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After taking a 6-8 week break from Stronglifts, what is the appropriate way to get back into it?

Here is my issue, I was incredibly faithful to going to the gym 3 times per week for about three months. I progressed on Stronglifts (starting at suggested minimums) without stalling on anything except for overhead press.

Right around three months into it, my wife got sick, followed by my kids getting sick, followed by a road trip with friends, etc. All in all, I have missed six weeks of going to the gym and it may be eight weeks by the time Christmas passes.

How should I handle this? I do not want to injure myself but would prefer not to start at the beginning?

Should I switch to something like starting strength since (I believe) that allows you to start at something above minimum? Or should I just progress more quickly on stronglifts? Or something else?

Thank you for all your help!

P.S. Related question here (I feel mine is different because I really missed a significant amount of time): How to handle a break from StrongLifts?

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Here is a question that is similar, see fitness.stackexchange.com/q/7172/3778 –  FredrikD Dec 18 '13 at 20:13
1  
We really need to know your working weights at the time of your last workout. –  Dave Liepmann Dec 18 '13 at 20:32

2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

First a couple of points to consider:

  • 6-8 weeks is not long enough to lose all of your strength
  • It is long enough to lose a little of your strength
  • You will be sore the first week back doing Stronglifts.

The answer will essentially be the same as the question you pointed to, it's just a matter of degree. Nothing is more demoralizing than trying to work with weights you've used before, but now you are struggling with them. You'll want to deload to the point where the weight feels easy.

A recommended starting point is to put your maximum deload numbers as 20% lower than when you left off. Then take a day to test where the bar starts to feel heavy for your 5 rep sets. If it feels easy all the way up to the 20% deload number then stop there.

As an example, let's say your ending numbers were something like this:

  • Squat: 225 lb -> 20% -> 180 lb max deload weight
  • Bench: 155 lb -> 20% -> 125 lb max delaod weight
  • Deadlift: 305 lb -> 20% -> 245 lb max deload weight
  • Overhead Press: 95 lbs -> 20% -> 75 lb max deload weight

Those would be reasonable starting with just the bar and working up. Since Stronglifts is all about 5 rep sets, we care about what you can do for 5 reps. And because you will be doing multiple sets at 5 reps we are going to be very conservative. When you do your testing, it will always be 5 rep sets, and you will stop when the bar starts to feel heavy. Then use the weight on the set before that as your starting weight.

Using the squat as an example, lower body strength is very resiliant. Do your testing like this:

  • bar x5 -- should be easy, but ingrain the movement again.
  • 105 x5
  • 120 x5
  • 135 x5
  • 160 x5
  • 180 x5

If you still felt really strong after 180, just stop and use that for now.

Using the bench as the next example, upper body strength is something most beginners have to fight for. Do your testing like this:

  • bar x5 -- should be easy
  • 85 x5
  • 110 x5
  • 125 x5
  • 140 x5
  • 155 x5 -- starts feeling heavy here

In this case you would use 140 to start with.

This way you can start your training without fearing that you are going to miss reps right away. You'll quickly regain the strength you left off at, and have to work at building new strength. Or you can do the draconian method and just start with 50% of where you left off which is something Mehdi might advocate.

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You were lifting for "about" 12 weeks and now you are taking a 6-or-more week break. That's a lot of time off compared to the amount of time lifting. It's almost as if you're doing the program for the first time. You should deload by 25 to 75 percent, then restart the program just as you were.

Assuming that you followed the program exactly and had no deloads or stalls--which are all terrible assumptions--let's look at your squat:

  • 1st day: 45 pounds
  • One month / 12 workouts in: 105 pounds, since you added 5 pounds each workout
  • Three months / 36 workouts in: 225 pounds

If I were you, my first squat workout getting back onto the program would be between 95 and 145 pounds. Those are massive deloads. You might be able to do more, but StrongLifts isn't about really pushing your limits in the early stages.

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Thanks. That is probably good advice to greatly deload. And yes, I stalled only on overhead press one day. No deloads during the three months. –  Terry Dec 24 '13 at 16:22

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