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If you’re nervous about getting too sore, be smart with your return to the gym. You’re probably excited to get training again, but not really thrilled with the DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) associated with restarting a new workout. So, be smart with your comeback. This is perfect time to really assess what you need as far as your individual training program and get back to basics. For example, is your posture good, or are your shoulders slumped forward? Do you have any lower back pain? What do YOU need to feel better and move better? This will lay the foundation for your new workout plan.
Keep focused on the basics like incorporating a good warm-up, tons of bodyweight training, and incorporate compound movements such as squats, deadlifts, military presses and bench presses. You can progressively ramp up the intensity (amount of weight you lift), the volume (sets x reps) and be more aggressive with your rest periods (make them shorter) as the weeks proceed. Of course, good post-workout nutrition, lots of water and plenty of rest will also help accelerate your recovery between training sessions.
It really depends on how intense your training sessions are. If you’re crushing each workout with 4-5 (or more) chest exercises and tons of reps, it is going to take you much longer to recover and be ready to hit the same body part again. Think of training like a sine wave. The peaks and valleys along the wave can be likened to the training intensity of your workout. If you train very hard, your next couple of workouts must be less intense so that you can have a supercompensation effect and recover back to a greater level than when you started. If you constantly hit heavy weights with lots of volume, you will never fully recover and therefore be susceptible to overtraining, injury and you will quickly grow to hate going to the gym.
I would personally recommend no more than two workouts a week for the same muscle group. One very easy way to do this is to wave or undulate the intensity and volume of each workout. For example, for your first chest day of the week, go heavier and hit less reps—let’s say 6-8 repetitions for all exercises. You would pick a weight where you can just achieve the 6-8 reps, but no more, with good form. On the second chest training day of the week, perform more repetitions with less weight. For this workout, you would hit 8-12 repetitions for each set on that day.
Meet the Lift Doctor
Jim Smith is a highly respected, world-renowned strength and conditioning coach. A member of the LIVESTRONG.com Fitness Advisory Board, Jim has been called one of the most "innovative strength coaches" in the fitness industry. Training athletes, fitness enthusiasts and weekend warriors, Jim has dedicated himself to helping them reach "beyond their potential." He is also the owner of Diesel Strength & Conditioning in Elmira, NY.