Muscular Development|June 2020
None of us saw the COVID-19 pandemic coming. And even once it became clear that we would all have to take precautions against contracting this mutated flu virus, we certainly never imagined how drastically our world would change. Aside from the handful of businesses deemed essential, everything else was closed for months: schools, restaurants, sporting events, and the one place most of you reading this were most upset about – gyms! I for one was deeply disturbed that my haven, my sanctuary, my home away from home had locked its doors. Weights are weights, and anyone can weight train at home if they have a few basic pieces of equipment. But there is no substitute for the wide array of equipment at a good commercial gym, not to mention the atmosphere and energy of being around other hard-training men and women. Since we had no choice, we all adapted as best we could. Maybe you already had an old bench and some weights in your garage or basement that you dusted off and revisited for the first time in years. Maybe you had the foresight to pick up some equipment from a sporting goods store or online before the shelter-in-place orders came down, and before the price gouging on used equipment from private sellers kicked into full-on greed mode. Whatever your situation, you did the best you could with what you had, probably lamenting the gains you were losing as the days and weeks of quarantine rolled on. And perhaps you did lose a certain amount of muscle size and strength. The good news is, this whole debacle was a good thing for your gains in the long run. Do you think I’m being ridiculous and grasping at straws to make a negative situation seem better? I’m quite serious. The quarantine will lead to an improved physique for you, and here’s why.
Most of you were overtrained, chronically overtrained, before this all hit. I know I was. The thing about overtraining is its insidious nature, the way it creeps up on you and settles in to become what you consider normal. If you love the gym and you love training with a passion like I do, it’s natural to always want to do another exercise or another couple of sets. Before you know it, you’ve been lifting for damn near two hours. But hey, you had your post-workout shake and you’re training a different body part tomorrow, so what’s the big deal? Our CNS, or central nervous system, was taking a beating without getting a chance to rest and recover. Personally, I had been following a push/pull/legs split for a couple of years, meaning three days of weights in a row with just one day off, and even that day usually featured cardio, over and over. I ignored telltale signs of overtraining such as chronic fatigue, strength loss, and trouble sleeping. Only once the quarantine forced me to stay home and do much briefer workouts did I realize I had not been recovering properly. As crazy as it sounds, I put muscle on for the first three to four weeks training at home despite the fact that all I had to work with was three sets of dumbbells, a pull-up bar, and some bands I barely used. My weight went up a full 6 pounds with no increase in body fat. It wasn’t that I was gaining any new muscle mass. It was more like I was holding the amount of muscle I should have been anyway, had I not been overtrained and under-recovered.
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