Returning to the Gym

Last March, most people had to switch from staying active in a variety of different ways, to either running, cycling (if we had a bike) or home workouts. When we stop moving as much our bodies tissues start to suffer. When tissues such as tendons, muscles and bones are used consistently, they adapt to the jobs which we’re asking them to do, and this makes them very resilient. This is something we always tell my clients, and it is something as physiotherapist we understand in great detail which allows us to shape your rehab plan to meet your goals. Now the gyms are back open we risk another quick change in activity that can be a big shock to the body’s tissues. I’m sure most of you reading have felt the ache from that ‘big workout you did the day or two before. This isn’t always a negative thing, but if you keep feeling that then you’re likely going to be irritating your tissues which can cause consistent pain. This is something I feel people need to be aware of when transitioning back to training in a gym. Whether you’re going to be doing strength training, HIIT sessions or cardio-based exercise, you need to remember that your body’s tissues may not be used to doing this and you risk injury. This is why we have set out some simple tips to prepare and manage your body correctly to prevent injury, and ultimately improve your performance:  

Practice the Movements at Home

Squats come to mind here. Now don’t think you’re going to walk back into that gym and squat 100kg because that’s what you used to do prior to lockdown. The likelihood is you will have lost a lot of strength if you haven’t been able to carry on practicing squatting. What I would advise is trying bodyweight squats on a daily basis, even adding some weight with a rucksack on your back to increase the load slightly. This will prepare your muscles and tendons to lift heavier loads when the time comes and prevent that big shock to your tissues I previously spoke about. This can be replicated with glute bridges, squat jumps, press ups, resistance band bicep curls etc.  

A Good Warm-Up

Give yourself extra time by including a good warm-up. This allows your heart rate to increase steadily and the blood to flow around your body which is great at lengthening your tissues and preparing them for activity. Please do not do static stretching, there is no evidence to suggest they play a part in preparation for activity or injury prevention. A good warm-up should get your heart pumping faster for a sustained period of time, simple.  

Little and Often

You may used to cram all your exercises into perhaps 1-2 gym sessions a week and make sure you pushed yourself to your absolute max to get those all-important gains you needed. This is definitely something you can get back to in time, but when starting off I would advise spending less time in the gym but going more often during the week. Try going 3-4 times per week and doing 1-2 exercises for each muscle group each time you go. This will allow you to keep the overall volume of training high, but it gives your body enough rest to allow for recovery and prevent the soreness that can irritate your tissues and cause pain.   

Gradual Increase in Loading

We use this principle a lot when designing rehab plans for people after injury. Gradually increasing the amount you’re lifting or how much time you’re spending on the static bike/treadmill will prevent overload for your tissues. Start off low and take your time, after all, it’s most likely beach body 2022 we all should be preparing for! As a rough guide, you should allow your body approximately 6 – 8 weeks to build up your sessions to where you want to return to or get to.