It is every gym goers nightmare. You spend weeks on end in quarantine, do what you can to keep active and eat well(ish). Then the first day you step foot into the gym, your straight talking training partner says the words you don’t want to hear “you look smaller”.
There are 100’s of tips and articles going around informing you how to keep those gains during this period of lock-down. Some are good, but some are just out there. In this article Third Space Head of Education Josh Silverman sifts through the research so you don’t have to.
I am sure if I asked you what you need to do in order to preserve strength and muscle mass you would come out with the correct answer – resistance training. AV Sardeli et al. (2018) even found that resistance training preserves muscle mass when you are in a caloric deficit.
Of course, if you have access to weights (dumbbells, kettlebells, etc.) then you have found your “medicine”. Third Space members can access “at home” gym equipment at exclusive discounts on Stronger Wellness and Physical Company. Check your emails for discount codes.
But what if you don’t have access to this type of equipment? Well, that’s not the end of the world. You see, the body deals with force. It doesn’t know whether force has come from its own bodyweight or a piece of equipment. Your body is your resistance. A very well-known study conducted by HH Vandenburgh et al. (1987) concluded that the number one driver for hypertrophy (muscle mass increase) was tension. Not a piece of equipment or modality. Just tension.
Following our app based bodyweight programmes (or downloadable workout guide) is ideal during this time. But how much should you do? When should you progress etc.? Well another driver in muscle mass is training volume. Schoenfeld et al. (2018) wanted to test how much exercise was needed and where the sweet spot was. They concluded that the sweet spot lies between 6-12 total sets per muscle group per week.
In plain English, we can use these recommendations to lay out our weekly and monthly training plan. Here is a simple way to do it;
Week 1, Beginner bodyweight workout, 2x per week, 8 reps per exercise
Week 2, Beginner bodyweight workout, 2x per week, 9 reps per exercise
Week 3, Beginner bodyweight workout, 3x per week, 10 reps per exercise
Week 4, Intermediate bodyweight workout, 3x per week, 8 reps per exercise
Week 5, Intermediate bodyweight workout, 3x per week, 9 reps per exercise
Week 6, Advanced bodyweight workout, 3x per week, 10 reps per exercise
That’s just a simple way of laying it out but there is more than one way to skin a cat. Find something that fits your schedule that you can do consistently.
One last thought is whether you should do this in your house/garden or during your allotted 1hr of exercise per day outside. A study conducted by SY Oikawa (2019) concluded that performing frequent bouts of activity (this was in the form of steps per day) safeguarded muscle mass loss more so than doing less frequent walks per week even when the total steps were the same.
To Sum Up:
- If you don’t have your own training programme, jump onto the Third Space app and follow our home workouts programmed by Elite PTs. Or use our PDF downloadable workout guide here.
- Use the weekly schedule above with reps, sets and frequency recommendations. Remember during this period to not focus on the weight you are shifting but to ensure that you are progressively overloading and focusing on time under tension (TUT).
- Do this in your home or garden so that you can utilise your 1hr outside exercise time to take in the scenery and get as many steps as you can (keeping a 2m safe distance between people of course).
In the next installment, I am going to go through the nutrition factors that we also need to take into account for the preservation of muscle mass.