Returning to the gym: how to safely work out again after lockdown

Today marks the first day we can return to training at the gym in England after three months in lockdown. Whether you spent various lockdowns working out or lounged on the couch playing video games, returning to the gym isn’t as simple as walking in and picking up your usual weights.


Remaining active during lockdown doesn’t mean you should hit the gym hard as they re-open. In fact, returning to your former workout too fast will only end in injury.


Keep reading for our tips on returning to the gym safely and enjoy your new workouts.

1: Simplify your workout


Whenever your workout (and working) habits change, be aware of the effects this will have on your body. Working from home and moving less throughout the day (even if we go for a run or workout) changes our muscles and the way we move.


Rather than starting back at the gym with a training plan of complex moves, break each of them down instead. Let’s look at squats for this example.


Although the squat is a workout staple, it is an incredibly complex movement. Squatting fires up your hips, knees, quads, glutes, calves and ankles. Adding weights to this can be a recipe for injury disaster.


Instead, go back to basics. Make sure you’ve got your squat technique down before adding weights or progressions like bands or tempo limits. (You can look at our post on how to improve your squat technique here).


You can go even further and focus only on exercises and movements that target specific areas like your hips, your quads, or your glutes.

2: Be kind to your body


As you return to the gym, remember to listen to your body. If you’re shaking, it’s a sign of muscle fatigue. It means you’ve pushed your muscles to their limits.


If you haven’t been to the gym in months, your muscle capacity will be lower and you’ll fatigue sooner. That’s okay! Remember there’s no time limit on working out. 


Make sure you always do a warm-up and cool down before and after each workout too, even though you’re not training at the same level you were previously. This helps prevent injury and protects your muscles.


It’s important to gradually challenge your muscles and slowly build back up to your pre-lockdown workout level. Make sure to also give yourself a bit more time to rest between sets.


While you might be excited to be allowed back in the gym, don’t overload yourself. Make sure you factor in recovery days. Your muscles need time to rest between strength workouts, longer when you’re building up to your previous routine.


Make sure you’re also staying hydrated both at the gym and at home.


3: Focus on eccentric training with lower weights


Eccentric training is something we often recommend during injury rehabilitation because it’s less taxing on joints and muscles. It is a key part of recovering from tendinopathy, for example.  Eccentric training, or negative training, can also be a great way to ease yourself back into strength training after a break.


Every movement has two stages: eccentric and concentric. Eccentric movement occurs when the active muscle lengthens during a load. While concentric movements are when the active muscle shortens. Let’s take a bicep curl for example. The upward motion is concentric while lowering the weight is eccentric.


I recommend dropping your weights, especially if you haven’t done any strength training for a few months. As you get back into a routine, make sure you can feel the muscles working to help build up movement patterns. 


If you don’t feel the target muscle working, you’re probably not using a heavy enough weight or you’re cheating the exercise. One way to check is to try consciously squeezing the muscle. If it still feels a bit too easy, then go up a weight. But if you find it hard while squeezing, you know you need to stick at that weight and consciously work that muscle.


Hopefully, these tips make your return to the gym a little easier and help you avoid any injuries. But if you do find you’ve got any pain working out, please book an appointment with us.


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