How to Start Training Again After Lockdown

First Days Back in the Gym

Monday was my first day back in the gym coaching clients at Horn Strength & Conditioning, where we specialize in getting people of all ages stronger through the use of barbells. We’ve been shut down over the last three months, so it was great seeing clients walk into the gym smiling, eager to train again. They were relieved they didn’t lose all their strength and happy to be back under the bar. It was an awesome feeling for me to be coaching again too, because this is what makes me feel like I have a purpose. Training is my passion, so it was tough being away from it for a while.

Now that people are getting back in the gym, the big question is - how do you restart your training in a safe and effective way? To answer this question, I talked to Paul, my coach and owner of Horn Strength & Conditioning. He gave me some basic guidelines to follow that he’s implemented over the years with his clients. 

You're Not Starting Over - Just Taking a Step Back

The main point is - as eager as you may be to start lifting again, it’s important to start off slowly so your body can adjust. Don’t worry - you aren’t starting completely over. You haven’t lost all your strength or muscle. Your body will adapt more quickly than it did when you first started. 

For your first workout, stick to the main compound lifts - the squat, deadlift, bench press and overhead press. Using the method below, you'll essentially be testing your strength to figure out what weight you're going to start with for your regular program. Then, start your normal training schedule, using these numbers. You'll build your strength back up from there.

The Method

Here’s how to find what weight you should be starting with for each compound lift - the squat, deadlift, bench press and overhead press. Any good strength program will include these lifts. (If you don't have a strength program, check out our Ultimate Hero Training Program).

IMPORTANT: This protocol only applies when figuring out the weight you'll start with for your working sets. This does not apply for your normal training program, in which regular weight increases are much smaller.

  • Start with the most difficult exercise of your workout. This will most likely be the squat.
  • The plan is to perform as many sets as it takes for you to reach a moderately heavy working set. 
  • Your first set should be with an empty barbell, and you’ll work up from there. 
  • Each set will be 5 reps. Rest for 1-2 minutes between sets, increasing the rest time as the load gets heavier.
  • For the squat and deadlift, increase the weight on the bar by 15-30 lbs. total (this varies, depending on your strength) for each set of 5 reps.
  • For the bench and overhead press, increase the weight on the bar by 5-20 lbs. total for each set of 5 reps. 
  • Keep adding weight to the bar after each set until you find a weight that feels moderately challenging for 5 reps. DO NOT GO TOO HEAVY OR FAIL ANY REPS.
  • Once you hit the weight that feels challenging, stop there - don’t do any more sets. Move on to the next exercise and repeat this process.

Start Slowly

It’s better to start off with a lighter weight and build your strength back up from there. You may be eager to do more sets, or more weight, but resist the temptation. The goal is for your body to adapt slowly. Trust me, you’ll be sore. On Wednesday, a lot of members were hobbling in, sore from their previous workout. They had only done a total of 4-5 sets for each exercise, and only 1 was moderately heavy. If you go too heavy or too hard, you’ll wake up the next day feeling like you can barely move. This will also affect your next workout - it won’t be good. 

As a coach, I’m looking forward to training clients again and helping them get their strength back up. It’s been tough for everyone to be away from the gym and their usual schedules. I don’t know about you, but I definitely appreciate my training and my gym even more now. So let’s come back stronger and train smarter.  

How are you feeling about getting back in the gym? Let us know your experience with it in the Comments section below.

Looking for a fresh program to take to the gym with you? Then check out our Ultimate Hero Training Program. It includes a customized training and nutrition program so you can start seeing results and not have to waste time or energy doing guesswork about how to reach your goals.

If you’re not quite ready for the gym yet (or yours isn’t open) then our Spideyfit At-Home Training Program is a great choice. You’ll get fit and strong at home with minimal equipment.

Questions? Send us a message here.

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