Not being able to follow your training plan due to certain circumstances like vacations, holidays, or not being able to get to the gym can be very frustrating. You likely spent good money on a coach, spent a good amount of time coming up with a plan, or you’re very insistent on following the plan to a T. Plus, there is the potential of losing momentum, which would scare pretty much anybody passionate about strength training. I understand you guys because I check all of these boxes. BUT, sometimes things are completely out of your control, and you have no choice but to suspend or adjust your current plan due to present circumstances. Don’t worry, folks. As long as you’re not prepping for a meet or upcoming competition, a week or two or six will not destroy all your gains. There are many alternatives that one can do during this period that can potentially HELP your progress, whether that be physically or mentally.

I’m writing this article because the COVID-19 outbreak has pretty much shut down the world, and for a good reason. Because of its unbelievable ability to spread from person to person, the virus has led to the closure of all the gyms, at least in Quebec and nearby provinces. I can’t even go to the private training facility that I work at to go for a training session, even though it sees a maximum of three people at once during this time of the year. I’m not complaining, and I understand the measures taken by the government to ensure that the spread of the virus comes to a halt as soon as possible. It just puts me, and I’m sure THOUSANDS of people, in a challenging, yet interesting situation. Interesting in the fact that, if access to a gym is not an option for you, it's time to test your knowledge of training or to experiment with something new.

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If you’re reading this article, you’re most likely very passionate about training and could NOT see yourself going a week without training. If you’re in the same boat as me, in which you can’t go to a gym and you can’t follow your training plan, don’t panic or get frustrated, you’re not going to lose all your muscle or strength. It might just be time to try something new! Be creative and experiment with the equipment and space you have available, and I’m sure you will be able to plan some pretty sweet training sessions.

If you have your own private setup somewhere and can continue training normally, well…screw up (just kidding, please invite me!).

Let’s say though that you’re very lucky and your gym is still open. Still, it’s the only gym in the whole province (cause I’m Canadian) or state and the place is overwhelmed with people so you can’t get to a squat rack without waiting half an hour for the dude in front of you to stop swiping right to every girl he sees in hope of finding a Netflix buddy. Getting in your heavy squats, or main lifts in general, most likely won’t be an option. Unless you’re prepping for an upcoming meet, why not just take this time to try something else? Experiment with some bodybuilding techniques to increase your muscle mass and improve your conditioning. Not only could it be good for your joints or help resolve some muscle weaknesses, but mentally it could be refreshing. If you’re like me and love lifting heavy weights, do two to three weeks of bodybuilding work, and I guarantee you’ll be itching to get back under a bar and start smashing reps in the single digits. However, you’ll have improved your GPP, thus allowing you to recover quicker in between heavy training sessions. You may have also added some more muscle mass in the areas that can improve your main lifts. Overall, the short period of off-road training can provide some significant benefits to your progress in the long run.

Unfortunately, I assume the majority of people are not able to find an open gym and will have to resort to training at home. Although it’s not ideal, there are MANY things you can do. All you need is to bring out your knowledge of training and get a little creative. Again, I’m going to assume that most readers here will have AT LEAST some bands at home. More fortunate people may have some small machines like a back extension, leg curl, and leg extension combo, and maybe some dumbbells lying around somewhere in the house. Either way, many exercise options can be done in the comfort of your home. Here is an example of what I did today for legs with my training partner.

Leg Day

  • Warm-up – 2 x 15 BW reverse lunge SS 2 x 25 mini-band Reverse Hyper™ on a GHD
  • Leg Curl – 1 x 20, 1 x 15, 3 x 10, 1 x Fail/Fail/Fail/Fail (dropping 5-10 pounds per mini-set)
  • Heel Elevated Squat – 3 x 8 (warm-up), 3 x 10 (Goblet), 2 x 10 (DB Squat) VERY slow eccentric and focused on the quads. We just went back and forth (resting while the other was doing a set)
  • Leg Extension – 5 x 20 (30 seconds rest)


  • Goblet Split Squat (Poliquin style – Knee going past toes) – 4 x 12/leg
  • 90 Degree Back Extension – 4 x 20 (rest while other does superset)

I can tell you one thing, although we didn’t have a lot of heavy weight to work with, we made it one brutal session. We were both a little green around the gills and looked like two wobbly penguins walking around my kitchen trying to get food. It would’ve been fun to keep up with my training cycle and to get some good benching in (cause God knows I need it!), but it was refreshing to get out of the routine and try to ruin my training partner’s legs.

Now let’s say you don’t have an assortment of machines and equipment available like I do and only have bands. Of course, you’re going to be much more limited in terms of what you can do, but you can still get some good work in. It’s pretty much Spring weather, and thankfully the dreaded snow is starting to melt (and if it’s nice in Quebec, I’m sure it’s nice where you are), so why not do something outside? It’s a great opportunity to go to a park or track and do some conditioning or recovery work. For example, here is something I used to do as a recovery day when I was playing hockey that I noticed helped get some blood flow to the muscles and loosen up my joints.

Recovery Day

  • Warm-up (jump rope, dynamic stretch, light plyometrics)
  • Sprint, walk, bands/bodyweight work
  • Sprint = 6-10 x 60-100 yards at 70-80%
  • Walk back to starting line
  • Perform a set of band good mornings/hammer curls/lateral raise/, bodyweight push-ups/squats/glute bridge, or some ab work (3-4 exercises, 3-4 sets, +20 reps)
  • Repeat

Depending on how hard you want to push it, this can either be a light recovery session or a pretty brutal conditioning training session that has you breathing heavily at the end. Consider this as well, when was the last time you did high rep sets of push-ups? What about walking lunges for laps around a football field? If you really want to have some fun, why not put your car in neutral, have someone in the driver’s seat steering, and just push your car for sets of 30-50 yards?  If you decide to do this, it may be wise to have a bucket at the finish line…

The point of this is to show you that there are limitless ways to push your body! With all the content elitefts ALONE puts out on different exercises and programs, you can come up with some pretty fun (aka brutal) training sessions with minimal equipment. You guys know, all it takes is a second to sit down and get the creative juices flowing.

Hopefully, by the time this gets published, the COVID-19 outbreak settles down, and gyms reopen so that we can all get back to making progress towards our goals! In the meantime, though, keep training, stay positive, but most importantly, stay safe.

Header image credit: Tom Kuest © 123rf.com

Max Daigle is working on his undergrad at McGill University in BSc. Physiology, with a Minor in Kinesiology. He played NCAA D1 hockey at the University of Vermont before transferring to McGill, in which he played two seasons. Max works at Axxeleration Performance Center under the mentorship of Mark Lambert (Head Strength Coach Tampa Bay Lightning NHL) and Sebastien Lagrange. Axxeleration Performance Center is a private gym just outside of Montreal, Quebec, that works primarily with hockey players, but is welcoming to athletes of all sports.