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Call It a Comeback

Don't worry about how much weight you're using for the first couple of weeks. In fact, don't worry about weight or reps the first few times you get to the gym. Use these initial sessions as a way of experimenting, figuring out exactly where you are strengthwise. For all your exercises, start out using much lighter weight than you remember, and concentrate on feeling the muscle you're working. You might not feel it at the beginning of the workout, but you definitely will the day after.

Shoot for eight to 12 reps on most exercises and do not go to failure. Form is the most important factor in this program. If you're using a heavier weight but sacrificing form, you're not doing yourself any favors. 

As you'll notice, this program doesn't call for cardio work. The theory is, if you've taken time off, you'll see results from any form of exercise. If you insist on doing cardio, we recommend doing it away from the gym to avoid burnout.

"Instead of taking the bus to work, walk or bike," Avens says. "Bring your change of clothes with you. Even at lunch, spend a half-hour and go for a brisk walk. Do something you enjoy, because if you're not enjoying it, you're not going to get any benefit from it."

You should start seeing results within a few weeks. If after a few months you're ready for a new challenge, you'll be just in time to move into Stage 2 of our yearlong program. Even if you're not, we guarantee you'll be much better off than when you started.

Day 1 (Monday) Back/Shoulders
Exercise Sets Reps
Close-grip lat pull-down 4 *15, 8-12
One-arm dumbbell row  2 8-12
Smith-machine seated military press 3 8-12
Standing lateral raise  2 8-12
Bent-over lateral raise  2 8-12
Day 2 (Wednesday) Legs/calves
Leg press  4 *15, 8-12
Dumbbell lunge 3 10-12
Leg extension 2 10-12
Lying leg curl  2 10-12
Standing calf raise 3 12-15
Day 3 (Friday) Chest/triceps/biceps
Bench press 4 *15, 8-12
Incline dumbbell press 3 8-12
Reverse barbell curl/Standing barbell curl  3 8-12
Triceps bench dip 3 8-12
Alternating crunches 3 15-25
    *warm-up set


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