I asked the gram fam what kind of content they wanted from me in this season. How to transition back into the gym was a very popular answer, so I thought I’d make a more in-depth episode for you.
There are MANY things to consider when entering the gym after a long break. These are just a few that I’ve been talking about with my clients over the past few weeks.
Keep in mind that everyone’s set up, life and access has been different during quarantine here in the states. So take what applies to you.
Whether you had access to weights during quarantine or not, let’s just plan on leaving your ego out of your re-entry the gym. If you love the weights, you can expect to want to push it. You might want to jump right back into weights you used before quarantine, or push yourself until everything burns and you’re dying. How about let’s NOT do that.
You want to remain consistent – to be able to workout four or five days per week and still function. Being irrationally sore will not allow for that to happen. Please for the love of all things holy, remember that your gains come from your ability to RECOVER. Not from how hard you go in the gym.
I start with this one because it is the source of what I predict to be an influx of injuries for humans re-entering the gym and going ham.
Shift your mindset to conservative. Be conservative. Your ego is dangerous and not always logical. Mmmmk?
You won’t need much to get a challenging workout in. This is actually a plus. If you’ve lowered volume, load, frequency, and/or intensity from March until now, which is June 2020, then you will be challenged by lower loads, intensity and so on.
Sure, you can be disappointed by fatiguing quickly, and having to use lower weights. But that’s also great when we think about time spent in the gym. You’re building a base. Accept where you are, and be consistent.
Also, I am sure I’ll say this more than once – but make sure you’re recovering well from your workouts. No matter how un-intense you might view them. They’re plenty challenging to your body, where you’re at now. If you want to build muscle and recover, make sure you’re prioritizing sleep, and protein intake; among other things of course.
Unless you were actively working on mobility during quarantine, you might feel like you need to “dust off the cobwebs” as you try squatting ass to grass. And working mobility is one thing, but exercising your mobility under load is a whole other situation.
Take your time in your warm up, and keep control in your end ranges during your lifts. You’re not a broken little baby child. But be AWARE as you re-enter some ranges you may not have experienced in a few months.
If your hips are tight or you feel restricted, don’t be a turd and push through. Be mindful and work within your current ranges. Progress those ranges just like you would anything else.
I gave this example on Instagram the other day. This particular tip pertains to you if you have not access to barbells during quarantine.
We must consider a few things within this one.
You will likely use barbells for larger compound movements, like I mentioned.
These movements tend to be metabolically demanding. Even with lighter weight than you used to use, you may fatigue quickly. There also tends to be large room for error in these lifts.
Remember that lifts are skills. And if you’ve haven’t worked on a skill for some time, you can expect some energy leaks when you practice that skill again. This is not to say that you will feel like you’ve never squatted or bench pressed before. It’s just to say, let’s use a weight that allows us to focus on the movement vs. focusing on how you’re simply trying to survive.
I recommend using an RPE of 6 for your main lifts, larger compound movements, or power movements. Work the pattern. RPE for those that aren’t familiar with that stands for Rate of Perceived Exertion. So a way to practice this could also be reps in reserve. If your RPE is 6, you’d be able to do roughly 4 or more reps with that weight. Meaning you should not be heavily taxed by this weight/load.
THEN – go hard in your accessory, more isolated work.
This is especially relevant if you have been doing dumbbell or kettle bell workouts during quarantine.
Let’s say you have walking lunges, or single arm presses, or hamstring curls in accessory work. I am personally encouraging my clients to use decently challenging weight here.
The logic is this:
Accessory work within my programs is meant to work on weak links, strength discrepancies between L and R sides, build muscle and enhance the main lifts.
Soooo going hard here is a win win. We increase work capacity, strengthen weak links, challenge discrepancies, and have positive carryover into the main lifts. So that as we increase load or volume with the big ol’ barbell movements, it’s a smoother transition. You’ve been able to drill the movements with lighter weight, but increase strength through the accessory work.
Also, keep in mind that this is just my theory.
Let’s dive into the last point or consideration.
Not in that you’re incapable, or you’re actually injured. But in the same way you’d focus on the long term goals of training when you come back from being injured. You know that it takes consistency, and trusting the process. Same goes for re-entering the gym after a long break.
I know this first hand from both injuries, and long hiatuses from the gym during our world travels. It’s a slow road back every time, but it can happen.
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I'm an adventurous introvert from Vancouver, Washington who lives on sleep + "me time." I'm a lover of lifting weights, dinosaurs, real talk and traveling with my husband. I am here to help you move better, lift more, bust the myths of the fitness industry, and inspire you to love the process.
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