Gyms are gradually reopening after lockdown, you’re itching to lift…but how can you avoid injury when you get back to the gym?
You’ve probably found plenty of other ways to exercise over the last 3 months, but most of us simply can’t replace a gym workout with home equipment.
However keen you are to dive straight in, remember that you won’t be where you were before. Getting back to lifting the heavy weights that you used to lift will take time. If you go straight back to the weights you were lifting pre-lockdown, you’ll very likely get injured.
Your first few weeks at the gym…
When you first get back to the gym, start with low-risk strengthening exercises. These will help you get back into tip-top condition and reduce your injury risk (while still being challenging and plenty of fun).
Aerobic-based sets. Squats, lunges and deadlifts. 20-40 reps body weight. You’ve probably been doing these at home and continuing them in the gym will help improve your skill and range of movement further.
Whole body routines. Instead of isolating muscle groups, distribute the load. Reducing the volume on each muscle group will help you get stronger while staying safe.
Movement based exercise. Sled push/pull and farmers carry. These exercises have a low skill requirement and are low-risk, but are heavily fatiguing and effective.
Isometrics. 30-60 second static holds or muscle contractions with low to moderate loads. These will allow you to reach fatigue, develop strength and improve tendon conditioning.
Time under tension. Slow down your movements. This will help keep your muscles under tension for a longer period, allowing you to reach fatigue with lower loads.
Work the Right Intensity
This is vital to reducing the chance of injury and keeping up your workout efficiency levels.
Use the rate of perceived exertion (RPE) to calculate work effort and load. This will help you find the right intensity, make progress and avoid injury.
The table below shows the RPE:
Make a plan
Having a workout plan in place can improve your performance and gains while helping you avoid injury and overloading.
The table below shows a simple plan, including a recovery week when the loads are reduced (this is especially useful if you have a recurring injury).
|Training Phase||Sets & Reps||RPE||Intention|
|Week 1 - Volume||8 - 12+ x 2 - 4||5 - 7||Muscle growth + skill development|
|Week 2 - Volume||8 - 12+ x 3 - 5||5 - 7||Progressive loading + low-moderate intensity|
|Week 3 – Strength||4 – 6 x 3 - 5||7 - 8||Increase strength + load tolerance|
|Week 4 - Strength||2 - 4 x 3 - 5||8+||Increase strength + load tolerance|
|Week 5 - Power||1 - 3 x 1 - 3||9+||Peak power + strength|
|Week 6 - Recovery||5 - 8 x 2 - 3||5||Allow for development + reduce injury risk|
If you do have an acute or stubborn injury that just won’t shift, please get in touch or book in for an assessment. Getting your injury professionally assessed and treated will get you out of pain and back to full fitness.
You can also check out some of our return to gym exercises on our YouTube channel here.
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Mitchell, C.J., Churchward-Venne, T.A., West, D.W., Burd, N.A., Breen, L., Baker, S.K. and Phillips, S.M., 2012. Resistance exercise load does not determine training-mediated hypertrophic gains in young men. Journal of applied physiology, 113(1), pp.71-77.
Lorenz, D. and Morrison, S., 2015. Current concepts in periodization of strength and conditioning for the sports physical therapist. International journal of sports physical therapy, 10(6), p.734.
Sweet, T.W., Foster, C., McGuigan, M.R. and Brice, G., 2004. Quantitation of resistance training using the session rating of perceived exertion method. The journal of strength & conditioning research, 18(4), pp.796-802.