Returning to the Gym: 5 tips for a Safe, Sound and Effective return

Well for the past 3-4 months most of us have been locked out of any appreciable gym. Safe from COVID but deteriorating from the drop inactivity.
Some of us went for walks at best, others tried to do bodyweight regimes akin to a Navy SEAL but most of us fell somewhere in the middle. Inevitably the imbalances of a home gym, imbalanced workouts, and new aches or neglected parts are truly showing by now.

As a caring Coach, I kept sending my people helpful articles and a litany of ideas, but without the nagging Coach in your face, we tend to cherry-pick as to what we'll do and what seems "too much". (NO GUILT trip here- all of us felt the lockdown psychologically and emotionally- you're not a bad person for being human- please remember that).
The goal here is to give you a checklist to make your return safe, sound, and effective. Let's get to it:

KEEP 2 REPS IN THE POCKET: What we mean here is do not train to failure. Our goal is to feel the target muscle and make it work optimally again. Nearing failure typically means we're using support muscles- the wrong muscles- to create the right movement. It invites injury and the learning of poor movement patterns which we have to unlearn. Dare you to watch the video below- every trainer's nightmare- a motivated guy, heart in the right place but a poor choice:

USE SLOW ECCENTRICS: This means lower slowly into the stretch on each of your movements. Chances are we've all lost a degree of control overweights with momentum. Bouncing out of the bottom of a squat, dip or chin invites loss of muscular control and a reliance on connective tissue only (tendons, ligaments. .joint integrity). Better to do 6 squats with a 5 second lowering than 20 reps looking like a Russian folk dance with a barbell on your back. Remember- it's not the weight you use but how you use the weight. That said, controlled eccentrics have been proven time and again to deliver a bigger bang for the buck in terms of muscular strength and size- it's a win/ win proposition.
Prep your muscles and connective tissue for your return: Nutrient wise, we need muscles that are supple and soft tissue/ connective tissue structures fully hydrated and rife in nutrients. These include Magnesium, A full complement of electrolytesOmega 3 fatty acids, and the full gamut of micronutrients.
Undo your dominant movement patterns: Most of us in "lockdown" became very good at modifying the prison workout- 101 variations of pushups and bench dips. In the absence of pulling exercises, it tends to overdevelop one side of the body while the other "withers". Tell your trainer what your home routine consisted of and expect a litany of moves in the other direction: rows, pulldowns, upright rows, etc.. The unbalanced body grows very stiff and achy despite all the activity of good intention- it's your turn to work just as hard in the other direction. We always address an imbalanced body with an imbalanced program in the other direction to "unwind you" ;).

STRETCH both pre- and post-workout: The type of stretching is of paramount importance. Pre-workout we stretch with fluid easy swings of the limbs to warm the area BUT still maintain elasticity (read: joint stability). Passively held stretches dissipate the elasticity and strength in a muscle but are ideal after the workout to truly elongate and pattern the muscle fibers in the right direction. To track and field type warm-up pre-workout and Yoga, like held, stretches post-workout make for a recipe of success.

BONUS: Liver health tends to dictate connective tissue health: Not you, not me, but many during this lockdown stepped up alcohol intake to mitigate literal versions of PTSD. It worked on whatever level for many and hopefully all can shift gears as life returns to a version of normalcy BUT if your knees, shoulders, lower back, etc. have been aching more and more despite your vitamins and home workouts, there may be a chance liver support and weaning off the cocktails is due as we return to workouts of true demand. ( here's a reference of note: ).

There you have it- a fine lead into our return after a layoff. Most Coaches I know lean to the "car analogy"- if we had a classic car we just fully restored. As much as it is capable of, we'd start by letting it idle in the driveway, make sure it's full of high-grade fuel and fluids, and most certainly wouldn't head to the highway and put the pedal to the floor right away.

See you all at the gym soon.
Who loves ya?
"Coach Mike"

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