Learn everything there Is to know about fItness, performance, fat loss and lifestyle from Adrian McDonnell.
The long awaited return is almost over! Most gyms are getting ready to open their doors for the first time in fifteen weeks tomorrow. As exciting and all as this might be (or not!) for some people, it’s important to set yourself up for success & not failure. Here’s how:
Firstly, a fifteen week lay-off from the gym is longer than most off-seasons in GAA. If you played your last club game at the end of September, would you expect to have the same level of fitness come mid-January? Probably not unless you continued a similar training schedule over the off season.
Now, let’s apply the same concept to the gym – particularly in relation to strength training. If you haven’t lifted a heavy weight in fifteen weeks, it’s not realistic to expect you to be able to pick up where you left off. While I’m not saying your progress is completely lost, it may not be at the same level as it was previously.
So when you return to the gym, forgive yourself for not being able to lift the same kinda weights you were doing fifteen weeks ago. Bodyweight and light dumbbell workouts are extremely effective for conditioning. Maybe your conditioning levels are even better than what they were before lockdown!
But in terms of strength, the most optimal way to get stronger is to lift heavy weights. And if you haven’t lifted heavy in fifteen weeks, it will take a few weeks of training to build it back up – which leads me onto my next point.
build, don't test strength
How often do you see people shake their shoulders, warm up on 60Kg on the bench and then go straight into a one rep max? As they attempt to lift the weight, they look like they’re about to have a seizure and get buried by the bar! They then move onto the next exercise and call it a day on the bench.
This is a classic example of someone who is solely focusing on testing their strength. Once in a blue moon, they might hit a new PR, but for the most part, their lifts will stay the same. Why? Let’s just say that person performed 8 reps at 60Kg and then went straight up to 80Kg for a max effort attempt but failed. If they were to do this for 4 solid, they would only have performed a total of 32 reps.
Compare that to someone who does a traditional 5x5 strength program. 5x5 = 25 total reps. If you were also to do this for 4 solid weeks, you would have 100 total reps performed by the end. Do you see the difference?
Don’t be the meathead to hop straight under a barbell and perform a max effort lift straight away. Instead, focus on building your strength. Get plenty of reps and plenty of volume in. Don’t fail any reps and leave a rep in the tank. Do this consistently and guess what happens when you do test your strength? Your numbers will go up.
I cannot emphasise the importance of this enough – have some patience and you’ll build your strength levels back up in a couple of weeks. In fact, if you have been training for a while or had been training hard pre-lockdown, chances are you already have decent muscle memory.
In other words, it won’t take you near as long to build back up your strength levels if you had been doing it consistently before the pandemic – which leads me onto my last point.
don't try do everything all at once
A common cause of injury is doing too much too soon. If you haven’t trained for any longer than 45 minutes recently, don’t just expect to be able to walk into the gym and crush a two hour workout. Again, this is a great way of setting yourself up for failure and injury.
Instead, what I would recommend for the first 3-4 weeks is to do full body workouts instead of body part splits. In other words, instead of doing the classic chest on a Monday and back and biceps on a Tuesday etc., do full body workouts instead Why? Just like the first example, so you can get more reps and volume in doing the fundamental movement patterns. This is a great way to improve your technique on all the main lifts and to re condition your brain as much as your body.
3-4 full body workouts a week lasting about an hour would be my recommendation.
If you would like to return to the gym by training & not just working out, my online coaching might just what you need. I’ll help you get back into a routine that serves so you’re not mindlessly going from machine to machine in the gym and have a structured plan to follow instead.
Click here to find out more.
Adrian McDonnell -
Eat This to Tone Up & Build Muscle
Learn how to create the perfect meal with this simple 5 step guide.