Since May 20, all 50 states have started to ease COVID-19-related shutdown restrictions. The first wave of re-opening included gyms—big box franchises and boutique studios. Understandably, many people are itching to get back into their strength regimens—to throw some weight around that’s not an adjustable dumbbell. Beyond safety precautions you should take before running to your iron palace, there are other things to keep in mind to avoid injuries getting back in the gym.
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If you’re conflicted by a desire to chase a sweat or feel the need to make up for lost time, pause, says Matthew Ibrahim, a strength coach, adjunct professor, and Ph.D. student in sport performance. To ensure you make gains and avoid injuries, you want to manage your training frequency, intensity, and volume. Here are Ibrahim’s top tips for a smooth transition back into regular exercise again.
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1. Go Slow, Taper Gradually
Most people feel the pressure to transform their physiques overnight since they’ve been out of the gym for so long. Scratch that thought and instead work yourself back into shape through a gradual approach. Use the first month or two to really focus on pristine form and technique rather than going all-out on the weights and spending hours at the gym. Using controlled tempo work like eccentrics (slow lowering) and isometrics (pauses) will help you refine your technique as you get back into training again.
2. Start With the Basics
Stick to foundational movement patterns at first. Sure, they may be boring but they always breed results. Whether you’re training for general health, athletic performance, or lifting prowess, results are what you’re ultimately after. Sticking to the basic exercises means mastering the squat, hip hinge (deadlift), and upper body pressing and rowing (horizontal and vertical). Begin here and the rest will work itself out as you ease back into things.
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3. Readjust Your Baseline
A common mistake people make is trying to pick up where they left off. Get that out of your mind. You’ve likely been training with bodyweight, bands, or light dumbbells for the past few months, which means your overall intensity has been down. There’s nothing wrong with that at all. Just make sure to manage your expectations when you jump back into training in the gym. Start out lighter than normal and increase weight (intensity) slowly over the first couple of months. There’s no rush here either, so take your time.
4. Make Wellness Well-Rounded
The easiest boxes to check off with respect to your health are sleep quality, good nutrition, and adequate hydration. Essentially, these are the lowest hanging fruit in recovery. If you check these boxes off on a consistent basis, you’ll likely find it much easier to attain success in the gym and feel more refreshed in between workouts.
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5. Just Move More
One of the easiest forms of physical activity that is often overlooked in training is going for a walk. Be sure to get outside for a walk each day if you can now that the nice weather is poking its head out for summer. Aside from getting quality vitamin D from the sun, you’ll also benefit from breathing in the fresh air, decompressing from the stress of the workday, and performing some low-level aerobic exercise. It’s not all about high-intensity training. You need some low-intensity forms of movement in your life, too.
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