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The RIGHT way to get back in the Gym!

It’s almost time to get back in the gym! Here’s what you need to know to make awesome progress over the coming months..


It’s almost time. After some hard months of home workouts, one-person garden parties on a Tuesday, and living in a mild form of chaos, we’re almost back at it! As the nation starts to return to higher levels of normality, there’s one thing that WE can’t wait for. Getting back in the gym!

If you have a good gym, you know exactly what I mean. Regardless of how great your home workouts have been, they’re not the same. The environment of the gym isn’t matched. It’s a place where you go to achieve your goals, to progress, and you can feel it as soon as you step through the door. GAME TIME.

(Side note: We’ve made awesome changes at FX- can’t wait for you to see more examples of how we’re moving towards our vision of being the number 1 place to achieve your fitness goals in the UK!)

But before you go back all in, with your new playlist, new gym gear, ready to “smash it” after watching various fitness documentaries on Netflix (because you missed lifting heavy), here’s a few key points to be aware of. By the way, this is super applicable now since gyms have been closed, but bookmark this page, as any time you have time out of the gym (OR if it’s all completely new to you), the points made here will save you a lot of time and heartache, and help you to reach you fitness goals quickly and efficiently.


I’m Ready, let’s go!

I know you can’t wait to get back in the gym. You can see yourself getting back in, and picking up right where you left off, only more focused, more motivated, and ready to do what it takes to get to your goals. Pre lockdown, 4x per week was ok, but you’re looking to capitalise on the added motivation, and get straight back in with 5 weights sessions per week.

And you’ve been running recently, so keep that in, and you’ll have done what it takes. You’re ready. You’re motivated. You know what you need to do. Let’s g…….

Hang on a minute, before you get a little carried away.

You’ve been here before. Maybe it was last new year? Focused, motivated, ready to commit! Didn’t quite work out though. Or maybe it was before that, when you had a few months off, but that nagging injury held you back, regardless of how focused you were.

There’s more to this, and if you want to make 2020 a success for your fitness, sit up, and pay attention. This is important.


You can’t handle the same training as before

This gets lost on most people. We know intuitively that we’re not going to go in and hit our new PB’s. We understand that we may have a bit less strength, we may even see that our technique needs a little refining when we get back in the gym. So, what’s the usual solution?


Standard approaches, and predictably, completely wrong.

Sure, you want to make the most of the added motivation to train, but let’s think about this differently. Rather than thinking about your actual strength or size, think about it like this.

You improve from giving your body an adequate stimulus to adapt to. Let’s simplify it by saying “do more than your body is used to”, and make it challenging enough to create the desired stimulus. But this doesn’t mean do “AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE”. They’re very different things.

Consider this.

  • You’ve reduced your ability to handle the same training volume and intensity.
  • Your muscles suffer more damage and fatigue from workouts.
  • Rate of recovery both during the session and after the session may be reduced.

Remember what gets the results- do more than you’re used to within some logical parameters to achieve your goals. Thinking about it this way, the solution seems more obvious.

Do high quality work in the sessions, but do less of it initially. In addition to this, with a reduced recovery, you may not need to train as often in the initial weeks.

So, although you’re highly motivated, you’ll be best using that extra motivation and time you were going to spend in the gym by getting on top of your nutrition and lifestyle habits to help you to optimise your results.


Here’s the good news, NEWBIE!

Ok, so your strength and skill in the gym may be a little down, but trust me, there’s some great news. Get back in the gym as I suggest here, and you’ll make progress FASTER than any time before. You’ve already established a base of skill in the gym before lockdown, so although you may not be at you’re best, that time has NOT gone to waste. Your body is just waiting for the right stimulus, ready to adapt and make serious progress!

I mentioned above, we tend to miss out on this because we simply do too much, but think about it logically. Follow the principles that suit your goal. If that’s to build muscle and strength, you need progressive overload. Here’s the thing…. You’ve done very little in the gym recently, so the bottom end of what makes sense will hit this mark. We’ll discuss how to do this in a minute, but this may be your BEST opportunity to make insane progress, without huge amounts of work in the gym.


