the gym. Like myself, my friends' personal lives are so full, that the only time we would get to visit is at the gym or not at all. However, the time away from the gym allowed me to pay more attention to other aspects of my life that I had long neglected and finally acquiesced to my mother and took a long needed vacation.

During my vacation, I went to Texas and visited my family for a week and allowed myself to indulge in my mother's home cooking (a little too much). My vacation was perfect; during the day, I would visit old school friends, and in the evening, the family would gather around the fire and sip whiskey. Once I returned, however, I could feel the neglect from my absence of the gym was felt around my waistline. I decided it was time to get back in the gym again and hit the weights again.

Recalling my former experiences of over-zealousness in the return to the gym, I decided to modify my workout so as not to overtrain and not incur an injury. I found this workout very accommodating and effective in helping me getting me back to my strength levels and general fitness back without "killing" myself and preventing any injuries. I prefer the "three on one off" routines, meaning, work out for three consecutive days, and take the fourth day off. Once my body returned to its pre-vacation shape, I would then go back to full intensity and weight.

Week One:

Day 1: Chest, Shoulder, Triceps and Abdominal;

Bench Press: 2 X 15
Flyes: 2 X 15
Behind the Neck Press (Standing) 2 X 15
Side Raises 2 X 15
Close Grip Bench 2 X 15
Triceps Pushdowns 2 X 15

Day 2: Legs

Leg Presses 2 X 20
Squats 2 X 15, Leg Extensions 2 X 15
Leg Curls 2 X 15, Stiff-Legged-Deadlifts 1 X 15
Standing Calf Raises 4 X 15

Day 3: Back and Biceps

Seated Rows 2 X 15
Wide Grip Pulldowns 2 X 15, Hyperextensions 2 X 15
Preacher Bench Curls 2 X 15
Hammer Curls 2 X 15

Throughout the execution of the exercises, the weight should be light yet moderately taxing to which you should be able to do the second set of the exercise with one to two minute's rest. Any more than two minutes, the weight is too heavy. Again, this is only a recommended workout schedule. The point of the workout is too allow the muscle fibers, ligaments, tendons, insertions to adapt to the strain of load bearing exercises, which, in essence, laying down the foundation. Without laying the foundation, the lifter will experience an injury.

After conducting the workout for one - two weeks, modify the workout to include medium weight or a repetition range between 10 - 12 repetitions. For example:

Week Two:

Day 1: Chest, Shoulders and Triceps;
(Do not count warm-up sets)
Bench Press 1 X 15
1 X 10
Incline Press 1 X 15, 1 X 10
Dumbbell Shoulder Press 1 X 15
1 X 10
Rear Shoulder Raises 1 X 15
1 X 10
Triceps Close Grip Bench 1 X 15
1 X 10
Triceps Pushdowns 1 X 15, 1 X 10

Modify your entire workout and exercises for all your other body parts as shown above. The purpose of the modified workout is to work not only your red muscle fibers, but also your intermediate muscle fibers. Again, let me remind you is this workout is not for size, strength, but for easing back into your old routine and giving your body an opportunity to adjust to the heavy weight and intensity.

Once your body has adjusted to the prior workout, it's time to add the heavy set to your workout. Again, I will use the day one workout scenario to make an example of how a return to the gym workout would look like:

Week Three:

Day 1: Chest, Shoulders, and Triceps;

(Do not include warm-up sets)
Bench Press 1 X 15, 1 X 10 - 12, 1 X 6 - 8
Dumbbell Incline Bench Press 1 X 15, 1 X 10 - 12, 1 X 6 - 8
Shoulder Dumbbell Press 1 X 15, 1 X 10 - 12, 1 X 6 - 8
Shoulder Dumbbell Side Raises 1 X 15, 1 X 10 - 12, 1 X 6 - 8
Lying Triceps Extension 1 X 15, 1 X 10 - 12, 1 X 6 - 8
Triceps Pushdowns 1 X 15, 1 X 10 - 12, 1 X 6 - 8

The entire workout, in theory, should allow you full recovery of every set within 1 - 2 minutes after each set completion. If however, you discover that your recovery between sets is longer, drop the weight. If your recovery is taking approximately 30 seconds, then you should increase the weight. The purpose of this workout is to allow your body an "active recovery" back to your former self before the long imposed vacation.

In addition, allow your body to recover fully from each cycle, for example, after your Day 1 workout, if your upper body doesn't feel sore at all, then perhaps its time to go into the second week workout. What I have basically outlined above is the sets and repetitions approximations; try not to deviate from the time/repetitions approximations, however, as for the exercises, feel free to modify to your desire. Personally, I hate flat barbell bench press because I feel that dumbbell bench press gives me a greater stretch at the bottom of the movement, so feel free to modify the workout to the exercises you like or use machines if that is your preference. But nonetheless, do not compromise your form in order to finish your set.

Best of luck in your bodybuilding/power lifting/fitness goals. If you have any questions, please contact me at: manufaus@excite.com.

Best wishes,