Strength training in the time of coronavirus

Geneva is about to ease the restrictions associated with the second wave of the pandemic. During this wave, average new cases per day in Geneva peaked at close to 3,000 confirmed cases per 100,000 population in the 14 days to 8 November. This was the highest recorded rate at regional level in western Europe. In other words, 3% of the population were confirmed new cases in that fortnight, and the real incidence would have been higher than that.

As can be seen in the figure above, the social restrictions introduced in most European countries have worked quite rapidly in turning the second wave downwards. The exceptions are Germany where it has plateaued by not yet coming down, though it never reached the levels of nearby countries, and Sweden where it is about to pass Switzerland on the way up. Daily new cases per million population in the USA now exceeds that in Switzerland. The USA now has 12 million confirmed cases, and the CDC estimates that the true number of infections is around 50 million, or 1 in 7 of the total population. Trump of course has gone AWOL and I suspect the USA is in for a bad winter.

My gym closed down again during this second wave. During the first wave it closed down for around 2 months and I tried to continue some light weight work at home. I had borrowed a couple of kettlebells from the gym and was somewhat aimlessly swinging these from time to time. However, my son took up a kettlebell challenge to do 10,000 swings of a 24 kg kettlebell in 4 weeks. He upgraded to 28 kg partway through.  That’s 500 a day, and he broke them up with some kettlebell presses every now and then.

I was inspired, and bought a 16 kg and 28 kg kettlebell and started using them 3 times a week. Initially, I was doing kettlebell swings at 28 kg and various double kettlebell routines with two 16 kg kettlebells (see video), though my favourite routine was the kettlebell snatch (second video). By the end of the lockdown I was doing 100 snatches, 100 clean and press and 100 double handed swings.

In early October, as it was becoming clear that a second lockdown was imminent, my son alerted me to an acquaintance who was selling some second-hand gym equipment. I acquired a squat stand, bench and 90 kg of plates and started doing some powerlifting training again, albeit without enough weight to really push the deadlift. When the gym closed in the second lockdown I borrowed a few more weight plates and started a more serious powerlifting training routine. After 5 weeks, I decided to test my current one rep maxes, in order to fine tune my training program.

I had enough plates to put 155 kg on the bar for the deadlift and I had guessed my 1 rep max at 170 kg earlier, so I hung an extra 10 on each end and deadlifted 175 kg fine (see video below). Did it twice. I suspect my real 1 rep max currently is 180 or maybe 185. Not far off the 190 personal best this time last year (see here).

For the squat, I lifted 100 kg and felt I had a little more in the tank. Happy with that, as its only 7.5 kg below what I achieved a year ago in the Geneva competition. My previous benchpress best was 105 kg. I lifted 95 kg fine (see video below) but failed on 100 kg. I backed off to 96 kg and did bench it, but with a struggle to lockout so I doubt it can be counted.  Anyway, happy with the new benchmarks after only 2 months training again with heavy lifts. I am finding that leaning a little beyond the edge in my strength training is challenging mentally as there are days when I dread having to go out and push myself.  But I usually enjoy it when I get into it and often feel an endorphin high afterwards. Helps to get through the social isolation and lockdown limitations.

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