How Long will it take to be at my best?

This is a great question, and for you, a great answer! ALL IS NOT LOST! If you’d spent time developing strength, fitness and muscle mass, you may be feeling far from tip top condition. However, we can usually get back to baseline and above in LESS time than you’ve had off the gym!

Of course, this depends on WHAT you’ve been doing over the past 12 weeks:

  • Home workouts
  • Endurance work
  • Almost nothing

In any case, getting back to previous levels of strength and fitness will be achievable within the timeframe you’ve had off (providing you’re in, and have remained in good health with reasonable nutrition).

For those who have been doing home workouts and/ or endurance work to keep fit, give yourself about 6-8 weeks to get back to pre-lockdown levels. For those of you who have done almost nothing, 10-12 weeks. It may be sooner, but this way you can make sure you’re not rushing the process and taking away from potential development BEYOND this- after all, getting back to your best is the first goal, but getting beyond that is the REAL goal.


So, how to get back in the gym

This is just some general guidelines, so please take it with a pinch of salt. Not literally, but maybe. Nutrition next week….

When looking to get back in the gym, you probably want to make sure you train with a full body approach, 2-3x per week. This may be familiar to you, but it’s a great way to hit every muscle in a manageable way, on a regular basis. Do this for week  1 & 2, and for progression, simply work from a VERY EASY session with compound movements, and increase the volume and load from a super easy to a moderately easy session. To be honest, with a good plan, you could follow the EXACT SAME SESSION, and just push the reps and load a little throughout this period, although I’m sure most of you may prefer 2 similar full body sessions. Here’s an example for someone at an intermediate level,  but don’t forget a solid warm up prior to this:


A1: 3-4x 6-8: Hex bar deadlift / RPE 4-6

B1: 3-4x 8-12: Dumbbell press/ RPE 4-7

B2: 3-4x 8-12: supinated seated cable row / RPE 4-7

C1: 2-3x 8-12: front foot elevated split squat/ RPE 5-7

D1: 2-3x 12-15: dumbbell bicep curl/ RPE 6-8

D2: 2-3x 12-15: cable tricep extension/ RPE 6-8


Notice the low RPE- this is because we don’t want to be going heavy on this block, and NOWHERE NEAR failure for the most part. You don’t need to. Give your body a chance to catch up.

If you were to start at the low end of these recommendations, and work with the SAME LOAD to the higher end, you’d be making progress throughout the first 2-3 weeks (up to 6 sessions). After this, we’re ready to start to increase things a little more.

If you’re also including CV, make sure you account for that. You’ll be surprised how much recovery the weights sessions can take if you’ve grown unaccustomed to them, regardless of if you feel “used to” the endurance work.


What Next?

After this “easy phase”, where you’ve already accumulated a good amount of work, start to move into a 3-6 week block of keeping a moderate volume, anywhere from 2-3x per week, but allow the intensity to start to creep up. For most people, by the end of this phase, you should be looking at having lifted to RPE around 7-8 on occasional key compound lifts, and should be just a little below your pre lockdown weights. Again, you won’t need huge volume or crazy workouts, just a good, logical progression that suits your goals.

For me, I still wouldn’t be taking the key lifts to failure until the next block.

After 6-8 weeks, you should be back feeling towards your pre lockdown state (a little longer if you’ve not done anything during this time out), but here’s the HUGE BENEFIT. You’re making progress. Rapidly. And you’re not burnt out.

Sure, you may need a bit of a deload before going into the block to get ABOVE pre lockdown levels, but following a super simple progression, from “TOO EASY” right through the initial stages will set you up great to break some new PR’s!

Get this right, capitalise on the increased adaptation from lower volume and intensities, and you’ll be AT A NEW BEST in what feels like no time.


Get this wrong. Over do it. Push too hard, too soon, and you’re setting yourself up to fail.


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Josh Kennedy MSc, ASCC, CSCS

P.S: We’ll be chatting about this on the podcast later this week. Until then, check out some of our recent episodes here!

P.P.S: Our Youtube channel is full of great information to help you on your fitness journey, here’s the link. Don’t forget to hit subscribe.

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