5 Ways to Restart Your Gym Routine WITHOUT Getting Injured!

As gyms around the country begin to reopen, countless patrons will be clamoring to restart their normal fitness routines. One thing to be cognizant of though, is the danger in restarting an exercise program after an extended absence. Due to the layoff from resistance training, most individuals will be extremely susceptible to sustaining soft tissue injuries (muscle strains) as well as injuries surrounding joints. This is due to the likely atrophy of muscle fibers, in particular the small stabilizers surrounding joints. (Studies have shown that muscle atrophy, or the loss of muscle, can begin to occur after only 1 week of inactivity!)

Even if you did a great job of exercising during quarantine, more than likely you were not able to train with the same intensity or frequency that you would normally, in a gym setting. Therefore, it is imperative to be careful about the exercises you select, the intensity you use, as well as the frequency at which you attend the gym- minimally for the first 2-4 weeks- in order to avoid muscle strains or impact related injuries. While a return to the gym is so exciting for many, it should be made clear how physically vulnerable you are to an injury at this juncture. Enduring an injury now will only further delay your ability to be in the gym on a consistent basis.

Once your local gym reopens, I implore you to keep the following principles in mind to assist in keeping you free from potential injuries!

#1. You’re Not Going to Get It All Back in One Workout…or The First Week!

Unless you were fortunate enough to have a full home-gym set up with access to your normal equipment and weights, more than likely you’ve experienced some sort of regression in the last 8-10 weeks. Whether that has been strength loss, muscle loss or weight gain- it is imperative that you understand, you will not make up for 2 months-worth of missed or subpar workouts in your first session.

As difficult as this may be to accept, you’ve got to start back at square one with all aspects of your exercise program. IF you follow this principle, the strength/muscle gains and fat loss will happen before you know it. However, if you try to jump right back in where you left off, while also adding in 2 a-days for 6 days, you will more than likely be burned out or hurt after 2 weeks.

It is imperative you take it slow upon your gym return because when you perform resistance training, you are breaking down muscle fibers while also putting various levels of stress on joints, tendons and ligaments in your body as well. By taking a prolonged hiatus from resistance training, the small muscles surrounding your joints have most likely become weak and underactive. Therefore, it is imperative that you start slowly and give yourself plenty of recovery in between training sessions to allow for the body to begin the adaptation process again.

Strive initially to make small and sustainable changes to your fitness routine. If you were exercising 1-3 days per week during quarantine, don’t exceed 3 days per week at the gym initially- even if you were previously a 5 or 6 day per week gym-goer, I would highly recommend not jumping right back into that full schedule. Be sure to give yourself a full 24 hours between training sessions to allow for your body to properly heal and recover. In addition, you should also strive to make your workouts efficient and no more than 45 minutes. It doesn’t matter if before quarantine you spent 90 minutes-2 hours in the gym daily- by beginning with 45-minute workouts you will be able to focus on getting in high quality training sessions without having unnecessary amounts of volume.

Each week you continue going to the gym post-quarantine, you can add in a day of training or extend your workouts by a few minutes, but be sure to make your changes incrementally. Going from one extreme to another, will only cause a physical breakdown of your joints, tendons and ligaments that will eventually lead to a burned out feeling mentally as well.

#2. Don’t Forget What You Learned About Exercise During Quarantine

Just because you will once again have access to equipment you likely didn’t have in your homes, doesn’t mean you should immediately ditch the exercises that have gotten you through the last 2 months. The fundamental moves that you had to turn to during quarantine- such as squats, lunges, push-ups and planks- should not be discarded. These basic moves will provide you with foundational strength, expose mobility issues and provide a great metric for progress.  

Your bodyweight squats will likely turn into resisted squats and your push-ups will transition into a multitude of press variations, however, don’t discard the value of keeping fundamental body weight moves within your workout (A great place to implement them would be an extension of your dynamic warm-up).

