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Training after a lockdown... How not to over do it!

Training is as important in our lives as it is yours, add the direct correlation between exercise and mental wellbeing and we’re sure you are as excited as us to get back to a consistent exercise routine post lockdown. Our aim at Lift is and always will be to get all of our clients back into the gym safely and progressively with the aim of having our clients turning up to every session feeling fresh to go.

Two weeks into the gyms being open again and we’re confident that the majority of the training population have overcooked it a little, upon returning to exercise after a long stint off. Some of you however may still not have made the return to the gyms, so we wanted to provide some guidance to get you back up to speed safely.

This is from trying to “continue from where you left off” and just wanting that feeling of a hard workout feels like the right thing to do. But you’ll quickly realise that over the next few days it probably wasn’t the wisest move and that you are not in the same shape you were the last time you trained, with a lot of muscle soreness.

Do not stress as this is very normal, you certainly aren’t alone in this and there is a way to get you feeling physically fit and strong again, without having to destroy yourself in the gym and having to take 5 days off because your bodies feeling so painful.

In this short article, we want to provide you with useful information including key signs to lookout for and some practical guidelines for you to follow to keep moving forward.

You’re not the only ones, it’s happening to the professionals too…

In the Bundesliga (German premier league), injury rates spiked in the first competitive game after the COVID-19 lockdown with 17% of players experiencing muscular injuries (3). Injury rates increased over 3-fold following COVID-19 lockdown. However, with more cumulative match exposure, injury rates in players did start to level out. The research also suggests that even players who were yet to play had a higher probability of injury occurrence.

The scientific proof:

The table below highlights how quickly we can all lose our fitness gains, (feel free to ignore the science jargon under ‘characteristics’. For the people that haven’t done any exercise over the course of lockdown, in theory you would have lost all of your fitness gains x10...

Table 1. Residual Training Effects (1).

We know that this information might cause a little panic and make you want to get to the gym and hit it hard to compensate for the time lost over the pandemic period but restassured this is not the case. The last thing we want is for you to do is over do it and not enjoy your training journey, so for the rest of this article there are some useful tips to keep and eye out for, some structure and a workout example.

Overtraining. What is it and what are the common signs?

Overtraining is very hard to come by and can take a long time to get to that state. You would be pleasantly surprised by how much your body can take and recover from given enough rest. So the term overtraining has been often wrongly thrown around to describe and give clarity on some of the symptoms shown in graph 1 (below). Overtraining more accurately put is being in a training state of chronically overreaching, taking months to get there, so let’s not get too worried yet because it is unlikely that you are in a state of overtraining considering the gyms in the UK have only been open for a few weeks (12th April, 2021). However, you have a higher risk of heading into a state of overreaching if you have already started your training full steam ahead without days off, or doing HIIT workouts 5 days out of the 7 (shots fired). To provide you with a little bit of guidance, we’ve listed some common signs seen in overreaching below, so that you can manage yourself and training load properly to prevent this from happening:

Graph 1. Common and early signs of overtraining syndrome (2).

Using the FIIT principle to get you back up to speed.


Your body will need some time to build up some tolerance to the training loads that its missed over these long periods. Aim to give yourself at least 48 hours between sessions, so it might just mean that you get three sessions in for the first couple of weeks and once you have built some tolerance, you can start adding another session into the week.


Have a four to six week load management plan. Let’s not put too much weight on the bar straight away. As mentioned previously, it is pretty likely that your strength and recovery isn’t at the same level as it was before lockdown. If you haven’t been totally sedentary throughout the lockdown then reducing the load on the bar by around 50% and each week add on another 15%. By week 4 you should then be back up to a training load that you were used to. However, if you have been totally sedentary throughout lockdown, then we recommend you take it a bit slower in getting back up to a familiar training load. Try starting at 50% load and increasing your training load by 10% each week, which will then take around 6 weeks to get you back up to speed. Nine times out of ten, you want to leave the gym feeling the gym like you still have some in the tank and would feel like you will be ok to go to the gym again within 24-48 hours.


Typically, an ideal session time would be around 45-60 minutes, however, the time principal is going to be very subjective for you all. If you are used to doing a 20 minute session then you can stick with doing just that and building on it weekly. This coincides with the thought process that you are leaving the gym feeling better than you did when you came in most of the time.


To get a good foundation of exercise under the belt, we recommend that you start with full body workouts like the one shown in the table below, 2-3 times per week, with a focus on fundamental movement patterns including a squat, a hinge, a push, a pull, and brace.

If you really want to see progress, you’ve got to stop jumping from workout to workout. How do you know where you’re going if you don’t know where you are?

A Practical Application

We are not here to just tell you about stuff and not provide a practical solution, we have put an example of a simple workout plan together with some easy progressions so that it gives you a great place to start and enjoy your training journey (table 2).

Table 2. Example session covering fundamental movement patterns.

See exercises labelled a1 - c1, in this order it means you will perform each of these exercises one at a time, completing three sets before moving on. Once you’ve completed a few sessions in this style (3-6 workouts) you should feel confident enough in those movement patterns and ready to progress onwards, turning your focus of attention onto building better work capacity in the muscles and get your heart rate up with the right intensity. We recommend that you start executing the same exercises in a circuit fashion (a1 – a5) with minimal rest in between, then rest for 2 minutes, then repeat the circuit 3-4 more times.

Hopefully, this article has given you some guidance and provides you with a level of confidence to return to exercise. Any questions on getting exercising again, please do use the comments section or email us directly at

Happy to help,



1. Issurin, V. and Yessis, M., 2008. Block periodization. Michigan: Ultimate Athlete Concepts.

2. Kreher, J. and Schwartz, J., 2012. Overtraining Syndrome. Sports Health: A Multidisciplinary Approach, 4(2), pp.128-138.

3. Seshadri, D., Thom, M., Harlow, E., Drummond, C. and Voos, J., 2021. Case Report: Return to Sport Following the COVID-19 Lockdown and Its Impact on Injury Rates in the German Soccer League. Frontiers in Sports and Active Living, 3.

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