How To Maintain Muscle During Quarantine

If you are worried about losing all of your gains during quarantine, you are not alone. With gyms closed everywhere, and many without equipment, it can create a sense of fear and panic. 

In this week’s ICONiCAST, Layne Norton, owner of BioLayne, powerlifter, bodybuilding and coach breaks down what you need to do to keep size and even build muscle during this quarantine through science-based evidence.  

Norton said research proves muscle mass can be maintained with little to no equipment. 

As long as you get close to failure, whether it’s a heavy load or not, you get similar benefits. This is great news for those of us with limited equipment on quarantine. Even if you have no equipment, Norton said you can still make progress, and at minimum maintain muscle mass. Even if that means performing 40 reps or using 40 percent of a 1RM to achieve failure, you will maintain muscle as long as you reach failure. 

Now that we know we are not going to turn into blobs, maintaining muscle is still going to take creativity and effort. 

Prioritize protein intake. 

Now is the time to prioritize nutrition. With extra time to meal prep and activity changing, there is no excuse to fall short on nourishment. High protein will help with maintaining muscle, especially if you are training at the same intensity. Consume 0.7g - 1.2g of protein per bodyweight. This will vary based on gender, age and performance goals, but keeping protein up will ensure muscle mass stays. 

Invest in some equipment. 

Now is the time to buy a few key items for an at-home gym set up. The two most important pieces will be adjustable dumbbells and high-resistance bands. If you want a little something extra, grab a flat bench for about $50 on Amazon. Other accessories that are affordable and highly effective are glute band, gliders and an ab wheel. These will help with variety, and you’ll spend about $300 for it all. Sure, that may sound like quite a bit up front, but we are not sure how long we will be without traditional gyms, so investing now will help with mental health in addition to physical. 

Modify your routine. 

This is going to look different between competitors and the average gym-goer. If you are someone who goes to the gym 3-5 times per week, it is highly likely that you will keep progressing, even with some dumbbells or bands at home. Sticking with intensity and frequency will be key. 

If you are a powerlifter, replicating the big three lifts might be a challenge, and creativity will be your best friend. To replicate a squat, put a heavy infinity band over your shoulders and under your feet. Drive up to focus on getting “out of the hole”. For benching, work on single arm push ups and banded dumbbell floor presses. Deadlifts will be hard to replicate, but you can stand on a heavy infinity band, get into position and pull up, slow and controlled, locking out at the top. 

If you are a bodybuilder, it will depend on how close you are to a show, but frequency and intensity will be the best option, including proper nutrition and meal timing. 

Up your intensity. 

I’m not talking about cardio here, but with less weight, your prescribed rep range will likely not feel as fatiguing. Instead of taking your sets in a traditional SETS X REPS style, focus on concentric and eccentric reps. For example, let’s use a lunge. Go down for a 2-3 second time frame, hold for one second, and come up for a 2-3 second time frame holding your dumbbells. This added tension will force you to work hard. Perform your sets to failure, versus a rep range. You can also add a set or two per exercise for an increase in frequency. 

Create an environment similar to the gym. 

Whatever you do to get ready for the gym, do the same thing. Turn on your favorite Spotify playlist, drink your pre workout and get to work. The environment may change, and creating similarities ensures positive mental health. 

Even if you are working with nothing, there are so many ways to get creative with equipment. Fill an empty backpack for weights, utilize household items like canned goods or laundry detergent. Creativity and effort will be the keys to muscle maintenance, and most importantly, mental health during a time of uncertainty.

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