Returning to the Gym

So, lockdown has been long, people may or may not have been training. Some have had access to certain equipment, some have had access to nothing and maybe just their own bodyweight. Any way you look at it, the stimulus has changed, and this is the main consideration when looking to return to the gym and the sort of training you should be returning with.

The body adapts its tolerance to different stimulus pretty quickly, in that if you don't have access to heavy loads for a couple of weeks, tissue tolerance, durability and essentially strength levels will decline. For strength athletes, that's an issue, unfortunately. However for most people with health goals, body composition goals, physique and hypertrophy goals, this doesn't necessarily matter. Yes, getting stronger as part of progressive overload is necessary for long term tissue hypertrophy, but the decrease is tissue tolerances and strength levels just means we have to manipulate the stimulus upon the return of loads accessible in a gym.

Your body has changed, internally, and so the external stimulus has to change to counteract this. Going back in and opening the log book to 'carry on where you left off' is going to be the mistake so many gym goers make. For the first couple off weeks, if we are exposed to he same demand as before, you WILL see injury, even if its just acute, or if its just excessive DOMs. A small amount of DOMs will probably be felt, but excessive DOMs will prove to trainees that they have gone about their return to the gym the wrong way. more on DOMs later.

Lets say your previous gym routine saw you performing 4 x 10 reps of a specific movement. Your body will not be able to lift the same load as before, period (unless you have been able to get your hands on said load). You will need to probably do 1 if not all of the following actions in order to prepare your body for this new stimulus:

1) Reduce the load - quite simply, our adaptations to slower tempos, higher reps and less exposure to higher intensities will inevitably see a drop in absolute strength levels. So, just drop the load by 10-20% of what the log book says.

2) Reduce the Volume - Where you may have been doing the standardised 4 x 10 protocol. Go back in with 2 or 3 x 10 initially, and make the first set a different focus (skill acquisition for example - relearn the movement). Essentially doing half the volume as before, will see progressive results as you have been exposed to a totally new stimulus. Remember when you started the gym and used to do those 'chest days' and it was then sore for 2-3 days after? Thats not what we are looking for or want.

3) Be patient and smart - taking care of these two fundamentals for your return to the gym will leave you thinking you could have done more, or wanting to do more. However, be patient, look after your body, and it will look after you.

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness:

I have posted about this phenomenon in the past, and how undesirable it is for trainees. We do not train in search of the DOMs. Telling your trainer the day after a session that your legs are in bits is nothing to be proud of, certainly from the coaches perspective. It means the stimulus has been excessive and uncontrolled. Like I said, because of the new exposure to gym equipment, you may see a small amount of DOMs, provided you don't beast yourself. But going back in with the same intensities and volumes as before will mean you can't walk the next day, or can't feel your arms the next day. This is turn just disrupts the the rest of the training week and you will unlikely train again that week because you 'SMASHED' your first couple of sessions back. NOT smart, and quite frankly, reckless.

Lastly load tolerances would have decreases slightly and we experience some form of de-trained, and de-conditioned tissue. This basically means the requirement/exposure for your tissues to exceed their tolerance is lower, thus the risk if tissue damage and injury is higher. No body should be in a rush to get straight back into the gym and exceed their numbers right away, this is very reckless and dangerous.

Personally I just can't wait to get back into the gym and train. Get a feel for the movements again, feel the movements and maybe get a little pump. The 120kg bench can wait for now.

For your training enquires or if you are unsure what to do on your return, drop me a message, anytime.

Luke French | Health Coach

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