For many years, I struggled to find a gym teacher willing to let me what I researched around the internet... They always looked at me, saw that I was fat (I am fat... 118kg right now, and 1.78 meters tall), and conclude I must lose weight, and give me lots of cardio or lots of machine-based exercise with lots of reps (like 3 sets of 25 reps).

First, to me those felt like wasting time, they rarely made a difference (ie: I would after six months use weights just a little bit higher than where I started), and every time I stopped, it undid everything 100%.

Recently I found a mostly shitty gym (ie: crap equipment, mediocre maintenance, no rubber flooring anywhere...) with a teacher willing to teach me free weights and serious heavy weight lifiting, it was the first time I did a squat for example.

In that gym, I almost doubled all the weight amounts I was using in all exercises in 4 months, for example squat I went from 20kg on the first day to 80kg, that common biceps exercise I forgot the name in english, I used on my first day a 5kg dumbbell and ended using a 14kg one.

Then I stopped (after those four months) because of perosnal problems, and did not went back for 10 months.

Then one day I visited the gym, and did some exercises, and several of them I could do just barely less than what I could before (example, when I stopped I could do 44kg bench press, when I visited the gym, I could do 38kg, and in the next week in another visit could do 42kg)

My question is: Why a strength focused training you can skip almost 10 months of training and don't get much worse, but when you do the typical gym training (that I have no idea what he objective is, beside losing weight) if you skip the gym your body gets fucked up?

2 Answers 2


Strength is one of the physical attributes that takes longest to atrophy. Muscle endurance, cardio (particularly for a specific activity), and so on deteriorate much more rapidly. For instance, in Science of Sports Training, Tom Kurz references Wilmore and Costill 1988 and 1999:

Strength, power, and muscular endurance can be maintained by working out once every 10-14 days, but not aerobic fitness, which requires at least three workouts per week with a training intensity of at least 70% of maximal oxygen uptake.

(From page 222. Page 176 also describes strength losses with reference to the same studies.)

This is why when you came back to exercise you experienced the results you did: much of your strength remained, but your endurance (such as fo machine exercises) almost disappeared.

  • 3
    Do you have a peer reviewed source for this claim? This caught my interest.
    – nic
    Dec 16, 2013 at 10:45
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    @nic I'm without access to my S&C library, but I'm pretty certain that both Rippetoe & Kilgore's Practical Programming and Tom Kurz' Science of Sports Training address this point, the former more directly and the latter (if I'm right) in a more nuanced fashion. Dec 16, 2013 at 21:15
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    @DaveLiepmann: Out of curiosity, do you since have the references to this?
    – Sean Duggan
    Oct 14, 2015 at 16:51
  • @SeanDuggan In fact I do! Kurz, at least. Thanks for the ping, I'll update the answer. Oct 14, 2015 at 17:03
  • @DaveLiepmann - See if you can also find something related to the neural programming and muscle activation adaptations that take place. Especially for beginners, this is what helps that initial huge boost in weight capabilities, and what enables a quicker return if detrained.
    – JohnP
    Oct 14, 2015 at 19:30

I will split my answer into two parts. Firstly answering your more specified question, and then secondly answering the question in the subject.

What you questioned is basically, "why did I keep my strength from one program yet I keep nothing from another after a long lay off?"

I think the answer to this question is simple. With compound strength training movements, (such as the bench press which you mentioned) they are helped by good form. Someone with bad form can increase their lifts drastically over a short period of time simply by fixing common errors.

Think of it this way, the first time you get on a bike, your form is terrible and you need training wheels. Once you know how to operate the bike properly, you will be able to ride a bike for life.

Now the flip side of this is, how fast or long can you ride the bike for? If you trained for years and were able to ride the bike 150km in a short period of time, coming back and attempting the same feat won't be possible after a long layoff.

Now in terms of "which workout works best..?" Now this is a much more difficult question.

In my opinion all gym programs work. Lets face it, they all have you doing something active in the gym.

The first major thing that separates all gym workouts is most of them have different goals in mind. This is the first part of picking the best gym workout for you. You have to ask yourself, what do you want?

The reasoning for this, is because, in my opinion, the best gym workout for you, is the one that you can commit to. If you enjoy the workout, if you see results from the workout, stick with it. I can't stress this enough. The biggest downfall everybody has with excersize is consistency. There's no point doing the 'best workout in the world' if you can't convince yourself to complete it.

By the sounds of things in your case, you enjoy strength training. From your knowledge and the size of the lifts, I am going to assume your still a beginner. So what your going to want to do is find a strength training program that is aimed at beginners. My recomandation to you is the well-known book and program, Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe.

But by all means, as I mentioned earlier, you are encouraged to do your own research and try and find other programs which may appeal to you even more and there a vast range of other strength training programs such as Stronglifts 5x5.

Best of luck, and remember, stick with it. You won't have to lose your gains is you never stop training properly.

  • That book helps when you cannot find a gym without stubborn teachers or good equipment?(ie: most gyms I found had equipment, but teachers were stubborn and refused to let me do what I wanted, and the single non-stubborn teacher I found, was in a really crappy gym, seeing the inside of the gym even gave a feeling of pity on the poor gym...)
    – speeder
    Dec 13, 2013 at 22:46
  • Yes, Mark Rippetoe is an excellent coach on form and there are even instructional videos made by him where he explains each part of the major lifts such as Bench, Deadlift, Squat and Press.
    – BASmith
    Dec 13, 2013 at 23:15

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