Heading Back to The Gym Part 2
Updated: Aug 11
Continuing on from last week’s post…
As you may consider going back to the gym, it’s important to consider what you have been doing the past few months to determine where you should start. Last week the basics were covered, as well as what those who have been engaging in more aerobic-based activities should do upon return to strength training. Here we will cover the other populations.
AT-HOME BODYWEIGHT WORKOUTS (SOME BANDS/LIGHT DUMBBELLS)
If you fall into this category then you are the most primed for getting back into the gym but that still doesn’t mean jump straight to the 100 lb dumbbells just yet. Assuming you’ve been using proper movement patterns with your home workouts, then your body has the proper mechanics already tuned in.
The thing to manage here is weight and intensity as your nervous system has been accustomed to less external load via bands and a couple of 10 lb dumbbells. While you can still provide your muscles with significant stimulus with those, there still needs to be an adjustment period and a gradual incorporation of heavier weights.
Within the first month, don’t work anywhere near failure, don’t use weight that you would have used before, and don’t favor compound movements (squat, deadlift, bench, rows) just yet. Yes you should still do these movements, at lighter loads, but incorporate the “smaller” exercises.
These “smaller” exercises don’t just mean bicep curls and tricep extensions. You can still do rows, pulldowns, chest presses, leg presses, etc. Just be smart with the selection and favor movements that require less stability demand on your part (seated exercises, machine-based, single-plane).
You also want to be mindful of how much time you are giving to what type of exercises. If the workout is an hour, spend 40-45 minutes on mobilization, core, posterior chain work, and the less taxing exercises, and the other 15-20 on the heavier movements. After a couple weeks you can start to shift your focus as your body and nervous system adjust.
NO WORKING OUT AT ALL (IT’S OKAY!!)
If your activity level has been more limited over the past 3 months, that’s completely okay. You just have to be a little more patient with the return to the gym. Spend the first 2 weeks using relatively light loads, and keeping the intensity moderate at the most. Spend a good 20-30 minutes of the workout fine-tuning movement patterns with low loads and rewiring your nervous system to adapt to working out again. The other half of the workout can be spent with some more difficult movements, but just don’t work near failure, and again, you want to favor machines and less complex movements.
After the initial couple of weeks, the level of difficulty on movements can be pushed and start to integrate different planes of motion and start to slowly increase load. Start to incorporate squat and deadlift patterns but still keep the overall volume of this work down.
This post did get a little more technical than others, but simply put, don’t go too hard too fast. Remember your brain has been taking a break as well as your body so you need time for both of them to get back up to speed. Even if you’ve been working out you likely haven’t been using the kind of weight you are used to so be patient and allow for an adjustment period. After about a month you may be surprised that you are even stronger, faster, and better than before.