WORKING OUT FROM HOME: LOCKDOWN EDITION 3
By Guest Writer Arby Keheli, Top London Personal Trainer
The light at the end of the tunnel is beginning to appear. According to government guidelines training facilities will begin to reopen around the start of July at the earliest with a slight variation of a few weeks. This of course is conditional depending on the ability to maintain public safety. However, this news is very promising and should bring a little smile to your face 😊.
COVID-19 has been a situation of massive uncertainty 🤷♀️. For many it has brought an abrupt stop to usual training routines. After this period of hiatus it’s very important that we have a plan on how to transition back into the gym. There is always going to be a massive temptation to try and jump straight back into the deep end after being forced to take a break from training. There is a large certainty that you will not be at the same level as before lockdown. Unless you have had access to training facilities areas like your strength, muscle size, recovery (intra/post session) and conditioning will have taken a bit of a knock.
You might be thinking “then why the 🤬 have I spent the last 2 and a bit months doing home workouts Arby?”. Don’t worry your efforts will be rewarded. By training during quarantine, you will have minimised the time it will take to bounce back. You will have slowed down your bodies regression through consistently adding a training stimulus which will massively work in your favour when you get back to the gym.
Systematically phasing back into the gym is very important. As we have already established the body is simply not at the same level as it was before lockdown and therefore will no longer be accustomed to the same training stress. If you go back in at a level of intensity that is now too much for the body then there is a very high possibility this training stress will manifest itself into an injury.
High training stress will lead to something known as accumulative fatigue. Accumulative fatigue puts you in a state of low energy meaning you will eventually wind up in a state of lethargy and your performance during sessions and recovery afterward will begin to plummet, even if you were killing it in your first week back.
Both of these examples will result in having to take time off to recover. To put that in perspective you have waited 3 months to go back into the gym. Unnecessarily pushing yourself and potentially developing an injury will leave you out for another few weeks or months depending on severity. Is it really worth the risk? ⚖️
How to systematically phase back into the gym:
Phase 1 – Movement quality
The first priority should be on the regaining of lost technique, not trying to reclaim your strength and fitness immediately. Technique is a prerequisite to all forms of training including strength work, hypertrophy, cardio, HIIT etc. When you don’t perform specific movements regularly your competency will begin to decrease which can be very problematic.
During this phase you want to reduce the weight considerably to around 30-40% of your capacity and really focus on primary movements such as the Squat, Hip Thrust, Lunge, RDL, Deadlift, Horizontal Press/ Pull (such as Benching or Rows) in addition to Vertical Press/Pull (e.g. Military Press/Pull Up).
Let’s use a squat as an example, before you even think about adding weight onto a bar you need to ensure that you can perform the movement correctly with minimal weight. By practising the movement, you will gain more of an awareness of what you are doing. You will also be able to make corrections to your form whilst in a state of low risk. Alternatively, if you just jump straight under a loaded bar without refamiliarizing yourself with the squat there is a high likelihood of form breakdown and therefore injury.
I would suggest staying in this phase for 1-2 weeks. If you have been doing your best to train during quarantine this first phase will be a walk in the park; you will still be familiar with how to perform movements in addition will also have a good base of support thus minimising any risks. The length of time you stay in this stage should be played it by ear.
Phase 2 – Becoming re-accustomed to training stress:
As I previously stated, tolerance to exercise diminishes when you take a break. We need to now regain that tolerance. During this phase the objective is to gradually increase training volume and intensity; I cannot stress enough “gradually.” We must reintroduce intensity and volume in waves; only increasing when we have become accustomed to the last. For example:
- Week 1 = Squat – 3 Sets of 6 reps @ 50% 1RM (Rep Max)
- Week 3 = Squat – 5 Sets of 8 reps @ 60% 1 RM
This phase should take slightly longer than phase one as its much more of a gradual process and it is completely dependent on how you personally react to retraining. For example, if you have a long history of training or have continued to train over quarantine you will notice you will fly through each wave, however if you aren’t as experienced or have done a little less during lockdown this process will take longer.
I would suggest spending around a month trying to gradually increase your output. A great indicator for when to move on is your performance during sessions: if you’re feeling fitter or stronger on the day, as well as a having a good recovery afterwards meaning you’re feeling fresh and ready to train the next day.
Phase 3 - Building
Here comes the fun part. Now that we have a base of technique and tolerance, we can begin to ramp things up and boundaries can now be pushed. During this phase we should be looking to achieve and then surpass our pre-lockdown condition. Pushing ourselves incrementally to get those gains 💪.