The so called Reversibility Principle states that athletes will lose the beneficial effects of training after an extended period of physical inactivity, causing strength, power, endurance and flexibility to decline quite rapidly. This will negatively impact athletic performance and may sometimes even be accompanied by an increase joint pain, loss of mobility and of function. After just two to three weeks of inactivity, some decrease in muscle strength and an even more significant loss of cardio-respiratory fitness can be observed; seasoned athletes decline more gradually, while fitness-newcomers decline more rapidly.  

Given how quickly physical deconditioning can occur, it is highly recommendable to maintain whatever reduced level of physical activity you may still be able to keep up when circumstances or commitments don’t allow you to pursue your regular exercise routine; even just a single work-out per week can help to significantly mitigate the effects of deconditioning, and will be far better than stopping altogether. If an injury of a bone, joint, muscle or tendon should prevent you from keeping up your normal routine, continue training the unaffected body-parts in order to attenuate deconditioning.

If physical activity was not possible at all for an extended time period, the good news is that the resulting deconditioning effects can be reversed when training is resumed, and that you are able to get back to where you were before much quicker than the first time it took to reach that point. Muscle memory helps you to regain your previous levels of physical conditioning, strength, endurance, etc., faster than it took to acquire them initially. Though cardio-respiratory deconditioning occurs quicker and is more significant than strength loss, cardio-respiratory fitness will also be regained more swiftly than lost muscular strength levels. Another good news is that the skills and the technique of exercise movements are retained much longer than the body’s physical capability to perform them against the formerly used weight resistance. 

When resuming training activities after a longer period of inactivity, the main danger for the weight-training enthusiast or bodybuilder is to overestimate the weights they can lift in comparison to their previous performance, which can easily cause injury. 

To stay safe and injury-free, it is vital to gradually and cautiously ease back into regular training by giving the body a chance to readapt to the newly increased physical activity, before once again moving on to higher intensities, weight-loads, training volume and duration. Don’t do too much too soon and keep your initial training sessions short. If the first  exercise sessions after your lay-off should cause extreme muscle soreness and stiffness, it is a sure sign that you are pushing too hard for your current limits and may need to ease up. For more advanced bodybuilders and weight training enthusiasts, who generally train according to split programs, this may not only mean to significantly reduce their weight- resistance, but it may also include to step back down to a less advanced split program, or even to a whole-body program using light weights for a short time period, before they will once again get ready to reassume the program used prior to inactivity. 



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