In addition, hopefully these last several weeks you’ve also incorporated a degree of mobility work to your routine as well. It would be remiss of you to let any mobility gains you’ve made, fall by the wayside, because mobilization will allow for better movement- which in turn will help keep you free of injury. (If you didn’t add in mobility work these last 2 months, I highly encourage you to do so upon returning to the gym, to further assist in injury prevention) You should make a concerted effort to implement mobility work during warm-ups, rest periods or cool-down stretching periods- every training session! (To read more about a simple yet effective mobility sequence, click here)

#3. Be Prudent with Your Exercise Selection

When restarting your fitness routine, the basics should be your central focus. If you’re performing a full body training split (which would be my recommendation initially), each session should have the following:

  • Squat Variation (Back Squat, Front Squat, Goblet Squat, RFE Split Squat)
  • Hinge Variation (RDL, Conventional Deadlift, Trap Bar Deadlift, Single Leg RDL)
  • Horizontal Press (Flat Chest Press, Incline Chest Press)
  • Horizontal Pull (BB Bent Over Row, Single Arm DB Row, Chest Supported DB Row)
  • Vertical Press (BB Overhead Press, Split Stance DB Shoulder Press)
  • Vertical Pull (NG Lat Pulldown, Pull-Up, Chin-Up)
  • Bracing Core (Plank Variations)
  • Rotational Core (Medicine Ball Slams, Rope Chops)
  • Loaded Carry (DB Farmers Walk)

The above categories don’t necessarily need to be in that order, and they can also be supersetted to assist in the efficiency of the workout. These parameters will help form the perfect outline for an effective and safe, full-body workout.

When restarting a training program, I feel that a Full Body Training split is especially effective because you’re maximizing the metabolic benefit of the workout. Rather than spending time performing isolation moves, your focus should be on exercises that give you the most “bang for your buck.” In this case big, compound moves will be your best bet.

Consider implementing as much unilateral work as possible initially as well. (Just a review- unilateral exercises are those that are performed either on one leg or with one arm) Unilateral work is superior to bilateral work when restarting your exercise routine for one main reason: unilateral work is less compressive, and you can easily put joints in safer positions.

(For a complete breakdown on the benefits of unilateral training, click here)

If you’ve been largely sedentary for the last 2 months, jumping right into Back Squats, RDL’s and BB Bent Over Rows, is a recipe for a tight lower back that could impact your next training session. Instead, choose the unilateral moves which have less compression through the spine- such as a Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat, Single Arm Single Leg RDL and a Single Arm DB Row. You’re still hitting a variation of each category, however, it’s a more structurally safe option- to start! (Just because I recommend beginning unilaterally, doesn’t mean you should never Back Squat again)

A Single Arm DB Chest Press, or Half Kneeling DB Shoulder Press will also allow you to press from a neutral grip position- which puts your shoulder at an anatomically more favorable position than with a barbell. When restarting your gym exercise routine, having joint integrity while pressing is crucial because of the potential loss in strength of the shoulder stabilizers during the last 2 months. Again, not to say you should never do a Barbell Bench Press again, however, taking the first 4 weeks back in the gym to press unilaterally from a neutral grip position will pay massive dividends in the long run for your shoulder health.

#4. Be Cautious with Volume and Intensity

This principle is an extension of small, sustainable changes. When you go from doing little to no resistance training to an excessive amount, you will undoubtedly set yourself up for injury. When you initially return to the gym, 3-4 working sets of each exercise will be plenty to get a high-quality workout, but also avoid traumatizing your body. If you normally train with high volume, you could certainly add a set or two in each week you continue your gym routine. The key is not jumping into a high-volume training program after you’ve been away from resistance training for 2 months.

The same caution should be used when considering what intensity you should be training at initially as well. If you haven’t been resistance training with your normal weights, you shouldn’t be anywhere near the 85-90% of a max at any rep scheme the first month or two. Even if you’re usually a “max strength” trainee, who spends most of their workouts in that percentage range, you should consider dropping down into more of a hypertrophy range of 65-80% to safeguard yourself against injury.

Considering your strength numbers are most likely completely different now, a better way to think about training percentages currently is- you should be able to perform at least 2 additional reps for each set. This is considered sub-maximal training and certainly is not conducive for long-term strength gains. However, in terms of a safe reintroduction to resistance training, this is your best bet. Not so much for your muscles- which would be able to handle the load, and would adapt relatively quickly- the concern should be more about the health of your joints, tendons and ligaments. It is these areas that will bark and break down and lead to an even longer time away from the gym. Training sub-maximally at first will allow for you to ease back into lifting your normal weights- in time!

