Gym based training by itself is a lifelong study and even my mentors are still discovering new and improved ways of training. I’ve been qualified as a personal trainer for 15 years and I’ve seen a lot of trends come and go. The cardio will kill your gains, the functional training, the caveman diet, the calisthenics movement, cross fit. I’ve seen them all come and go.

With the recent news of the gyms reopening on July 25th what should be your approach when you go back for the 1st month? Let’s have a quick look over what’s going to be different.

  1. The amount of kit available might not be what you had before
  2. There may be less physical space for you to train to ensure distancing
  3. You will have to clean your kit before and after use! This should have been happening anyway, but now it’ll be mandatory
  4. You will be weaker than before you stopped training in the gym. It’s a principle known as reversibility, basically means use it or lose it. There is no substitute for 100KG+ squat regardless of how many wall squats, plyosquats, KB squats you’ve done at home, it won’t be the same and that’s ok.
  5. No handshaking, fist bumping, and spotting will have to be different as well.
  6. PT’s will have to keep their distance from their clients
  7. Cardio kit availability will be cut in half to maintain distancing

What’s going to be the same when you go back to the gym?

  1. Physics, gravity is going to make those weights feel heavy in the gym. You won’t be able to jump back in on the same weights as you did three and a half months ago. So you might need to reduce your weights a little, and build back up.
  2. To execute a body shape change you will need to train, not exercise! Training is about having purpose and intent for every rep that you execute in the gym. Exercise you can make less intense and a bit more social and can mess about a bit. Know the difference, if you’re not sure, seek out a top end trainer that knows the difference. During that session you’ll feel it.
  3. Training principles will still impact on all aspects of your training and how well you progress.

Let’s start with training principles, these are the things that you won’t get told on your gym induction. But if you’ve ever used a personal trainer they should have told you about them.

Training Principles.

  1. F.I.T.T. this stands for:

Frequency, as in how many times a week are you going to the gym?

Intensity, how hard are you going to train? And how are you measuring that intensity? Heart rate monitor? Percentage of your old or new 1RM (rep max)? Are you going to do some new 1Rm testing? Do you even need to do 1RM testing? Would a 12 or 15 reps maz not be a little safer? Remember that your nervous system won’t have lifting anything heavy for a while, I would not recommend going back into 1RM testing just from an injury risk point of view.

Time, how long are you going to spend training each session or over the course of 7 days?

Type, are you going straight back into resistance training? Are you doing some steady state cardio? Are you going back to classes? Are you doing HIIT? Are you doing a bit of cardio and then weights? Are you swimming? Or are you going there to stretch and relax?

  1. Strength continuum, this is something that I think should be taught to all personal trainers when they qualify to become a PT, but it’s not. It’s taught in a really arse about face way and most people going through the course don’t get it. The strength continuum is basically training the right amount of reps for a desired outcome. And it looks like this.
  • Absolute Strength 1-2 reps
  • Relative Strength 3-5 reps
  • Functional Hypertrophy 5-8 reps
  • Hypertrophy 8-12 reps
  • Strength Endurance 15-25 reps

The chances are reading this you’re going to want fat loss and a little bit of muscle definition. This means you should be starting in the strength endurance range of reps. Stay there with whatever training split you want to use until your results slow down, then switch into hypertrophy. Then when results slow down, move into functional hypertrophy. Once results slow down here, move back up to the strength endurance range. This time around you’ll be lifting heavier weights for more reps. Building a lot of lean muscle and burning a lot of fat. Provided your diet is supporting your training of course.

3.Progressive overload. The way I define this for my clients is that by the end of a training block in a particular strength phase. We need to have seen improvement in the either the actual amount of weight you’re lifting. Or to see that my client handle more intensity when it comes the individual sessions. Let’s take a squat as an example. To get stronger in the squat you need to squat that’s a fact. My plan would be to increase the weight I’m squatting week on week.

