With gyms re-opening, no doubt you’re eager to get back into your favourite free-weight and machine exercises. However, jumping straight into your pre-Covid training plan full bore is asking for trouble.
Here are my top tips for returning to gym training to help you progress as fast, safely and efficiently as possible.
1. Program increased frequency of your major lifts.
Just because you can’t bust out your previous 1RM doesn’t mean you’ve lost muscle. What you’ve actually lost are neurological adaptations, i.e. co-ordination. Every lift is a “skill” and your strength will return quickest with more practice. If you want to get your squat or deadlift strength back, program squats/deadlifts at least twice per week.
2. Ease yourself back into lifting.
Don’t go all-out with drop sets, negative reps, forced reps and heavy weight in session one because you have your favourite machines and free weights back. Unless of course you want to injure yourself or be too sore to train again. Take a moderate approach so you can train your lifts a few times a week (as per point 1️).
3. Keep volume to a minimum.
Give yourself room for progression over the coming months. As a rule of thumb, stimulus should be kept to the minimum amount to produce results (ie don’t work harder than you actually have to).
4. Be kind to yourself.
Don’t beat yourself up because your body is not where you want it to be. If you’ve gained weight, BIG DEAL. Body composition (and body fat) is not permanent, all you need to do is take action to start making progress again.
5. You likely haven’t lost muscle.
Just because your muscles don’t look as “full” or “pop” like they used to does not mean you’ve lost muscle. Muscle is actually a lot harder to lose because it is harder to gain. It’s easier to lose strength & co-ordination because these are the adaptations that happen faster. Building muscle is an adaptation that takes a LOT longer to “arrive” so it will take much longer to “leave.” What you’re seeing or feeling is likely decreased glycogen stores within the muscles from not training as intensely, making them appear “flat”.