So if like many people who use to be regularly lifting weights in a gym before the COVID-19 pandemic suddenly find themselves locked out of both indoor and outdoor gyms, what can be done to maintain the hard earned muscle you have already built after years of dedication?
Don’t Stop Moving
Well the first thing to do is to keep active. If you ended up spending months on the couch watching Netflix while eating snacks then you will find it much hard to acclimatise to weight training again once the gyms do reopen. For anyone that has ever taken time off the gym due to injuries will know, getting back into training can be difficult after a long break as they discover their strength and endurance has massively decreased.
Training for strength
While people who normally do cardio indoors have adjusted well to life without a gym, for people who train for muscle building and strength a lot more thought has to be made into the type of exercises that will stimulate the type II fast twitch muscle fibres to maintain as much size and strength as they can.
Assuming that you don’t have access to fitness equipment of any kind you can jerry-rig heavy objects from common items from the hardware and department stores such as a backpack and inexpensive 20kg bags of sand from the hardware store. You can even find people giving away free garden rock from the local classifieds.
These weighted backpacks can be used in exercises such as front squats, lunges and push ups. It is a great way to add resistances to bodyweight exercises. For more examples of possible bodyweight exercises check out a couple of our videos taken at local parks in Sydney
Explosive and Unilateral Movements
Even without the use of weight as resistance you can still target those fast twitch muscle fibres by using explosive movements. This includes exercises such as clapping push ups and jump squats. Getting some air will take advantage of gravity to increase the load on the decline portion of the movement.
As well you can easily double the amount of resistance applied to a muscle by doing unilateral movements such as split squats, one arm push ups, step ups and one leg calf raises.
Keep your protein levels up
A maintenance amount of protein should still be consumed, ideally around 2g per kg of bodyweight per day. However be mindful of how active you are during this time comparable to before the lockdown and adjust your carb and fat intake appropriately to match the new lifestyle.
Increase Myonuclei Count with Creatine
The key indicator of muscle growth at a cellular level are myonuclei which control protein synthesis. So the more myonuclei you have then the more protein you can use to build muscle. Recent research from the University of Oslo suggests that these myonuclei don’t just disappear but shrink when muscles decrease due to inactivity. The amount of myonuclei will determine how fast your muscles will bounce back once the gyms open up again. This is why experienced trainers have the muscle memory after time off the gym and can put the size back on faster than a beginner can add new muscle of the same amount.
Research out of the University of Copenhagen suggests creatine supplementation in association with strength training can amplify the training induced increases in myonuclei in human skeletal muscle fibres.
So any kind of strength training you can do at the moment will benefit you in increasing myomuclei concentration with creatine supplementation.