After being out of the gym for roughly 4 months, I have now been back for about 9 weeks. I am going to lay out what I have done, so far, and what my plan is moving forward. Keep in mind that my specific plan has been individualized to what I need, but someone could find parallels that, in theory, could also work well for someone else coming back from a lay off.
If anything you read below is construed as vague, it's on purpose. I will lay out what I have done, but I won't spoon-feed anyone with specific numbers, calories, poundages, etc. Why? 2 main reasons:
- You are not me and what I need is going to be different than what you or someone else might need.
- I'm not stupid. I have been doing online training for over 20 years, and I know damn well that many-a-wannebe trainer will take what someone like me does, repackage it, and attempt to gain clients or put it into motion for themselves. I have provided YEARS of free information, but I won't give specifics because I loathe people benefiting monetarily from what I give away for free.
I originally set up my training to be structured around a 12-week block. I did this because I have done this in the past with great results and when something works, I like to stick to roughly the same format. As much as I can lose condition and muscle quickly these days, fortunately I can regain muscle and condition very quickly, as well. 12 weeks allows me plenty of time to acclimate my body to training hard again, remain injury-free, get lean as hell, and increas my strength to the level it was before I took the lay off.
The 12-week block is broken up into 3 blocks of 4-week mesocycles.
This mesocycle is more about acclimating my body to training, working out the soreness, getting my joints prepared for heavier training, and making sure that I am coming back slow so that I don't have to worry about injuring myself. I have zero focus on getting strong quickly or progressing my volume quickly. The training is low-volume and low frequency (relative to me).
I do with 2 working sets for each exercise. After warming up, the first set is hard enough to get 15 reps with a weight that I think I can do 20 reps with if I absolutely had to. The second set is the same weight if I feel that I can get another 15 reps, or I will increase the weight if I feel the first set is too easy. Because I really don't know for sure where my strength is at this point, these working sets are more about finding out where my strength is, what weights I can control for good reps, and really feeling the muscle work. I want to progress from workout to workout, but that isn't my main objective for the first 4 weeks.
During these first 4 weeks, I am only training 3 days per week. I cover each muscle group once per week for maximum recovery, and I do not do any sets to failure. I anticipate being pretty damn sore for the first 4 weeks.
The 2nd mesocycle I focus more on the progression of strength but never at the expense of great biomechanics. The progression in strength typically comes very easily because I am simply regaining strength that I have had in the past. This isn't new muscle being created or new strength being acquired, it is getting back what I had prior.
I keep the same 3-day-per-week training structure while training each muscle group once per week. I expect soreness but not debilitating soreness. During this mesocycle, I like to try to go heavier on the second set and the reps will sometimes come down to around 10. The first set remains at 15, but both working sets are much closer to failure.
Muscle usually starts to to take shape during this mesocycle and I am visibly starting to look leaner.
The 3rd mesocycle is where I start to train harder and I am beginning to progress quite well in strength and muscle size. Training has changed from 3 days per week to 4 days per week. I either train each muscle group once per week or will sometimes use a 3-day split but train 4 days per week. This means, of course, that my training is based on a rotation cycle. In short, I train the same muscle groups on Monday that I will train again on Friday. This time, I am doing the rotation cycle because my recovery has been very good due to taking my time and breaking into my training without going overboard.
Later in the 3rd mesocycle, things start to come together very well. I am not gaining or losing much scale weight, but I am recomping very quickly. My strength is now going up substantially as I sometimes push as many as 5 more reps at the same weight as last week, or I am able to increase the weight for the exercise and at least match the same reps I did last week with the lighter weight.
Over the course of the 12-week block, I do not change my rep schemes. I am not locked into black and white rep schemes, but I tend to shoot for 15 on the first working set and then shoot for at least 10 for the second set. The working sets in this mesocycle are as close to failure as I can get but not to the point where I actually fail. Total volume has not changed from the first 1st mesocycle through the 3rd mesocycle. As my clients will attest, I do not like too many variables changing at one time. I like to know that if something is working (or not working), I know why because almost all variables are constant with the exception of one or two. It makes it a lot easier to assess why something is working if variables are controlled as much as possible.
By the end of the 12-week block, I am in a position where I am training 100%, progressing substantially from workout to workout, and my strength is very close to where it was prior to the lay off.
The diet is quite simple. I do not use formulas or any type of system to figure out my calories or macros. Because I have been doing what I do for so long, I have a very good idea of the amount of calories I need to recomp as efficiently as possible. My meals (food sources and macros) will rarely change for the entire duration of the 12-week block. Here is what my diet looks like and nothing has changes from the first week:
TEAM SKIP protein
TEAM SKIP protein
Rice Chex cereal
TEAM SKIP protein
walnuts or walnut butter
Yes, I use 3 protein drinks per day. I know it's blasphemous in this day and age but it's sensical because it works incredibly well for me.
My skiploads have not changed from the first week of the block, either:
First meal on Sundays:
Meal 2, 3, 4, and 5:
Pura Vida salmon and quinoa wraps (whole wheat)
Pura Vida ahi-tuna and rice wraps (whole wheat)
For what's it's worth, I am on TRT and only TRT. I will remain on TRT for the forseeable future. I am not one of those people who claim massive gains while on TRT, but I will say that once you have built a solid foundation of muscle for years (decades in my case), you can get muscle back very quickly, and I am quite sure that I will be accused of being on cycle, very soon. Because I am only on TRT, I have to be very careful to make sure that recovery is maximized and the second it isn't, I need to recognize it and make changes to allow recovery to be maximized again. If I can do that (and I am), I will continue to progress very well and get leaner at the same time.
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