Photo By: Victor Freitas
It happens. It happens to everyone. What do I mean by “It”, I mean “Injuries and Illnesses”. But honestly it could be any event that disrupts your diet and/or workout schedule. And what do I mean by everyone? I mean even lifters and athletes whose sole focus is developing a flawless execution of their various lifts.
Notable lifters like Layne Norton, Steve Cook, and Jonnie Candito have suffered setbacks for one reason or another. These weren’t ego-lifters hitching some obviously too heavy weight using poor form. These are incredibly experienced and strong individuals. It’s simply the nature of lifting heavy weights (or sometimes not even heavy weights).
Then there are sicknesses, these temporary interruptions that are somewhat out of your control that can stall or even reverse the trajectory of your progress. Many describe fitness progress as oscillating on an upward trajectory and if you don’t allow your demoralizing emotions to ultimately lead you to quit entirely, these setbacks should only serve as simply local minimums along an upward trend line.
But it’s tough. If you’re a natural lifter who isn’t particularly gifted with amazing genetics, your margin for error is fairly thin and any setback can feel devastating on an emotional level. I can speak to this on an emotional level. Toward the end of my last fitness related post, I was nearing the end of a bulking phase that saw progress in both size and strength and even better, for over a year I had suffered no setbacks except for the occasional plateau. I was primed and ready for my next phase: cutting and maintaining my strength the best that I could.
I had my routine planned, 5/3/1 BBB, alternating with weeks focused on calisthenics. I would be re-introducing cardio multiple times a week. This would be a slow cut so I would reduce my calories by a relatively small amount and re-adjust every 4-6 weeks until my goal weight was met. I would abandon the forced progression of the 5/3/1 routine and simply focus on working within the weights that my last cycle had finished with. Only reducing them if I could no longer accomplish the minimum prescribed reps (which I had anticipated would only become an issue as I neared my goal weight).
And sure enough, the first month and a half into this phase, everything was going as planned. And then it started, I had gotten sick with a fairly basic common cold (in the summer no less) and thus began a sequence of 6+ months where I would not sustain a single month without some sort of ailment appearing. Though it was never anything major, nevertheless it left me scrambling in my decision to pause my cutting diet in favor of recovery and recapturing the strength loss I had suffered. I became frustrated and discouraged with working out altogether as I watched my 10 rep working weight immediately become my 5 rep working weight.
In a foolhardy fashion, I tried to force my post sickness body to produce the same as my pre-sickness body and I became bitter and hopeless from the result. It was at this point that I realized that I had no contingency plan for these situations, no system to remove my emotions from continuously tinkering and/or bailing out as I encountered these situations.
So I have decided to develop such a system to handle these occurrences.
First, your nutrition protocol changes.
Second, your training protocol changes.
If you decide that at most you’re going to take a partial week off (if you started getting sick mid-week), then you should adjust your lift’s maximum weights to 95% of their original value for the next week.
For every subsequent week that you take off, simply reduce that number by 5%.
Now depending on your progression scheme (forced progression or otherwise), I would change my maximum lift value based on the calculated max of that new weight for as many weeks as I had taken off before resuming whatever the original progression scheme was.
Let’s see this in action in two scenarios to clarify the protocol:
If you have an injury or illness that may result in a much longer period of absence than simply a month at most. You may want to start from the opposite direction.
None of these approaches guarantee that you’ll return to your original strength level immediately after finishing them. However, they are meant to give you guidance on how to manage your recovery in a way that puts you in a better position of resuming your routine without the frustration of trying to force yourself to lift the same previous workload after suffering a setback.
As for injuries, I would of course recommend that you see a physician to determine the exact details of your injury before undertaking any resistance training based on the severity of the injury. I would also further suggest that you see a physical therapist to help you recover to at least a baseline of performance before attempting to re-enter the gym in any capacity.
Anyway, good luck with your fitness goals of 2020 and perhaps this post might help you if you do suffer from an unfortunate setback along the way.
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