#5. Don’t Forget the Value of Exercising Outdoors

One of the most beautiful silver linings to CO-VID 19 is the amount of appreciation “being outdoors” has garnished. Whether you’re dragging your yoga mat and dumbbells outside and doing your workout in the backyard, or you go for a post-dinner walk to get some fresh air- outdoor activity is being yearned for across the country.

Just because your local gym reopens, I urge you to not forget the benefit of being outside. Physically, being outdoors and absorbing the sun’s UVB rays will enhance your body’s Vitamin D production, but it also helps you mentally as well. Getting lungs full of fresh air, hearing birds chirping, seeing neighbors (albeit from a distance) are all ‘normal’ aspects of life that you can maintain. The most common question on the tip of everyone’s tongue is “when will society return to normal?” The answer to that is so unclear, that you’d be best served mentally to instead look for aspects of life that ‘normal’ still does exist. Thankfully, this virus hasn’t altered our natural surroundings. Get in nature and revel in the normalcy and beauty of spring and summertime.

With the outline I’ve provided, I’m recommending maximally only working out the number of days per week that you exercised during quarantine. This will most likely leave a few days per week that would require some non-exercise active rest. These days would be your best opportunity to continue your commitment to being outside. Whether it’s a bike ride, walk, light jog or some stretching outside- do yourself a favor, both mentally and physically, stay committed to spending time outdoors, even when your normal gym routine resumes.

Final Thoughts

The reopening of gyms across the country is a great first step in a return to normalcy for many of us. Unless you’ve been injured before, many of the most ardent gym-rats have never been away from a gym setting for this long. Therefore, from novices to the most experienced weight lifters, returning to the gym after this 8-10-week layoff, should be treated as a very delicate process.

In order to remain injury-free, you must have patience regarding the results, persistence with consistently getting to the gym and hammering basic movement patterns, as well as prudence with your judgement on exercise selection, volume and intensity. The first month back into your gym routine will be the most arduous as your body readapts to the demands placed upon it. While the injuries you may be exposing yourself to are not overly “serious” (muscle/ligament strains and acute joint pain) they will hamper your return by potentially forcing you to miss training sessions, or alter your exercise technique to avoid pain- which will ultimately lead to more injuries down the road.

One of the best ways to be successful in almost any aspect of fitness is to “leave your ego at the door.” This will be especially true upon your return to the gym- if you get caught up in what weights you’re lifting, or how quickly you fatigue, you’ll most likely get frustrated and try to prematurely speed up the process. Understand that almost everyone is in the same boat- embrace the challenge of starting at square one, and rebuild yourself from the ground up!

Stay Safe and Be Smart!

Yours in Fitness and Health,


Your Final Reward Will Be Heartache and Tears, If You’ve Cheated the Guy in the Glass. 

5 Ways a Fitness Tracker Will Enhance Your Fitness Journey!

While many parts of the country are beginning the process of reopening gyms or personal training studios, there’s still countless other regions with no light at the end of the tunnel. Regardless of what situation you may find yourself in, I believe something we’ve all learned first-hand these past several weeks, is how difficult it is to maintain consistently high levels of workout intensity at home.  

Without the social motivation, the music pumping, the class instructor in your face, it can be extremely challenging to get high quality workouts in. This is especially true, if you’re the type that struggles to motivate yourself. You may rely on an external force to provide your best source of motivation. Unfortunately, almost all our external motivating factors have been stripped away during quarantine workouts.

The question is, how can you safely increase your workout intensity without any ‘traditional’ external motivators? The simple answer is this:

Invest in a Fitness Tracker.

I’ve used a few different fitness trackers in the past and have found value in each- I’ve owned a Nike Fuelband, Fitbit Ionic and currently use a Garmin Vivioactive 3 watch as well as a Myzone Heart Rate monitor. There are several benefits to each of the products I’ve mentioned, however, the bottom line is this: regardless of the device’s accuracy or bells and whistles- the ability to track your activity, connect with others and generate movement, make a fitness tracker a must have during this time!

Why Invest in a Fitness Tracker?

#1 Fitness Trackers Offer Connectivity

During the CO-VID 19 pandemic, social distancing has unfortunately forced us away from our friends and family; by utilizing a fitness tracker, its capabilities will allow you to reconnect with a fitness community that social media cannot. Every fitness tracker is different, however, the fact is each company offers their own “challenges” and sends “awards” for achieving various fitness accomplishments throughout the day/week or month. While this can’t permanently replace the class instructor you love or exercising with your best friend, it will start to tap into the social aspect of training.

