Exercise Caution When Returning to The Gym: Tips on How to Safely Return to Strength Training

Ben Emanuel II

Now that there are areas that have slowly re-opened, it is important to discuss safety especially for those who are looking to return to their strength training routines.

Given that most places cities around the world experienced being put in quarantine, a lot of people have stopped lifting weights and many have concentrated doing home workouts. But of course, no amount of home exercises could replace the gym equipment designed to train muscles efficiently.

Now that there are areas that have slowly re-opened, it is important to discuss safety especially for those who are looking to return to their strength training routines. But for starters, don’t just expect to go back and hit it like you never missed a day in the gym.

What Happens When You Don’t Lift?

The body’s skeletal muscles adapt to the activities that you do. This is the reason why you experience gains as you do strength training. While you can do your bodyweight exercises at home, these aren’t enough to maintain your gains. Imagine yourself doing bench press and suddenly limited to doing pushups? It is necessary to get your muscle fibers to work against a significant weight before you get to see improvement in your strength. 

And for most people with no available weights at home, all it takes is 2-3 weeks to start experiencing muscular detraining. Some of the things that you will experience in this period include a decrease in the capillary density followed by a decline in the arterial-venous oxygen and reduced ATP production if it goes beyond 2-3 weeks without lifting weights.

Safety Tips When Returning to Your Strength Training

Given this reality, you need to approach your strength training with caution. The last thing that you want is to get injured while doing your training. Here are some useful tips that could come in handy.

1. Take 10 minutes to warm up before doing your workout

A lot of gym-goers go from 0 to 100 immediately without doing a proper warm-up. Warm-up is a way to prep the body for the workout. If done correctly, it can elevate your heart rate, reduce muscle stiffness, and prep your mind for the activity.

Flexibility exercises are among the most recommended warm-ups for those who are going to do strenuous exercises. It helps in improving the joint’s range of motion while reducing the risk of getting injured.

Jogging is a good way to prep the body for a workout. Another good warm-up is to do your usual routine but with a significantly reduced amount of weights. For instance, if you are hitting the legs for the day, you might as well do a set or two of bodyweight squats and lunges. Or if it’s shoulder day, shoulder press a 5-pound dumbbell for a couple of sets before you go grab the heavy weights.

2. Slowly build your way up

Don’t expect to lift the same amount of weight the last time you did your workout. Your muscle might find everything new again. To be safe, you can go light and work your way up. If you are doing difficult exercises the last time around, it might be a good idea to scale back a little. For instance, if you are doing weighted pistol squats, consider doing it without any weights for the meantime. Or perhaps, grab something that is significantly lighter. Do this especially if it’s your first week.

3. Create a routine

According to science, it takes 66 days to build a habit. Imagine if you’ve been on quarantine for the last few weeks. Returning to the gym once can be exciting. But to do it consistently, tells a different story. For some, that’s when the struggle starts to sink in.

How do you get the drive to workout regularly again? Unfortunately, there is no secret to it. You simply need to have a schedule for your strength training. And if you wish to get your gains back, you have no other choice but to create a routine.

Does it mean that you have to do it daily? Not exactly. You can work your way back to your old routine slowly. If you are having a hard time to do it daily, you can stick to 3 times a week. This will also give you enough time to recover.  

4. Right nutrition and rest

You can’t progress without the right amount of rest combined with the right food. According to health experts, there is a direct correlation between your growth hormones and your sleep.

It has been established that rest can help muscles recover and grow. And also, you need to be eating the right kind of food to grow your muscles. Eating high-protein meals and counting your other macros is the ideal practice for anyone who wants to get to their peak condition in no time.

5. Get a trainer to guide you

A lot of people do their workouts on their own. However, regardless if you are a professional athlete or an average Joe, there are advantages to having a trainer beside you. Not only can they plot your workouts for the day, but they can also correct your form and give you a few tips that make a huge difference in your progress.

If you ever plan on returning to the gym, be sure that you do it safely. Returning to your strength training can be a struggle. There is a chance that you aren't hitting that PR after a week or two. But by using these tips, you will be able to get your gains back without compromising your safety.