Was Strong, Got Sick. Years Later, Need Help

Hi all,

I used to train hard and had functional strength as played a lot of football etc. Had modestly strong lifts (110kg bench at 87kg bodyweight) but got real sick and 3 years later now I’m weighing just 73kg and have no strength.

I guess my question is, where do I start to regain? I have all the lifting/movement techniques down, but finding it frustrating struggling with a 60kg bench when I know I used to be a lot stronger.

What would the community recommend?

Just do what you did before unless you have some limitations due to your illness.

Hey, thanks for the quick reply - in the stupidity of youth i didn’t keep a training journal, so now i really don’t remember what I used to do. Plus, I probably wasn’t working in the optimal way. Was just curious if anyone would have a suggestion for the ideal way to build up my strength again?

I had a similar issue only it was a twelve year layoff due to Cancer and the recovery process plus life in general. Last January I started back slow and light using correct form, leave your ego at home, with a linear progression model using basic exercise where I upped the weights 5 pounds a workout and reset back when I stalled, basically a starting strength type workout. Once i reached what I considered a respectable weight and started stalling often which took about seven months I switched to a more advanced program ( I use 5/3/1 but CT has great programs also and you asked in his forum so I am guessing you want to use one of his programs). After 19 months my strength in all exercises has exceeded my all time strength levels and i am 47 comparing my self to late 20’s early 30’s strength levels. Your strength will come back if you are consistent and stick to a program that you believe in

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Overeat until you get to the weight you once were. This will help you regain all the muscle that you lost from being sick - through muscle memory. More muscle = more strength.

That is a very bad recommendation. Go read my article “the truth about bulking”.

  1. The body has a limited capacity to use nutrients to build muscle. This is in large part determined by your hormonal profile. If you eat a lot more than what you can use to build muscle, you gain fat. As simple as that. You cannot force your body to use more nutrients then it is programmed to, unless you take drugs. This approach only works well in bodybuilders using steroids and/or growth hormone (which I assume the OP is not). Because of the drugs these guys have no physiological limitation to use nutrients. But natural lifters do. Gross overeating will only lead a natural to get fat.

  2. If you gain fat you will have to diet it off in the future., And the more fat you gain the longer you will have to diet for (or the more restrictive diet you will have to use). This increases the risk of losing muscle and strength. So even if gaining fat helped you gain more muscle (it doesn’t) you would likely lose that advantage by losing muscle while dieting. Not to mention that some people might not have the will to diet off the gained fat.

I’m not saying that adding a small amount of fat is not ok… it will likely happen… but we are talking 2-5lbs of fat over a 2-3 months period, not 10-20 like most people gain (often thinking that it is muscle)/

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You are correct Christian, except for when someone has LOST muscle.

In this case, overeating will result in muscle weight until their previous muscle size has been restored. After it’s been restored, THEN overeating will result in fat gain as normal.

I lost a shit load of muscle once because I got ill. I lost about 40lbs. Then I ate 7k calories a day and although I became bloated, I gained 40lbs and almost all of it was in the form of muscle. My body fat % stayed pretty much the same.

This is muscle memory.

  1. just because something worked for you doesn’t mean that it will work for others … for example I got really sick myself. Lost a lot of weight. Tried the overreating route and only got fatter. It’s only when I cleaned up my diet that I started to gain size rapidly.

  2. If the muscle was lost years ago (which is what the OP said) it’s not the same thing as losing it a few months ago and regaining it. If you lost the muscle years ago the body had time to change its point of homeostatis and the plasticity of muscle adaptation (muscle memory) will be lost in large part.

I don’t go from a n = 1 (only using myself as a subject) I go from having trained over 1000 people over a 17 years period, including many who were former muscular people in high school and lost it all after years of not training.

I’ve done several things that worked great on me but not on my clients, and vice versa. You have to work with enough people to realize that while basic human physiology is the same, not everybody works like you.

@JohnBaker - Thank you for the good advice and for sharing.

@Christian_Thibaudeau - Thank you for the reply also. I’ll take a look at some of your basic strength routines and focus on form and consistency for an extended period and build up to where I was slowly but surely.

First thing you have to take into account is what was the illness that caused you this. in my case, I did CT’s The complete Power Look Program and got my strongest and biggest ever. then I started gaining lots of weight and end up weighing almost 250 pounds!

It was a thyroid imbalance, 14 months later I have lost 60 pounds, of course that in the process I lost LOTS of muscle. But my pririty was not getting bigger but regulating again my thyroid axis. it would had been pretty easy to say something like…eat less! I could had been so wrong, because my body would have sensed that as “famine” (so to speak) and my metabolism could have gone even slower!

So, be careful and take into account A LOT what was your diagnosis and if you are prone to cerating things after this happened to you.

Regarding training I would just tell you to focus first on the quality of your posture and movement in general to detect and then correct before you start “going heavy”. it would also be advisable to check your balance, coordination and proprioception to address any issue in your first phase training, aiming it at correcting all those deficitis/imbalances corrected (core included)…Just, please, don´t buy a Bosu! :wink:

Here you can also start working towards building the foundation for the big lifts; focus strongly on technique, technique and technique, and then on muscle contraction quality.

Dont´know what does CT would think of these recommendations of mine, but he is always willing to help.

So, welcome back and enjoy your workouts!

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Agreed with @JohnBaker and @jav88. The best way to start is with a simple programme that fortifies your strength and balance. 5/3/1 is a great option or you can go even simpler and use a 5-sets-by-5-reps routine which includes compound lifts with free weights and engages all muscle groups each workout. Focus on technique first and then focus on progressive overloading. I hope this makes sense and helps.Good luck!

  • George
    Workout Reviews

I don’t think any coach now recommends a pig bulk. There is simply more effective ways to get in shape. Especially, since muscle memory doesn’t last years. There’s a reason why the term lean bulk is so popular now a days.

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