In addition, when I say “social” referring to exercise, I’m not necessarily talking about communicating with other gym members. Instead I’m talking more about the inner competitive nature we all possess. Whether you realize it or not, you’re naturally competing with the girl or guy next to you on the bench or squat rack- every single training session. This is an aspect of gym training that home workouts simply cannot mimic- unless you use a fitness tracker to compete!

#2 Generate Movement

While a fitness tracker will not help with your issue of lack of fitness equipment at home, it will most definitely generate movement. During these weeks in quarantine, more than likely you either continued living a mostly health-conscious lifestyle, or you let the wheels fall off and have been treating this time like a hall pass.

There’s got to be a middle ground between these two lifestyle choices though, or else the road back to your fitness journey is going to be uphill for a long time. The compromise that a Fitness Tracker will provide is that it’s going to be your reminder to stand up and move around- for those that have never owned a fitness tracker, you can usually turn on a “reminder to move” setting that will vibrate/beep or send a notification to your phone incrementally, letting you know it’s been too long since your last bout of movement.

This doesn’t mean you have to go for a run every time your device reminds you to move- maybe it’s just a walk around your apartment, a set of body weight squats, up and down your stairs a few times, or some push-ups. Remember, any movement is better than no movement right now.

We also live in a society that is reward driven; therefore, it admittedly feels very good getting a notification come across your device when you hit your step, stair or activity goals for the day!

#3 Fitness Trackers Will Enhance the Quality of Your Workouts

Several months ago, one of the most sobering realizations I came to when I had my first workout with my Myzone Heart Rate monitor, was discovering my actual exertion versus my perceived exertion. (While my Fitbit Ionic and Garmin Vivioactive 3 both had heart rate monitoring capabilities, Myzone Heart Rate Monitor is a chest strap that has been peer reviewed to be 99.4% accurate.) Seeing my real time heart rate zone on a screen in front of me, has challenged me every single workout to get well outside my comfort zone, thus vastly improving the overall quality of my workouts.

Even if other fitness trackers aren’t quite as accurate as the Myzone Heart Rate Monitor, keep in mind, it’s all relative. So even if the “calories burned” or the “peak heart rate” isn’t completely accurate, it will minimally be consistent. Therefore, the fitness tracker will provide you with the ability to look back on your workouts and compare your relative exertion from one workout to the next. Having this capability will assist you in getting outside of your comfort zone without the presence of a coach- accordingly, you’ll be able to maintain consistently high levels of workout intensity even outside the gym walls!

#4 They’re in Stock!

In a time when fitness equipment is virtually impossible to purchase online, I did some research and every fitness tracker I searched on Amazon or the product’s website, is available to be purchased. The common complaint regarding maintaining fitness levels I’m hearing right now, is some variation of: “I can’t workout right now because I can’t buy any dumbbells/barbells/kettlelbells etc.”

While I completely empathize with this unfortunate reality, I also feel that an alternative solution would be to instead invest in a fitness tracker. Investing in such a device will not only assist in your fitness levels during this period of quarantine, but also will continue to enhance your health once society resumes its normal function.

#5 You’ll Find Value in them AFTER Quarantine Has Lifted

Many of the fitness products that have been frantically purchased the last several weeks will unfortunately become dust collectors once quarantine has lifted. Individuals have spent considerable amounts of money on equipment, only to serve as holdovers until gyms can reopen. While your weight bench or pair of dumbbells will sit idly once gyms reopen, your fitness tracker certainly should not. If you get in the habit of allowing your fitness tracker to serve as an extra source of motivation, it will only continue to enhance the quality of your workouts and lifestyle once quarantine has been fully lifted.


My Personal Review on Fitness Trackers

I’m by no stretch of the imagination a fitness tracker connoisseur, nor am I speaking on behalf of any one company. All I can tell you is the benefits I’ve personally experienced with the fitness devices I’ve owned and used myself. The Nike Fuelband, Fitbit Ionic and Garmin Vivioactive 3, each helped me enhance one main area of my health- my NEAT (Non-Exercise Active Thermogenesis- aka Active Rest). Having step goals in addition to the workouts I was already doing, vastly helped with my recovery from workouts. I noticed my fitness trackers’ benefit the most on weekends- where if I was being on the lazy side, having my device vibrate and tell me to get up and move was huge. (This generation of movement is the most applicable way that I feel a fitness tracker will assist in an individual’s health during quarantine.)

