Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to work with numerous educators, coaches and mentors within the strength and conditioning realm. Learning from different minds, getting different perspectives and dissecting their knowledge has allowed me to formulate my own ideas and methodologies.
One of my biggest ‘take-homes’ from these masters has been learning and knowing when to hold back and when to go in, guns blazing.
We live in an era of instant gratification, drive-through convenience, same-day delivery, high-speed access, and lipo, nips and tucks. If you want it, you can have it and you can have it now.
But Covid-19 changed the way we live when it arrived unannounced in 2020. Progress came to an abrupt halt, resources were limited, our freedoms were restricted and our beloved gym became the promised land.
Now that the government has lifted the iron curtain, many of us expect to pick up exactly where we left off.
But the best intentions to hit it hard, like we did before that fateful day in late March 2020, are not only misplaced but can also prove harmful.
A rational ramp-up
Even if you trained hard through lockdown with the limited resources you had available, the desire to make up for lost time can overpower common sense. Working twice as hard, with twice as much resolve will surely get you back on track sooner, won’t it?
Understand that after spending months on the ‘influencer’s home workout plan 1000’, we’re no longer conditioned to move heavy loads. That means injuries will be rife in gyms, now more so than ever.
Here’s my advice… Consider that by focusing on the things that really matter in your training, you can get back on track without unnecessary risks. With that in mind, these are the important fundamentals to keep in mind when you make a full return to the gym:
#1. Don’t skip the warm up.
People are often in too much of a hurry or lack the time to adhere to this principle. Make the time to improve your mobility and get your nervous system firing first. This will condition your body for what lies ahead.
#2. Choose to train on your feet.
Machines have their place, but to reconnect, get bang for your buck and realise the biggest carryover to your sport or lifestyle, you want to train your body using closed kinetic chain compound movements.
#3. Less is more.
Don’t expect to train at a high volume with a high intensity from the start. Think of tomorrow. You want to return to the gym to train consistently. But if you annihilate yourself today, you can write off tomorrow’s session, and probably the next day, too.
Reduce your reps and sets and lower the intensity you’re accustomed to. A movement and intensity overload guarantees diminishing returns, whereas quality reps with exceptional effort will keep giving and giving.
#5. Always choose quality over quantity. Always,
Learn to move well and stop grinding out ugly reps. The only thing getting stronger with this approach is your ego. Scale your weight down and get the movement right.
By reducing your volume and intensity, you may feel like you’ve reduced your effort, but that’s not the case.
I encourage you to monitor your tempo. It will increase the amount of time it takes to complete a rep and your time spent under tension. This will improve your movement quality and root out technical errors. This method will also stimulate muscles in the way they’re intended to work.
#6. Recover by taking time off.
Ease your way into it to avoid DOMS and give yourself the best chance of a quick recovery between sessions. I highly recommend a day of active recovery and a day of a passive recovery every week. Your body changes during recovery, so let nature take its course.
Remember, it’s not the weights, the cardio or the exercise that will injure you, it’s your inability to move efficiently and train intelligently. If you follow these principles, you’ll get back in the game the right way (and sooner than you think).
Author: Pedro van Gaalen
When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.