Monday, January 9, 2017


This article was written last year  but never published. But I have had a number of readers who also experienced long, unplanned lay-offs and wanted to know how I handled recovery. So here is the plan I chose to follow:


For those that don’t know, I had a 10 week layoff for medical reasons. Little or no activity for those 10 weeks, nutrition went to hell from lack of appetite and, as a result, I calculate I lost about 12.5 pounds of muscle. Beginning weight when starting recovery workouts was 195. Down from 207.

And thank you to all the well-wishers and encouragement during all this.

Keep in mind we’re not talking about gaining “new” muscle. I guess you could call it “old muscle” (especially in my case!). Your muscle has, what is sometimes called, “muscle memory”. Vlaimir Issurin refers to it as "Residual Training Effect" (RTE) That simply means you can gain back mass you’ve lost over a few weeks or months much easier than you can add new muscle.

But those of you who are trying to add mass but have a habit of skipping leg day, pay close attention to weeks 5,6 and 7 (where lower body work started). In those 3 weeks I added 9 pounds of muscle.

With the loss of strength, I thought I’d better start there. It’s hard to gain much mass if you’re too weak to move the bar. It's also hard to start with strength when your stamina is down so much from inactivity. Thus the high rep sets for the first 2 weeks.

Week 1:

35% of my previous 1 RM (1 Rep Max) shooting for 15 to 20 reps, 3 sets of only about 6 or 7 exercises. No lower body work except calves. Five days a week.
 My usual load is 60% to 80% of 1 RM for 9-12 reps.

I hit my rep count of 15-20 reps on 85% of the exercises and was close on all of them.

Week 2:

I moved the load up to 40% of 1RM.
Hit rep count on 100% (15-20)

Week 3:

I increased the load to 50% of 1RM but dropped rep count to my usual 9-12.
Hit rep count on all sets except overhead press.

Body weight=197.5 (+ 2.5 pounds)

Week 4:

I increased load to 55% of 1RM with rep count of 9-12.
Added some lower body work but kept the load on lower body at 40% of 1RM. Main purpose was to get over leg soreness before next week.

Week 5:

Increased load to 60% of 1RM and added several more exercises (9-10 per day) and kept lower body at 40%.

Hit all rep ranges except overhead press. I can only attribute this to the fact I've had 2 torn rotator cuffs and it took a long time to get my shoulders up to par in the first place. 

Week 6:

At this point I’m happy with strength gains. Strength is up in the neighborhood of where I was before the layoff except my shoulders are still lagging. And, of course, legs are lagging because I started 4 weeks later on working lower body again.

It’s time to work on the mass by increasing the volume-a lot.

Every exercise cut back to 50% of 1RM, 2 sets at 9-12 reps all with 3-5 second eccentric (lowering) tempo, PLUS 2 drop sets or Rest Pause sets on every exercise.

Week 7:

Same as week 6

Week 8:

At the beginning of week 8 my weight was back up to 206.5!

Week 8 was the same as weeks 6 and 7 except that I cut out the slow eccentrics but kept the drop sets/rest pause sets

10 weeks of forced layoff with almost no activity and poor nutrition and back to my old strength and muscle mass in 7 weeks. I would think younger and more highly trained people could recover even faster.

What I want you to take-away:

Sooner or later, most people will have a planned or unplanned layoff of weeks or months and some will use that as a reason to quit. But you can usually get back your strength and muscle in less time than you think.

You have to work at it but it’s a lot easier and takes a lot less time than it took you to get there in the first place.

Don’t waste all the time and effort you put in to get fit.

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