My Myzone Heart Rate monitor is by far my favorite fitness tracker I’ve owned though. It completely taps into my competitive nature by having my heart rate zone displayed on a screen in front of me. This has been a huge asset for me in continuing to push myself outside my comfort zone during quarantine. I haven’t personally used the function, however, you can also become completely connected with the Myzone community around the world, should you choose- this feature allows you to enter competitions and compare your workouts against thousands of other people.

I’ve only experienced two drawbacks with fitness trackers that I could see causing issues for some. First, no matter how many steps you hit daily, or how many floors you climb, your activity level will not give you a free pass nutritionally. Just because you crushed 30,000 steps doesn’t necessarily mean you can now eat whatever you want after dinner. This would be a dangerous precedent to set and would ultimately lead to you spinning your wheels. To maximize the benefit of a fitness tracker, it should be used in conjunction with proper nutritional habits.

Secondly, an issue I could see some having with the Myzone Heart Rate Monitor was the need to always have the heart rate in an elevated state- to improve the “score” of the workout. This can create the dangerous tendency to breeze through warm-ups or rush through reps, just so you can see your heart rate climb. Therefore, if you’re going to use a heart rate monitor to determine the quality of your workouts, you have to accept the fact that there will be peaks and valleys in the workout. Not the entire workout will be spent in the 80-90% range; just make it your goal to work up toward that point.

How to Know Which Fitness Tracker is Right for You??

With fitness trackers ranging from simple to fancy as well as cheap to pricy, it may be extremely difficult to determine which fitness tracker is right for you. A source of information I wish I had known about when I was shopping for a fitness tracker, is the Consumer Advocate website dedicated to fitness tracker reviews. In the link attached you will find reviews on their top 11 fitness trackers!

They rate each of these products on Features, Connectivity, Cost and Customer Experience, and my favorite part is their transparency with the product’s drawbacks. With over 200 hours worth of research, they have developed a comprehensive and exhaustive list of their findings that will undoubtedly lead you to a fitness tracker that is right for you!

In addition to the in-depth analysis of each fitness tracker, the Consumer Advocate group also lays out some distinctions between fitness trackers and smart watches, some pitfalls consumers fall into when purchasing a fitness tracker and some very helpful FAQ’s regarding fitness trackers in general. I whole heartedly encourage you to check out this website before you commit to investing in a fitness tracker!

Final Thoughts

While quarantining is protecting us from contracting a deadly virus, we are unfortunately setting ourselves up for a slew of health issues down the road by living largely inactive lives.  I urge you to consider investing in a fitness tracker and implement it as apart your fitness journey going forward.

If you already own a fitness tracker, and it’s just accumulating dust in a jewelry box, take this time to break it out. Research its functions to maximize the device’s usefulness and allow it to be a source of external motivation. Then once gyms reopen, keep it apart of your fitness routine in order to consistently execute and chart high quality workouts.

Continue to stay safe and healthy!

Yours in Fitness and Health,


Your Final Reward Will Be Heartache and Tears, If You’ve Cheated the Guy in the Glass. 

Top 5 Quarantine Exercises

As the weeks drag on, you’ve probably run your course of exercise variety within your weekly workouts. While exercise variety is usually vastly overrated, it does effectively combat boredom with workouts. At this point, you’re most likely extremely bored going through the various routines you’ve developed- possibly even resulting in you skipping workouts or just completely skimping on intensity.

Basic movement patterns such as, squats, deadlift variations, presses and rows, should still be the focal point of your workouts. However, here are 5 exercises that are tremendous accessory moves, that you may not have tried yet. You also need minimal equipment and space to perform them, and they will provide a little extra pep in your workouts this week!

