• Chris Purcell

Consider Yourself Warned!

Gyms will be open again soon...so here is what you need to be thinking about now to make sure your return to the gym does not result in injury.



From this week, your local gyms will be planning their return as our social restrictions are starting to ease. This is great news as we can all get back into a good exercise routine that includes resistance training.


My big concern is that we are going to see a lot of “too hard, too soon” happening which means in about 6 weeks time we are going to see a whole lot of niggly injuries in shoulder and knee tendons or episodes of back pain from too much loading on the spine from squats and dead lifts. The problem I am anticipating is that everyone will be super keen to get back into the gym and that this will create a feeling of pressure to make up for lost time by training more and training harder.


So in an attempt to circumvent this here are my top 7 things that you should be considering now, in preparation for the gyms re-opening to make sure that come August you are still training pain free. Consider yourself warned! 1. Mobility work

Using a barbell, particularly for movements like power cleans, front squats, shoulder press requires a good degree of mobility in the wrist, elbow and shoulder. Start working on this now. Of particular importance is wrist mobility, as if it has been a few months since you picked up a bar then they will likely be stiff and could leave you with really sore wrists after a few sessions. Work on your overhead mobility too, using a broomstick so that your first press session is not too much of a shock to the system. Finally, work on your hip mobility so that you can squat well. If you need help on putting together some mobility work we are more than happy to help.


2. Look at your program and work out the heavier days and the high impact days Now is the time to look at your program. Is it still meeting your goals? Do you need a new program? How often will you be training in the gym. Are you planning on continuing with any of the walking / running / cycling you may have been doing while the gyms have been closed. If so, this needs to be factored into your program as well. Since many of us have been forced to have a break from the gym, now is the perfect time to start a new program. We would be more than happy to help with this. Factoring in rest days is really important, particularly during your return over the first few months. You can’t really make up for lost time by training more and the biggest things that will get you results moving forward is consistency. So, make sure your program is sustainable. Identify days in your program that may leave you feeling fatigued and plan your lighter days and rest days around these. This brings me to my next point below.


3. Plan to be sore and plan to rest

It is likely that a return to resistance training is going to make you quite sore. This is normal but plan for it and plan to rest. Stacking soreness on top of soreness can be a recipe for injury (both physical and metabolic)


4. Don’t pick up where you left off Squatting 100kg for 5 sets of 5 before COVID? Were you hitting personal bests for bench press or shoulder press or deadlift? Don’t expect the ability to hit these sorts of loads to still be there. You will need a good 4-6 week block of strength work before attempting your 1RM or personal bests again. If you were using a low rep, heavy rep scheme before COVID, it would be a good idea to increase your reps slightly on your return and decrease your load a little. As you build consistency you can get back to heavier sets of 3,4 or 5 reps.

5. Prioritise big movements Focus on the movements that will give you good bang for your buck. Typically these are the compound multi-joint movements such as squat, deadlift, bench press, cleans, etc. These are associated with good strength gains and good metabolic effects. Extra movements can be added in down the track once you are coping with load again and you are back into routine.


6. Intensity will come, be patient For those of you doing high-intensity training (such as F45, 12 round or Crossfit) don’t worry if workouts that used to feel easy now feel hard. Just like strength, the ability to train with intensity would have dropped a little unless you were training like this at home, but typically training on your own you may not have pushed as hard as when you are back in your group environment. Don’t worry, this will come back. Just keep doing your best, and remember, you will likely go back to being quite sore after a workout (just like when you started) so take some extra recovery days when you return.


7. Get your eating in check

Make sure you eat well, and eat enough. Getting back into strength training can make you really hungry as your metabolism ramps up. Make sure you get the nutrition you need and just as important is making sure you are eating the right foods at the right time. A good sports dietitian can assist with this and for advice we recommend the crew at Target Nutrition. There is going to be a lot of hype around gyms reopening and I would expect that a lot of studios and clubs will be running challenges to get people back into shape. Just be mindful of going too hard, too soon because it is consistency for the remainder of 2020 that will get you the results you are after. Take it easier than you think and your joints and tendons will thank you later.


If you find that you are getting sore from the gym, seek advice from us early. The earlier we see overuse type injuries the quicker we can get you back pain free and back to full loading. Should the unfortunate happen, we have the skills to fix your pain and alter your training so please reach out to us. We miss the gym too and can’t wait to get back, but like all things COVID related, we need to take a cautious approach to our return.


Yours in health


Chris from Out of the Box Physiotherapy.


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