May 30 saw Canberra move to stage 2 easing of coronavirus restrictions, with a maximum of 20 people allowed to gather indoors. Our beloved gyms could open again with a COVID safe plan in place. The early commercial gyms to respond, such as Club Lime, put a simple booking system in place with one hour time slots, allowing the 20 person maximum to be monitored. While understandable that gym members may feel deterred by a loss of flexibility in being able to choose when they use the facility, the pandemic has certainly taught us all not to take such luxuries for granted.
If you were one of the majority of gym goers who was lifting weights daily and then had your whole training routine and life turned upside down, you may be trying to work out the best way to get your strength back. Your strength may have decreased but there is good news, muscle memory isn’t a myth, its science. Sure, there will be a few grinding weeks. The first few sessions you might feel unmotivated, even weak compared to your pre COVID days but give your body time to remember what it can do and you’ll be surprised at how quickly you will regain your strength.
If you’re returning to lifting weights regularly I recommend a progressive overload method. In simple terms start off with the basics, for example, 4 sets of 10-12 reps, 5 movements on their own including 1 major lift and 4 accessories using a 4 day muscle split. Once you’ve made some significant progress and this will differ from person to person (approximately 4 – 8 weeks) you can start overloading the musculoskeletal system.
Various changes can be made to achieve overload. Add in super-sets and Tri-sets, increase the amount of movements, decrease reps and increase weight on major compound lifts, exercise selection, Tempo, rest periods. These are all variables you can add and subtract to increase overload. Be sure not to rush the process and not to change a bunch of variables all at once. Be patient, be consistent and progress will come.
Overload body-part split example:
Day 1: Chest & Triceps
Day 2: Quads, Hamstrings & Abbs
Day 3: Rest
Day 4: Back, Shoulders and Biceps
Day 5: Quads Hamstrings & Abbs
Day 6: Rest
If you were lucky enough to have a gym set up at home and you’ve kept lifting throughout the gym closures, you’ve probably been in a maintenance phase. If this is sounding familiar my recommendation would be to start back with some old fashioned German volume training. This is also known as the 10 set method and its bound to give your body the shock of a life time.
For German volume training go with a 3 day split with a rest day every other day. This program doesn’t look like much on paper but it is intense and the DOM’s are real, so be smart and take those rest days. Perform 10 sets of 10 reps of a singular compound exercise at 60% load of your 1 rep max with 90 second rest periods. This should mean you could achieve around 20 reps before failing at this weight if you were fresh.
From there, select 3-4 accessory exercises targeting the muscle group performed in your compound movement. Only perform 3 sets of 10-20 reps of your accessories. Stick with this phase for 6 weeks and then move to a 3 week phase lifting heavier weight for 6-8 reps, 4-6 sets.
After this 3 week block you can return to another 6 week block of German Volume training but this time increase the load to 65-70% of your 1 rep max (should be able to achieve around 12 reps of this weight before failing if you were fresh) and perform your 10 reps of 10 sets at the heavier weight. The goal is to not fail sets until around the 8th-9th set.
German Volume Body-part Split example:
Day 1: 10 reps x 10 sets Flat Bench Press + 10 – 20 reps x 3 sets of 3-4 Accessories
Day 2: Rest
Day 3: 10 reps x 10 sets Back Squats + 10 – 20 reps x 3 sets of 3-4 Accessories
Day 4: Rest
Day 5: 10 reps x 10 sets Deadlifts + 10 – 20 reps x 3 sets of 3-4 Accessories
Day 6: Rest
Subject of the matter is train with the right intensity and consistency. No matter how you choose to program your training, you’ll get results. Don’t let the current restrictions deter you. The gyms are open for business again, so it’s time for you to get back to doing what makes you feel so good, start lifting again.