With gyms reopening across the country for public use on April 12th, the prospect of returning to a training program involving weights can seem quite daunting. For many, such an extended time with minimal access to gym equipment, a simple kettlebell or nothing at all, has resulted in a mental handicap to weightlifting, let alone a physical one.
Whilst expansive and creative methods of maintaining fitness levels at home have been enjoyable to carry out, there can be fewer substitutes better suited to fitness than returning to the gym with a proper routine. The US Department of Health and Human Services recommends incorporating strength training into your fitness regime at least two times a week. With such a focus within the fitness world shifting to home workouts with minimal equipment, is it even worth paying the monthly subscription to return to the gym?
Benefits of Weight Training
When training with weights, you develop and build lean muscle. As a result, your metabolism works faster, allowing you to burn more calories throughout the course of a day. As a result, this contributes to improved weight loss and a reduction in body fat with each pound of muscle gained contributing to burning 30 to 50 more calories every day.
Whilst not necessarily a prerequisite for using the gym, weight training has been proven to improve sporting performance. Studies have shown an increase in a football players’ sprinting ability after just 6 weeks of training whilst 25 weeks of heavy lifting increased the power output of cyclists whilst pedalling. The practical benefits to making everyday tasks far easier to complete due to a stronger base of muscular efficiency and fitness cannot be overstated whilst increased balance and supporting of healthy bone growth during younger years provides further benefits to your physiological structure.
Asides from the physical benefits associated with strength training, the World Health Organisation (WHO) state that strength training can help reduce the risk of diabetes, characterised by high blood sugar. In addition, weight training has been proven to have links to increasing mental health, with studies having shown decreased symptoms of depression in people with depression.
Considerations when returning to Weight Training
Despite the physical and mental benefits associated with strength training, such an extended period of time away from a consistent regime can create some issues upon resumption. As a result, ensuring a safe return to training is paramount to minimising the risk of injury. We have therefore established these core principles for you to guide yourself back into strength training;
1 – Warm-Up
2 – Technique
3 – Weight
4 – Rest
- A thorough and dynamic warm up is essential to preparing your body for the movements associated with your training programme. A limited or missed warm-up can minimise the effectiveness of your workout and subsequently diminish the value of your training. Combining movements that increase your heart rate as well as mobilising your muscle groups are crucial to a balanced warm up.
- Whilst fundamental guides to weight training can provide a comprehensive overview of structure to your programme with concepts such as percentage training from you 1 rep maximum on a specific exercise and overloading, the most important aspect to your return to training is to focus on technique. For many, a lack of time in the gym during lockdown has resulted in a lack of time focusing on the specific movements required in your training. An impact on your posture can mean that your body could well react negatively to the movements required within your training program.
- Ensuring you return to basics, often with minimal or no weight associated through the first few sessions, will allow your body to reacquaint itself with the movements required. Having a limited range of movement can be a sign of restriction throughout a joint, causing pain or stiffness and limiting physical performance. With muscle stiffness being a contributing factor to a limited range of movement, the inevitable stiffness that will accompany a return to the gym will impact on the quality of your physical movements.
- Rest is a massively important aspect of a physical training program. When training, particularly with the addition of weights or resistance, microscopic tears in your muscle tissue need time to recover and repair. This all take place during periods of rest. Refuelling and resting your body allows the time for your muscles to recover as well as your body to adapt to the training regime you are currently undertaking. Ensuring a significant period of rest can minimise the prospects of injury as well as increase the physical performance within your sessions.
Is it worth returning to the gym?
For many people, the new form of physical training enforced by the Coronavirus pandemic has rejuvenated their levels of physical activity. Home training workouts, without fear of judgement and with the confidence to perform them in the safety of your own home has brought into question whether a return to the gym is really necessary. Whilst the search for “When will gyms reopen” was one of the most popular UK search trends of 2020, the impact of working out from home has had a profound impact on many.
Membership fees and crowding, in a time where social distancing looks set to stay for a considerable period of time, all contribute to an uphill battle for gyms to overcome now their doors are open once more. PureGym, one of the most recognisable gym brands in the UK, saw a 24% decline in active memberships in December 2020 compared to a year prior. Whilst it is true that not everybody has the space or capability to facilitate a home workout program sufficient enough to meet their physical and mental requirements, significant numbers appear to be transitioning to more familiar surroundings for their fitness journey.
Identifying your individual goals and assessing the practical elements of how you can achieve them is paramount to giving yourself the platform from which you can succeed. In the same way that it was a unique experience to adapt to working out from home, a transition back to the gym can carry similar levels of uncertainty and trepidation. Identifying the style of workouts, equipment and time required will allow you to see the strengths and weaknesses of each location to allow you to make the decision best suite to your own fitness journey.