Gym Re-Entry Strategy

Your gym re-entry strategy (adapted from Revival Strength)

The gym has been open for almost a month now, and we have hit a good stride with our new normal. You now have a wider selection of equipment and tools and friends to play with. We’ve started slowly reintroducing the barbell in class workouts, and with the recent addition of barbell class and open gym, and possible reopening of gym full-time,  it is a good time to have a little chat. 

You all have done a great job practicing viral transmission mitigation techniques at the gym. We certainly need to keep the spread of COVID-19 at bay and ensure that we keep our at-risk members and clients as safe as possible. But even with COVID precautions aside, we also fear we are going to see another phenomenon occur. That phenomenon is the re-entry overexcitement training setbacks.

The scenario we are in is really not much different than that of a member from the gym that has gone for 2-3 months of summer travel and comes back to the gym. They are so eager and ambitious to regain what they lost, that in the first week or two they try to make up for the lost time by going extra hard, heavy, and ramping up very fast. The members at risk of Rhabdo are those that had taken considerable time off from training and were returning after their layoff. They already know how to push themselves and have the mental fortitude to work through the pain, but their bodies are just not ready to handle that sort of intensity.

The same could be said for many of you coming off of Quarantine Life. Even if you have been moving during this time, the reality is that working with limited equipment has meant that your training intensity has dropped slightly and you have also possibly lost some top-end strength. The mistake that we fear some people are going to make is to try and ramp right back up to their old working weights, try to start flirting with their PR loads, choose Rx on every workout, and even increase their frequency a bit to try and shed those 5-10lbs that crept up on them during quarantine times. 

Let’s think about this and break things down a bit. For most people the differences between Quarantine training and Gym training can be broken down into the two tables below.

Quarantine Life:

  • Prep Work/Pre-Hab – SOME
  • Speed Strength – Olympic LIfting – NONE
  • Absolute Strength Barbell Lifts – LIGHT or NONE
  • Accessory Work – SOME

Gym Life:

  • Prep Work/Pre-Hab – SOME
  • Speed Strength – Oly Lifting – HEAVY
  • Absolute Strength Barbell Lifts – HEAVY
  • Accessory Work – SOME
  • Conditioning Work – HIGHER INTENSITY

Here’s where you can get yourself into trouble. 

Barbell Olympic lifts are going to come back after a long lay off. Olympic lifts are complicated and dynamic movements that require a tremendous amount of brain work and coordination. If you haven’t been lifting like this for years, then most likely this long time off is going to feel like forever. You will be rusty, your mechanics will be off, and your brain will have to work super hard just to move correctly, let alone lift the weights. Trying to rush back into difficult lifting sessions and going for your old 1RMs would present an unnecessary risk.

The barbells and plates are going to be flying off the shelves and the temptation to load heavy is going to be strong. “I just want to feel something heavy on my back again.” While the brain and nervous system might feel ready to tackle some of these heavy weights, your joints and connective tissue haven’t been under this sort of load in a while and need time to adapt and ramp back up. 

Conditioning pieces now are going to have a lot more tools available. With bikes, rowers, boxes, kettlebells, and barbells, these workouts are going to start to ramp up in intensity. The metcon junky inside of us is going to want to GO FOR IT! There are going to be a lot of piles of sweat and bodily fluids on the floor after endless thruster and pull up combinations happen. But how can you get this fix without burning yourself out in the first 2-4 weeks? What delivers the feeling of working hard without going all out at high intensity with high rep workouts?

What should be prioritized and how long should you plan to build back to your old self? 

Level Up your Prep Work and Accessory Lifts -These are the things we consider and program for all of the workouts at Ultimate. Thoughtful warm-ups that pre-hab our bodies and help us get more out of our training are so essential. Following that up with adequate accessory lifts that help strengthen joints, enhance aesthetics, and improve movement quality is key as well. Just by adding these two elements for 20mins of your training session, in place of the HIGH-INTENSITY sets you were going to do will bulletproof your body, keep you consistent at the gym, and still deliver the results you were chasing.

Build great absolute strength without max loads using time under tension – Rather than go for HEAVY sets of 1-5 reps on your favorite barbell lifts, increase the time under tension and opt for sets of 6-10reps. Longer tempos that will keep you under the barbell longer will accomplish 3 things:

Keep the loads down so your body can get used to lifting heavy again.

Fortify your joints by forcing the smaller muscles and connective tissue to work and stabilize

Get you metabolic and burning more energy. High time under tension sets not only build great strength but also burn a ton of calories and ramp up metabolism

We are sticking to compound power lifts and holding off for a little on Olympic lifts. Save the Olympic lifts for when your body has returned to its old strength and conditioning baseline. 

Controlled but varied conditioning – Implement more controlled variations of metcons. There will be work-rest ratios in most of your workouts. You should implement % efforts to keep you from redlining and there will be a focus on choosing movements and couplets that keep you from going overboard with your speed and intensity.

Happy and safe training!!