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July 25th marked the start of us getting back to The Marlow Club. For many it will be the first time they have trained in 3-4 months.

Whilst this is a great opportunity to kick-start your training, you can’t simply begin where you left off 4 months ago. If you did, you would probably find yourself immobile for a week with DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness).

However, it isn’t just your muscles that have weakened. So too have your tendons and possibly ligaments too. These structures help to stabilise or transmit force through your body when you are lifting weights.

If your goal is to get back into shape, sitting on the side-lines with an injury is not the way to do it.

Session 1

Session 1 is what I call a ‘cobweb session’. It is there purely to clear out the cobwebs that have collected over the lockdown period.

Your goal for this session is simply turn up, do a relaxed workout that feels like you could repeat the session again immediately then go home. That’s it!

Use this session to reacquaint yourself with the facility and enjoy an incredibly easy session.

But once that first session in under your belt, you need a way of slowly building your training routine back towards where it was in March.

Take the first 4 weeks of training as a building phase

Each week aim to work yourself a little harder by building on your previous week’s efforts and pushing just a little bit more. This gradual overload will not only help your muscles to get stronger, they will also help to strengthen your tendons, ligaments and joints.

Below are 4 methods of increasing your training volumes and loads without the risk of injury.

Volume

Your training volume is the total amount of work you do in either a single session or over a week. It is made up by adding your total number of reps by your total number of sets by the load you lifted in each set.

Focusing on increasing volume is especially great for those who were doing a lot of training prior to lockdown.

How to do it

Simply start by doing just 1-2 sets of each exercise on session 1 then increasing a set a week each week until you hit pre-lockdown volume.

Reps Left in Reserve (RLR)

The number of reps you could have completed after you stop each set is known as your RLR. Therefore if you do 10 squats but could have completed 14 you have 4 RLR.

If using this method, start Week 1 with 4-5 RLR and each week, push a little harder by taking 1 RLR off the end of each set.

As you reduce your RLR you will naturally need to add a little weight to your sets and so increase the force and loads your body is being asked to work with.

Rest Periods

When training we have local fatigue and systemic fatigue.

· Local fatigue occurs when the specific muscle you are training has fatigued the most.

· Systemic fatigue occurs when you as a whole fatigues quicker than any specific muscle or body part.

Those new to training tend to find they suffer more from systemic fatigue and those who are have a bigger training background tend to find they suffer more from localised fatigue.

Whatever your training background, you can use how you fatigue to your advantage.

By reducing your rest period between sets, you will inhibit your body’s ability to recover and thus need to lift lighter loads. Lighter loads means less total load going through your body and shorter training sessions (assuming you don’t add more sets with the left over time at the end of the session).

Added, you will feel like you had a bigger workout as systemic fatigue kicks in.

Tempo

If you are into your weight training and want to feel a more localised fatigue, you can slow your weight training tempo down.

Most people take 2-3 seconds to complete a repetition when doing weight training. This is made up of 1 second of pushing then 1-2 seconds of slowly releasing the weight back to the start.

However, why not make the release take 4-5 seconds? Making each rep last longer not only inhibits the load you lift (reducing stress on the supporting structures), if you really focus in on how the muscle is feeling whilst weight training, you can increase the mind/muscle connection which is so important in weight training. This technique also improves stabiliser function and increases the time under tension each muscle is working for. Win Win!

How to Use these Methods to Increase Training

Whichever method you choose to adopt, the chart below shows you a simple way of progressing it each week for the first 4 weeks of training:

METHOD WEEK 1 WEEK 2 WEEK 3 WEEK 4

Sets Completed per body part 1 2 3 4

Reps Left in Reserve 5 4 3 2

Rest Period length 30 secs 40 secs 50 secs 60 secs

Tempo 5 sec release 4 sec release 3 sec release 2 sec release

Depending on your training ability, it may take longer than 4 weeks to get back to pre-lockdown strength or volume. This is merely a suggested starter to show how to progress a plan.

Wrapping It Up

Which method you use and the time it takes you to get back to pre-lockdown routine depends on your training history, goals, strength, age, medical status and how often per week you train.

This article is just to give a brief overview of how to re-build your training after an enforced break.

However, if you would like a more personalised recommendation, pop me a message and we can discuss your needs in more depth.

For most of us, we have been unable to train at the same intensity or volume we are used to.

This means your body will have inevitably lost fitness but also stability and strength around ligaments and tendons. With this in mind, most of us will need to work through an AA Phase (Anatomical Adaption Phase) to allow our bodies to build back to where we were before. Often you are only aware of whether you have over-worked a few hours after finishing your routine so how easy you find a routine is not a good indicator of how close you are working to the most appropriate levels right now.