A lot of gym fanatics are worried about losing their muscle/gains over the next several weeks as their access to the gym has been temporarily restricted because of the corona virus pandemic lockdown restrictions, however there’s not much need to panic because in actuality, it takes a lot more than just taking time off from the gym to experience muscle atrophy.
Muscle atrophy is when muscles waste away. It’s usually caused by a lack of physical activity over a long period of time. Muscle atrophy can also happen if you’re bedridden or unable to move certain body parts due to a medical condition. Astronauts, for example, can experience muscle atrophy after a few days of weightlessness.
Unused muscles can waste away if you’re not active. But even after it begins, this type of atrophy can often be reversed with exercise and improved nutrition. You can get to prevent muscle atrophy from home by simply getting in your home workout session, three to five days per week. To maintain the muscle or gains you currently have, only a low level of training volume is required. As long as your muscles are receiving a low level of mechanical stimulus every other day, you can maintain your current level of muscle mass relatively easily.
So what to do ? Some of us are going to be more limited in equipment than others, which may lead to a shift to body weight workouts (which are just as good, if not even better!). In this case, you can certainly make an exercise difficult by increasing the number of reps (15-25 reps per set) but you can also utilize strategies such as increasing your time under tension (slowing down the tempo of the movement, pausing at the bottom of the movement, holding the squeeze throughout the entire movement etc.) Don’t underestimate body weight workouts! Use this time to master moving around your own body weight and possibly reaping some strength gains from it !
When it comes to frequency, 20 to 30 minute sessions twice a week paired with walking / jogging or perhaps some yoga, mobility, stability training, agility as well on your other days. Or conversely, if you’re feeling extra motivated, you can do daily training sessions (especially if they are on the shorter side to allow your body to recover by the time your next workout is scheduled.) During this time, it would also be very beneficial if you got to eat more protein to allow your body to retain & repair the damaged muscle from your home workouts.
Remember, your muscles don’t know what exercise you’re doing; they only know the forces that are being placed on them. However, if you do get to lose some muscle mass, I promise you that you’ll be just fine. Any lost muscle or strength during this period can be regained within a two to four weeks when you get back to the gym. Right now, it’s far more important that you’re staying safe and healthy while practicing social distancing and also – having fun with your home workouts !
Take care & let the grind continue !
– Mitchelle Adagala, Certified Personal Trainer and TROVE Article Contributor