T Nation

Winding Down


I'm seeking advice on how to taper off from bodybuilding and return to a normal diet and maintenance workouts without looking . . . odd. You all know the look: big shoulders and pencil neck; big upper arms and atrophied forearms. You see a guy like that on the street and say: "boy, I bet he was a big dude 20 years ago"; or, you see the star highschool linebacker after he's finished his residency and wonder why he looks like he's undergone chemo. These guys are often bigger and stronger than the average guy, but they look run down.

Basically, I'm asking for someone to point me in the direction of a reasonable way to be fit and healthy, while not pushing myself to the limit everyday. Between family, work and pain, I just can't do it anymore.


kind of a weird question, man. Are you saying you are giving up working out entirely?

Even if you decide to not push the envelope in terms of calories and protein anymore, as long as you're still in the gym three or four times a week, you'll be able to maintain most, if not all, of what you've built.


You didn't say what type of pain you have but if you can, you might want to transition into some bodyweight stuff.

Pull ups/chin ups/dips/push ups/hill sprints.

Show me a guy who can do well at those things and chances are he'll look athletic and have good fitness.

And throw in weight training that you can do without pain and fits your schedule.



If you eat a "healthy normal" diet instead of a bodybuilding-strict diet and work out like a "healthy normal" person (moving some weights, somehow, a few times a week) you'll look like...

wait for it...

...a healthy normal person. Maybe even a pretty big, muscular healthy normal person. I don't see how this is a bad outcome.


I don't know what you do outside of the gym.
But in my experience it's common for older guys to end up with their gym time as the only exercise they do, because it's time efficient and they can manipulate it easily to minimise pain.
Frankly I'm 33 and I already use the gym because of those reasons.

However I believe it's very important to maintain movement quality and athleticism through hard conditioning and activities outside the gym.
As Minotaur said above, if you move across to more movement/dynamic exercise/body weight stuff (call it what you will) and maintain a couple of hard sessions a week at the gym, you're likely to look good and maintain much of your muscle mass.

Finally, a lot of older guys begin to accumulate a bit of fat around the torso. While you're carrying lots of muscle this is masked well, but as you lose some muscle it stands out much more, and makes the lost muscle mass more obvious.
I think its worth assessing if this is you.


What's your current height, weight, and general fat level?

Check these for some ideas:

Basically: Lift according to some kind of organized plan 2-3 days a week, be "active" for a half-hour or so the other days (doesn't have to be a "workout". Freeze tag with the kids is great). Eat three good meals a day, expecting dinner to be family-time and probably "looser" with the macro content, so at least have breakfast and lunch relatively-dialed in.

Also, just because you're "winding down", I'd still be sure to set specific goals. Unless you plan on never improving, or being happy with sporadic and random progress whenever it happens to occur.

You're only 25, man. It almost sounds like you're a retired pro hanging up your belt because you've squatted 675 and you're done with it all. I totally understand wanting to balance real life and gym life, but I'd wager that an easy 75% of the guys on this site have full time jobs and families and children and some kind of nagging injury and still train hard several days a week while reaching their goals.

Especially if you're just a recreational (non-professional/non-competitive lifter), there is absolutely always a way to find balance without necessarily having to "wind down"

Pain like from an actual injury that affects your training?