#1 [DB] Lunge Matrix

If you have weights- even if they’re light- this sequence will absolutely light your legs on fire and get your heart pumping! This is one of my favorite lower half moves- outside of quarantine as well. The sequence consists of a front lunge, side lunge and reverse lunge, before going right back into your next front lunge on the same side. I usually do between 4 and 6 (depending on weight) of each before I move onto the next side. Be sure to take your time with the move and put a great emphasis on posture. To take it to the next level, hit a “ghost tap” when you bring your feet back together. This will put a premium on balance and also keep incredible tension on your working leg.

*PRO TIP- Pair this exercise with a Straight Bear Crawl and your quads and glutes will be on FIRE!

#2 Push-Up w/ Lateral Crawl

Normally this would be considered a supplementary upper body move- with a weighted press taking priority- however, if you don’t have an access to weights, this push-up variation will provide you with a tremendous amount of upper body work. Not to mention, you’ll also be working your core, balance, coordination and legs as well! The key here is taking your time with the initial move. Tempo-wise, your push-up should be explosive, while your lateral walk should be smooth. The crossover step should only happen with your hands, as your feet just step laterally.

Initially, you’ll find this move to be disjointed, however, eventually try to smooth out the move so you step with your hands and feet simultaneously. I feel this move spices up the traditional push-up because you’re getting significantly more time under tension for your shoulder stability and core. Depending on your ability you should perform between 3 and 10 reps each side.

**If you can’t do a perfect push-up, don’t force it! Just focus on the hand walk- being in push-up position with lateral body movement will still be a great challenge!

#3 [DB] Swing Lunge

Another lunge variation that will absolutely smoke your quads, glutes and hamstrings is the Swing Lunge. If you have light dumbbells, they will be plenty! Just body-weight is also a great challenge as well! Not only are you hitting 2 different lunge variations in the same set, but there’s also a huge balance component as well.

Be sure to focus on “pushing off” your front heel on the Front Lunge and “pulling through” your front heel on the Reverse Lunge. If you can, get in front of a mirror to perform this one, and make sure your knee tracks right in line with your toes at all time (always train to avoid knee valgus- the caving of the knee inward). Take this move to the next level, by not letting your foot tap in the middle. I’d recommend performing about 5-12 reps per side, depending on if you have weights. For a body weight challenge, try performing 30 seconds each side with minimal rest in between!

# 4 Glute Bridge Alternating DB Chest Press

With minimal equipment and minimal space, getting “bang for your buck” exercises can be challenging. Even if you only have light dumbbells, the Glute Bridge Alternating DB Chest Press certainly qualifies as a high value exercise. In addition to working your chest, you are also working your shoulder stabilizers (by alternating), your core and your legs. Be sure to keep your hips up-but not to the point that your lower back arches- with maximal glute activation throughout the movement. As you alternate your press, be sure to maintain a neutral torso, as you work your abs anti-rotationally. Depending on the weights you have available, 6-15 reps each side will be a solid working set.

*PRO TIP- If you have a band, pre-exhaust your “pressing muscles” with Band In Fronts and Behinds prior to your Glute Bridge Presses.

#5 Bear Crawl Position Renegade Row

This is another move that even if you only have “light” dumbbells, will light up your back, shoulder stabilizers, core and legs. Start by assuming a bear crawl position, with shoulders over top your hands and hips over top your knees. Then simply grab a single dumbbell and start rowing. Make sure you maintain a neutral position with your spine and hips- the back is going to want to arch and the hips are really going to want to open up. Fight to keep your knees apart to maintain tension in your quads. As you row, think about pulling your elbow back towards your hip.

*PRO TIP- Perform a set of Band Pull Aparts prior to performing your Bear Crawl Position Renegade Rows, to make the move even more effective!

Final Thoughts

In order to keep your home workouts from becoming extremely stale, carefully begin tweaking exercise variety. Training out of your element (the gym) is challenging enough, however, now that we are almost 2 months in, you’re probably fighting various levels of boredom with the exercises and routines you’ve been completing. A great way to fight this boredom and stale feeling, is to look at implementing new exercises.

Be sure to always practice proper movement patterns, especially when you’re trying out “new moves.” If something doesn’t “feel” right, then it probably is not. When possible, do your new exercises in front of a mirror, or take a video of yourself. This will provide tremendous external feedback with whether you’re performing the move properly!

Continue to stay safe and healthy!

Yours in Fitness and Health,


Your Final Reward Will Be Heartache and Tears, If You’ve Cheated the Guy in the Glass.