Let’s say my squat goal is 150kg for 12 reps, going to the gym after lockdown, I’ve not really been practicing my gym based squat. So week one I might start out at 60kg for 12reps, week 2 I move up to 70kg, week 3 90kg, week 4, 100 kg. This is progressive overload in the weights. I could also keep the weight the same but increase my reps week on week. Both ways it’s progressive overload and it should be planned, not winged.

4. Recovery. A massively over looked part of any training system. The temptation will be to get back in there and smash a big old workout 3 -5 days in that 1st week. Are you giving your body adequate time to recover in between your sessions? Is the training split that you left before the lockdown going to be too hard for you when you go back? Make sure that you plan in some recovery time, stretch after sessions, have a sauna if you facility has one that’s allowed to be open. Head to the park and have a walk, just make sure that you have rest days planned into your week.

Why Do You Need To Know?

The reason I tell you about these training principles is because when you become aware of them your training performance can only go up. I’m a firm believer in training to get results. Once you’ve got the result you want, then you can take the foot off the gas and start exercising for maintenance. Understanding just some of the basic principles that will get your body amazing results. Should really start to dial in your training and stop the guess work. If you’re chasing a certain body shape change, there is no place for guess work in your program.

There is a reason good personal trainers and coaches charge what they do. It’s because they’re looking after all the variables of a gym based training program. On top of your nutritional set up and lifestyle plan. If your PT isn’t aware of how much stronger you’re getting or how much fitter you’re getting, or how much weight you’re losing. Sack them immediately and find one who will test and track everything.

Training back in the gym should be a something to look forward to. I’m not trying to make it all business I promise! I just want you guys to be getting really good results really quickly. And the best way to get results in the gym is to have a well set out plan and to record your workouts. If you’re not a data person and you do quite well remembering your stats, hats off to you. Personally my memory isn’t good enough to do that. I’m not a data lover by nature, but I’ve learnt the importance and value that comes with training workouts and recording your lifts.

My recommendations going back to the gym

With so many ways that you could train, which approach is going to fit you the best? This is an impossible question to answer and I know it’s one that you want the answer to. The reason I can’t answer it for you as an individual is because I don’t know you. I can’t write a training program for somebody I’ve not assessed personally or spoken about goals with.

What I can do is give a generic guide for what I would set people up with in the gym after a stay of absence.

I’d recommend the following

3 days a week with resistance training. 1st two days all compound movements, Squat, bench, shoulder press, deadlift, lat pull down, rows etc. This can be split whichever way you like: push and pull, upper or lower, mirror face or back facing muscles. Just make sure that each movement needs more than 1 joint to be moving to execute the move. If you’re not sure what I mean, a bench press requires movement from both shoulder joints, elbow and minimal movement in the spine and wrists. A bicep curl only requires action the elbow. This is what is meant by a compound movement, a multi-joint and multi muscle demand movement.

The 3rd day work on some muscle isolations. Bicep, Tricep calves etc.

Stick a 15-25 rep range and 3-5 sets of each exercise with a 2 second up, 2 second down tempo. Use lighter weights and make sure you work the joint through the whole range of motion. You’ll only need to stick to this for 3-4 weeks to give your nervous system and muscles a reminder of how to get back into lifting weights.

On days that you’re not lifting weights, I’d highly, highly recommend that you under take some aerobic conditioning work. Keep your heart rate in above 120 and below 150 beats per minute for a minimum 45 minutes. You watch how quickly fat will fall off your body and much your recovery speeds up when you’re consistent at this!

Summing it all up.

Things will be different in terms of your gym environment. People will need more space around them, everything will need to be sanitised. Some kit will be less available, but we are going to be allowed back in which is amazing news!

Your training will need to be measured when you go back. The temptation will be to load up the bar and get that feeling of lifting something heavy again. Just remember that if you’ve not been lifting, heavy your nervous system will be a little slow to switch on fibres to deal with heavy loads.

Start with 3 days a week resistance training, as many days as you like heart rate aerobic conditioning. And just have some fun with it.

Any questions about training or if you want me to make you a custom program get in touch