Keep Your Eye On The Long Run: Returning To The Gym Post-COVID 19

Michael Jordan Obstacles don't have to stop you.

We have all been through it. Training is going great but then, bang, it’s not. Something has gone wrong.  Maybe we fell off our bike or twisted a knee and injured ourselves. We tell ourselves that we are strong and so we try and lift our regular weights. That goes wrong. We realise we need to rehab our injury. When we finally get back into the gym to build back our lifts, we understand that our bodies are deconditioned. We have the memory of when it all went wrong, be it when our back went out, or when we lost the ability to put pressure through our knee and collapsed. In this situation, we mentally understand how to build back. We can comprehend the risk involved if we don’t do this correctly. Knowing this, we are careful and we follow our program, easing the weights back up.  We learn where we have developed weaknesses over this period and we attack them with accessories. We also learn where we have gained new strengths. Slowly we became one with the bar again.  


Hannah Altman Squat set up in the gym at Iron Underground

By now most of us will be facing the situation where we are deconditioned, but for an altogether different reason.

Maybe this is because we have not had access to the barbell and have been doing more callisthenic workouts.

Or maybe we have just been lifting heavy and skipping our accessories because we don’t have our friends there to bully us into doing the boring work. Maybe we are training with equipment that is less than ideal so we have tweaked our form to minimize our chance of failing and really injuring ourselves ( #Stayhome #Staysafe #Kinda #Ihope ).


This pandemic will finally end…  Okay, so now you are back ‘home‘ (AKA in your gym), the bar is loaded and you go straight back into it. Guess what? You are likely going to get injured. The first thing you are going to have to acknowledge is that you are going into training a post Covid-19 you, so you are likely deconditioned. The difference between coming out of the pandemic and coming out of injury is you most likely won’t have that voice in your head telling you not to do anything silly, reminding you of the consequences of pushing back to that training volume and load too fast as you have your head saying, I want to PB. 


Hannah Altman squat Paul Thompson at Iron Underground


Just because you may be feeling strong doesn’t mean that your body is able to handle the same workload straight up as it could before this crisis as your musculature and connective tissues are going to be slightly deconditioned. The body is no longer used to handling the same stress as it could pre-Covid. Along with this, you will have lost some of your movement patterns.  Being back on normal equipment will change your movement patterns. If you push back into your old loads and old training patterns right away you are likely to find yourself visiting the physio. The best way to build back to the pre-Covid you is to gradually increase workload with submaximal loads and minimum volume as your muscles start to adapt again and you regain that muscle memory. The aim here is to allow yourself to increase your muscles’ and your bodies’ work capacity. If you do this you are more likely to be able to increase your strength and hopefully hit a new PB down the track when it counts. Remember the goal is not to hit a questionable PB the day the gym opens and get injured. The goal is to go back to training and hit a big PB on the platform. Keep your eyes on the prize and remember you’re in this for the long game.

Strength, A river cuts through rock, not because of it's power, but it's persistence, slow & steady wins the race at the end of the day



Remember, post-Covid training is a lot like post-injury training, it’s all about being patient, not A patient, and building back.

In the next article, we will be looking at good progressions for coming back to squats after some time off from the gym. 


About the Author:

Hannah Altman is a qualified exercise scientist BHS| BCOM | MPHIL, and Strength Coach Fitrec, a Pilates instructor and Nutrition Coach PN1 Elemental L2, focusing on injury prevention for strength athletes. She is currently studying for her doctorate at Queensland University of Technology.

She holds multiple junior bench-press records, the current one being 95kg, and has a top bench-press of 103kg at 69kg bodyweight. She is ranked in the top 20 in Australia based on Wilks in all three lifts and in Bench-Press.

She currently coaches out of Iron Underground in Albion, Brisbane, and online.

To book a complimentary session; to get a 10% discount for rehab, prehab or just performance and to increase your bench, choose from the options below. Contact Hannah on 0452285271.