This email is to help anyone who hasn't trained in a while, or has let their training drop off significantly. You might be wondering things like how many gains you've lost, how long it will take to get them back, and what should you be doing for your training. By the end of this article you should know the answers to all these and more.
Start With Self-Reflection Look, I'm not trying to get too deep with this, but it's easily the most important part of this article. Nothing I'm going to discuss matters if you can't stay consistent with your training. If you stopped training, there's obviously a reason why. Maybe you were trying to do too much and got overwhelmed, or maybe you simply didn't enjoy what it was you were doing. Whatever the answer, take some time to figure it out; then ensure that you try to address it when you're drawing up your new training plan.
How Much Did You Lose? First of all - relax. You probably haven't lost as much progress as you think, and whatever you have lost can be regained in a much shorter window then it took to initially get your gains. It's not really possible to say exactly how much muscle or strength you've lost. Some of the factors that will have influenced this will be how strong you were before the break, how long the break was, how active you stayed during your time off, and probably your genetics matter here as well. Just be aware that muscle memory is a real thing. Your body doesn't want to waste energy, so some of the changes to your body from training are permanent, allowing you to get back to where you were much faster.
Start Light, Progress Slowly As with any good programme, you're going to want to start off light and at a level that is very do-able. The name of the game for a comeback programme is to reclaim lost strength and muscle while avoiding 1) soreness, and 2) injury. Some muscle soreness may be unavoidable, but we can limit the amount we experience by not doing loads on the first week back. Remember: if you're sore, you're delaying the time until you can train again.
The Training You're going to want to focus on three things: 1) rebuilding your work capacity, 2) rebuilding lost muscle mass, and 3) regaining lost mobility. These are the three things that will have ben most effected by a layoff. Obviously strength matters too, but you won't get that back until you have the muscles to use it. To accomplish this, I would recommend starting back with a training frequency of 2 - 4 days per week. On the main lifts (i.e. squats, bench, etc.) aim for sets of 5-10 reps at a very easy weight. You'll also want to include some accessory exercises in the 8-12 rep range, and potentially a few isolation exercises in a range of 10 - 20. Try to ramp the weight up very gradually and at pace with what you can recover from. Below is a sample 4 day programme. The exercises require equipment, so you may want to save this until you return to the gym. No reason to not do some bodyweight work between now and then though.