May 29 2020

How to Improve Your Current Training During COVID

With restricted access to gyms, fitness equipment became harder and harder to find. People scrambled to get their hands on kettlebells, bands, maybe even a squat rack. If you are like many, you do not have access to the same equipment you are used to. That thought of losing all that work you’ve put in the past 3, 6, months, or year will all go to waste. But it doesn’t all have to.

Are you moving? Are you pushing yourself despite your dog stealing your yoga mat every other set? It’s been some time to allow yourself to get into your own new routine. The most important thing to remember is we need to move. Take some time to get fresh air (social-distancing), get your heart rate up, just MOVE.

If you are already moving then great, keep reading. Keep doing what you’re doing.

I am going to give you practices that you can apply to your current training that will improve your strength and hypertrophy gains during COVID.

1. Explode

If you are not already doing this when strength training, try it. The key thing is that right now, we may not have the same amount of load we are used to. However, you can absolutely take advantage of the weight you DO have (that includes bodyweight).

Let’s say you are used to squatting 135lb. But you only have 40lb to work with. Squat with your 40lb weights but explode on the way up as fast as you can for every rep. You will not only get your heart rate up but research shows you will actually increase activation of the muscle fibres when you EXPLODE compared to going at a normal pace. This means you WILL be able to increase strength while training with lighter weights.

Of course, the weight comparisons vary. You do need to have enough weight to work with – think at least 30% of the most weight you can possibly lift for that movement (this means MAX effort). If you have not given max effort before – maybe you have gone to 70-80%. Think about the weights from there.

2. Mix up your stance

Have you been told to put your hands and feet in a certain way and to do it the same way, just like that, every. single. time? Well, I’ll say this has its place – for sure, like if you are trying to groove movement like learning a new skill. But if you are doing push ups, without any irritations, and it’s become like second nature – try mixing it up. I’m not even talking about decline, one legged, clapping push ups (though they can benefit too). I’m talking bringing your hands a little bit wider, narrower, or staggered. This slight change in hand position activates different muscles based on the mechanics of the movement. The advantage? You are able to do the movement more efficiently in the long run.

When you get back into the gym for a bench press, having mixed up your hand positions in push ups, your body may feel more comfortable executing a bench press. This is because you’ve been recruiting your pushing muscles in a variety of ways.

Like I said, having a consistent stance or position has its place. This is not only the case in trying to learn something new, but when going for maximal effort. Which brings me back to my point. If you are training or working on a new movement or skill, good quality reps with different varieties over time leads to mastering that skill.

3. Throw in something you like

Did you get through the bulk of your workout and now left with accessory or even a burner to finish the day? Research shows that doing something that you choose to do along with a structured plan can still increase hypertrophy and strength. The key thing is you get to do something you want to do (as long as you still execute with the same volume and intensity as you would otherwise).

Some other key points:

  • You did the bulk of your intended workout already – the important ones based on your goals
  • Your chosen exercise aligns with your goal – anything from wanting to sweat, to getting 10 push ups, to letting off steam – it’s your goal and you know what’s best for you
  • Workouts don’t always need to be so strict and stuck to the plan. See my last post on play here. But did you get the message? YOU GET TO CHOOSE HOW YOU MOVE and you will still get stronger.

    Some tips to help you with this:

  • If you are doing your own program: have a list of options for the last bit of your workout that are similar in movement pattern, energy exertion, or part of the body being used
  • If you are a part of an online workout class: ask your instructor for alternatives for the last bit of the workout (this is helpful for programmed classes)
  • Hopefully your instructor is open to this option – they will likely ask why, so if you have a valid reason, I don’t see why a fitness trainer would be opposed to providing options
  • This can be done if you absolutely hate the exercise and don’t see much benefit
  • If you feel like you cannot benefit because it causes pain
  • Your weights and/or space at home doesn’t allow you to get the most out of the exercise provided
  • It is not an excuse to get out of an exercise just ‘cause
  • Do a workout once in a while where you just do what comes to mind, but make sure to push yourself the same way you would any other workout

  • 4. Mobilize

    Move your joints. The more space that the joints that are meant to move have, the more opportunity for the muscles around it to grow. More hypertrophy = more strength (for the most part). Do this as a warm up, as a set in your workout, or on its own day. I don’t care. I just think you should do it. Why?

    It also benefits because it:

  • Decreases chances of injury
  • Can decrease pain in the joint and the joints and muscles around it
  • Increases your range of motion which allows optimal movement pattern in performance
  • Feels great

  • 5. Rest

    Lastly, rest. Rest between sets. Rest between workouts too. Having enough rest between sets allows you to get the most out of your next set. I admit, I’m guilty of running to the next exercise as soon as I can when I’m in a group class. I’m also guilty of resting for 5 minutes or more when working out on my own. It’s important to understand what you want to get out of it.

    For hypertrophy, if you are going to failure and want to get the most out of that set, resting for 2-5 minutes in-between that exercise is ideal. I understand that we don’t want to be spending 2 hours on our workouts everyday. So, if resting for 4 minutes, or even 2 is not ideal – try to work with less intensity and maybe throw in an extra set if your rest periods are short.

    Rest between workouts. Especially when you are working with lighter weights and still pushing yourselves to failure or close to it, you need rest. Rest at least one day in-between the next time you are using that same muscle group for the best results long term. Sometimes, depending on how hard you went that day, a second day in between may be beneficial too.


    I’ll end this post by saying to take advantage. Take advantage of this time, because it will not last forever. Although businesses are starting to open up and restrictions are more flexible, some people still have a lot of time to do – well whatever they want. What do YOU want to get out of this time? How do you want to be when this is all over? Use this time that we now have to improve on what you didn’t have the time to do before.

    If being strong is one of them, then well – hope this helps and let me know how it goes. :)