The question and concern we have heard several times over the last 2 weeks: “What about my GAINZ?!?! Can I maintain my strength while the gym is closed due to COVID-19?” As much as we love our barbells, the short answer is: YES, we can maintain strength!
We spend months trying to gain muscle and strength inside the gym. So how long does it take to lose strength? In terms of ‘muscular strength,’ which is “our ability to exert force against a given object in a single effort,” we’ve got GOOD news! Our bodies are extremely good at maintaining overall strength. It can take up to 3 to 4 weeks of complete inactivity – that is quitting EVERYTHING, all physical activity – before seeing a noticeable drop in your strength performance.
And even better news: A 2010 study found that both athletes and non-athletes can reach their peak fitness levels more quickly after a break than when they first started training. People who train four to five times a week may not lose strength as quickly as someone less active or new to fitness. Regular exercisers may also gain back muscle and strength more quickly due to muscle memory.
Cardio endurance is a different story. Research shows that your cardio or aerobic endurance, fades more quickly than muscle strength. With complete inactivity, you can expect a decrease in cardio abilities in about a week or two. According to a 2012 study in athletes, endurance decreases between 4 and 25 percent after a 3 to 4-week break from cardio exercise. Beginners may find their aerobic fitness is back to zero after a four-week break.
But not to worry – we’ve got you covered! We aren’t going to let a temporary closure of the doors prevent you from being your fittest self! And you’re not going to allow this stay-at-home order let you lose your GAINZ! The best thing about having a smart, science-backed approach with our workout programming is that we still have the ability to work on strength and metabolic conditioning, even without a lot of equipment. Plus, you have a team that truly cares about you to push you towards your goals.
To continue to work on your muscular strength, the first thing we recommend is: Show up to class!– preferably a virtual class with a coach, or at least do the home workouts at least 5 days per week. DO NOT STOP working out! You will maintain your cardio endurance so you won’t be starting over when the gym re-opens, but you will also not lose your strength during this time with our strength options each day. How we work on strength:
- Tempo and ‘Holds’ or Time Under Tension: focus on quality reps at a lighter weight, done at a tempo. A 3-5 second down, or eccentric, movement has a higher physiological adaptation than simply moving as fast as you can. You will get maximum gains by being deliberate in your movement.
- Increased load: lower the rep count on exercises while going heavier than we might normally. By going heavier, we can focus less on muscular endurance (the ability to move a set many more times) and much more on increasing your top-end strength. This is where we get creative with things we have around the house.
As long as you are moving and doing the Grail workouts several days a week, do not worry about keeping your strength and cardio endurance during these few weeks away from the gym. Focus on what you can control: exercise, nutrition, hydration and sleep. – and trust your Grail coaches to help you stay strong and healthy during this time, and always.
~Michelle Ann Keely, CEO
CrossFit Level 1 Trainer
Precision Nutrition Certified Coach
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