For the majority of us, gyms have reopened and we’re able to get back to a more normal form of strength training with ourselves and our clients. Unfortunately, this is a “more normal” training environment—not the “normal” training environment. With the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the safety guidelines put in place, we are presented with some unique and unprecedented constraints within our training paradigm. Gyms look different, safety guidelines are strictly enforced, and social distancing is a real thing. In many cases, these factors will result in some new obstacles we will need to train around. It will be important to keep this in mind as we serve our clientele, whether it’s in-person or online.
Many gyms are now requiring you to book time slots for your training. Some are limiting the sessions to one hour, while some are allowing longer time slots or breaks between sessions for cleaning. Penalties are even being levied for failure to adhere to these schedules. It will be important to communicate with your clients in regards to their specific circumstance so you can adjust their training accordingly.
This may seem to be a barrier on the surface, but this time constraint can be a blessing in disguise. Why? Because it will force your athletes to train faster, which will inherently build up their work capacity that likely lowered during the lockdown. Faster training now means better ability to recover, tolerate volume, and in turn adapt and gain strength once the weights start to get heavier. That is a big-time win! How do we do this? Here are some simple yet effective tools we can keep in our toolbox:
– Timed rest intervals
– Every minute on the minute (EMOM), or e90sec, e2min etc.
– Giant sets
– Circuit training
– As many rounds as possible (AMRAP)
– “For time” (complete a workload as fast as possible)
While it may seem like these are pulled right from CrossFit, these strategies have been around since the advent of barbell training. Use the appropriate protocol for the adaptation you wish to elicit and get your clients’ hearts pumping!
Along with the regulations on time, many gyms have implemented “workstations” or designated training areas to allow for social distancing. This means that you must remain within one area for either the entire session or until you’re ready to move to another section of the gym for your other work. Again, communicating with your clients about their specific situations will be paramount.
For a powerlifter, this does not pose much of an issue and quite frankly, regardless of the training methodology, this can be easily accommodated within the programming. If the training space has a rack in it, using the KISS (keep it simple, stupid) rule is a must. Compound barbell movements can make up most of the training session, which as a powerlifter should be the case anyway. Get as much work done on the rack as you can and then reduce your requirement on the ancillary equipment as much as possible. A lot can be accomplished with a power rack with a bar, a bench and some plates.
This is the constraint that may in fact impact us the most as coaches. Some gyms are not allowing spotters. Most have rules prohibiting training in groups. Accommodating this within the program is simple – just keep the work submaximal. This on its own is a challenge because we need to allow our clients to train with enough relative intensity to elicit a stimulus. We must do an adequate job of ensuring that they’re training hard enough to benefit from the work, but light enough that they don’t make a mistake and hurt themselves.
Many facilities are requiring masks even while training. The masks place an increased demand on the musculature of breathing, so being careful with how you program conditioning-based work or density training is important. The best possible solution here is to err on the side of caution; start slow and light to allow your lifters to adjust to the mask.
Finally, all gyms have rules about cleaning off the equipment. Cleaning off the equipment is a must, but it also takes time away that they could be training. Make sure the loading parameters you provide make it easy to strip and clean plates. The concept of training economically and getting the most out of the least amount of equipment is invaluable to maximize time spent training vs. cleaning.
The “new normal,” whether you like it or not, is likely here to stay for the foreseeable future. It is going to take some time, learning, adaptation and a ton of communication to make it work for the best outcomes for your clients. The keys to a successful reintegration into the commercial gym space will be a flexibility of approach and a strong focus in your execution. Whatever adapted plan we provide for our athletes needs to come with their buy-in that you’re doing the best you can to allow them to be successful despite the circumstances. Point them in the right direction, give them a plan, keep them safe, and empower them to train as if there was nothing standing in their way. If you can do that, you won’t have any issue navigating the “new normal.”