Everyone is excited and nervous to get back into a regular gym routine. While a lot of us have been training at home throughout the quarantine era of 2020, we have had to be inventive and imaginative with how we execute those workouts. Most of us did not have the home gym set up needed to get the whole job done. Only having one dumbbell or a bunch of bands or paint cans from the garage, everyone just did what they could and that is certainly better than nothing.
Soon enough (if it hasn't already) gyms will be opening up again. But what will be different about your training? Do you have a plan? Should you go for that PR on the first day?
Here are four tips to get you back into your gym routine, keep you injury free and boost your strength back up.
Don’t start where you stopped
It has been months since you were in your normal gym routine. If you were deadlifting 500 Lbs before your gym closed down and have not had access to heavy weights since, it is safe to say you can not or should not be lifting that on day one.
Why the heck not!?
Your muscles and nervous system have been detained over the past 3+ months of workouts with minimal equipment at home. The good news is, you have still been training and you have climbed that mountain before. You can easily get back to lifting the same weights with a little bit of time and preparation. Muscle memory is definitely a thing, so your body will get back on track if you pace yourself. So don’t try for a one rep max on opening day. We all have to learn to walk again.
Train the exercises you didn't have a chance to do at home
If you were left with some lighter dumbbells, bands and body weight exercises at home, chances are your muscles are de-conditioned in certain ranges of motion you did not have access to.
Muscles work on what is called a "strength curve". Basically, challenging a muscles to create tension in different positions. In a gym setting where you have access to free weights and machines and cables, you are able to train muscles in all different angles and tensions which can make a muscle strong through its entire strength curve. Most likely, we have now gotten weaker in some of those areas due to lack of exercise selection.
Simply by changing a dumbbell exercise to a cable exercise, you are changing how the weight functions on a muscle which is going to give you a different result. Training a muscle in multiple ways is going to increase the strength fully rather than just in certain positions. This is going to bulletproof your muscles and help prevent injuries down the line.
Pick a training routine or stimuli you haven't been doing at home
While training at home can still be beneficial and get you lots of gains in some areas, obviously there will be limitations due to equipment selection and variety of exercises. So getting back into the gym, an easy solution to that would be to switch those burnt out routines to something new with different set, rep and exercise variations. This is called exercise periodization and is a training fundamental.
Avoiding stagnation in your progression by varying your workouts will also help you avoid potential injuries caused by repeated stress. Periodizing your training is something you should always be aware of when writing a program. If you are now used to doing high intensity interval training from home, switch your training up to something more methodical and calculated with slow tempos, pause reps and longer rest periods with machines and free weights.
Train full body
Training full body is not only a great way to get your body back into shape, but it is a great way to train year-round, especially if you are on a time constraint. Not everyone can train 6 days a week for 2 hour sessions to get the necessary reps in. There are tons of benefits to training full body workouts rather than split training days;
Increase the set and rep counts of a muscle group over multiple days
Increase the quality of your reps due to less fatigue
Increase the intensity in the same muscle group
Train muscles more often = more potential gains
Treat the first few weeks back in the gym as if you were going in for the first time. Training your body with full body workouts can help you adapt back into the gym life, allow you to train a muscle across more days instead of destroying it in one day only. Give your nervous system the productive boost it needs to get you back up to where you were instead of setting you back even further.