Sunday, April 26, 2020

Will You Lose All Your Strength During The Circuit Breaker If You Cannot Lift Weights?

Lunging with a 10 kg bag of rice 
We are currently at the end of week 3 of the circuit breaker (or modified lock down) in Singapore. Most of my patients who strength train are not able to take part in their usual exercises and training regimes. This is true especially for my bodybuilding and avid gym going patients, since gyms and other exercise centers are closed.

Not many of them have an ideal home gym for strength training during this period. So for them, there's a real threat of detraining (loss of strength) for them and other sporting populations. Any loss in muscle strength, power, muscle atrophy may affect future performance, injury risk and self esteem.

A recently published study (Blocquiaux et al 2020) studied older male patients (58-70 years old) during a 12 week whole body resistance training program. The subjects stopped training for 12 weeks and then resumed training for another 12 weeks.

Decent strength gains were made at 8 weeks (22%), and 12 weeks (36%) in leg strength (similar for upper limb).

What was most interesting was that all the strength gains (36%) during the initial 12 weeks were not completely lost during the 12 weeks of no training. 14% was lost during this period.

When the participants resumed training for another 12 weeks, they were stronger at the end of the second 12 week period than the first. It took them 8 weeks or thereabouts to regain what they lost in 12 weeks.

So if we were to compare with our current circuit breaker period (3 weeks and counting), don't be too discouraged. You can probably gain back what you lost. Hopefully it will take less time too looking at that study (Blocquiaux et al 2020) . For those of you who bike, run, row or do other endurance sports, there is a similar pattern observed for cardiovascular fitness too.

Now, lets look at female subjects. Correa et al (2016) studied a group of older women, and this time the period of no training was a whole year. The female participants gain an increase of 75% in strength after an initial 12 week training period. Much of these gains were lost after a year, back to baseline levels. However, after another 12 weeks or training, they gained a lot of this strength back, they were just 15% off their first 12 week training period.

So, another glimmer of hope for those of you who strength train. Though I'm hoping our circuit breaker will not be a year long!

If you make do with whatever you can find at home to strength train to failure albeit with a lighter weight, you will stave off some of the losses. That's what I try to do.

Many people are dealing with all sorts of mental and motivational issues other than physical and financial ones so exercise may be way down on their list of priorities. But if you can still exercise, it will definitely lift your mood Ludyga et al (2020).


Blocquiaux S, Gorski T et al (2020). The Effect Of Resistance Training, Detraining And Retraining On Muscle Strength And Power, Myofibre Size, Satellite Cells And Myonuclei In Older Men. Expt Gerontology. 133: 110860. DOI: 10.1016/j.exger.2020.110860

Correa CS, Cunha G et al (2016). Effects Of Strength Training, Detraining and Retraining In Muscle Strength, Hypertrophy And Functional Tasks In Older Female Adults. Clin Physiol Funct Imaging. 6(4): 306-310. DOI: 10.1111/cpf.12230.

Luduga S, Gerber M et al (2020). Systematic Review And Meta-analysis Investigating Moderators Of Long-term Effects Of Exercise On Cognition In Healthy Individuals. Nat Human Behav. DOI: 10.1038/s41562-020-0851-8

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