For the ultimate in minimal-kit training, the barbell complex – basically, a series of movements where you don’t put the bar down – is hard to beat, since it doesn’t even rely on a bench or squat rack.
To keep things flowing, it helps to choose movements that naturally segue into one another, and (ideally) only pass the barbell over your head once or twice. Try the following: do 6-8 reps each of the Romanian deadlift, bent over row, push press, back squat and alternating lunge, rest for 60 seconds and repeat four times. You’ll get a cardio hit and some resistance training, and clean up is minimal.
With some gyms planning to limit time on the floor and squat racks likely to be coveted ground, wandering around for a couple of minutes in between sets simply won’t pass muster any more.
Instead, keep a stopwatch or phone running to keep yourself honest, and commit to resting for 90 seconds or even less – sub-60 is the golden spot for fat loss workouts anyway. Supersets are a good way to give yourself a little bit of extra recovery time while keeping moving. If you’ve got a TRX handy, doing 10 press-ups and then 10 inverted rows, followed by a 60-second break before the next set.
“There’s no problem with people spotting each other or even doing partnered workouts if they’re part of the same social bubble,” says Alex Nicoll, MD of high-end gym chain BXR. Alternatively, stop a rep or two short of failure by cutting your sets off once you start to grind the reps out. For building pure strength, going to failure isn’t productive anyway.
Don’t go all out (maybe)
Should you take it easy? Honestly, it depends what you’ve been doing in lockdown. If this is your first exercise in months, or you’re about to leap into heavy squats or deadlifts after nothing but jumping jacks with Joe Wicks, then it might be worth resisting the temptation to go all-out on your first trip to the gym.
Don’t pressure yourself to hit previous weights or times and instead, use your first couple of sessions as a feeling-out process and try to enjoy getting your body moving. Oh, and if you do get struck down with delayed onset muscle soreness, try to go for a walk. The movement will help the repairs along.
…And above all, be respectful
Though we’ve all seen the (very) public freakouts of a few people refusing to wear masks, every gym’s hoping that their own clientele will be a little calmer. “If we see people refusing to follow the guidelines on cleaning kit, for example, our staff have been briefed to engage with them respectfully,” says Lee Matthews, Commercial Director at Fitness First. “We’re not talking about throwing people out or banning people from the gym – it’s supposed to be a conversation.”
Crucially, nobody wants gyms to be forced into stricter regulations, so clean your kit, keep your distance, and keep all of the above in mind, and nobody has to go back to working out with a set of soup cans.