Today's coaching tip, It is about how to build strength or at least maintain what you’ve worked so hard to build. While we’re away from the gym, traveling on vacation or work ... away from all the traditional equipment that helps us get stronger there are 7 things that you can be doing to add intensity to your workouts and even maintain or increase your current level of strength. Happy training!
Train Your Core! Now is the time to focus on all those core specific movements that we tend to skip when we’re short on time. The stronger your core, the stronger you will be. We use our core to brace and maintain form throughout our lifts as well as transfer power from our lower to our upper body.
a. Planks – all variations including low plank, high plank, side plank, Chinese planks (face up or face down)
b. Strict movements like knees to elbows, toes to bar, full sit-ups
c. Rotational Movements – woodchops, banded twists, Russian twists
2. Tempo Work - If you don’t have weights (other than your own bodyweight) or only have light weight then time under tension will challenge your muscles more than normal speed through a movement. When each rep takes longer, your muscles have to work harder. Slow the rep speed down and try different counts. Don’t consistently use the same tempo. Try this for any exercise. As an example, the Push-Up: One day perform the push-up with a tempo of 5 seconds down then 5 seconds up. The next time you do them try 8 seconds down then 8 seconds up. Any combination works and keeps your muscles confused.
3. Band Work – If you have a band, start to use it. As the band stretches, the tension gets greater hence increasing strength needed. Bands are great for triceps extensions, bicep curls, shoulder presses, good mornings, banded air squats, etc. Be creative!
4. Eccentric Work – The part of any movement that builds the most muscle and increase strength is the eccentric phase. That means the part of the lift when you are lowering the weight with gravity (in many cases back towards the floor). The key is though the slower you can go in this phase, the harder your muscles have to work which increases strength fast. Like tempo work, play with different amounts of time under that tension. You can make any bodyweight or lightweight exercise very challenging by focusing solely on the eccentric portion.
5. Isometric Holds – One easy way to increase strength is to try to hold a position within an exercise for as long as possible or a set amount of time. Examples would be a wall sit, handstand hold, top of pull up, top of a dip (or chair dip) or use what equipment you have and hold different positions in any movement (light dumbbells, bands, etc.). Possibilities are endless.
6. Unilateral Movements – Most of us love using a barbell but truthfully, your dominant side will always lift more which will keep that non-dominant side lagging behind, hindering our strength. Use this time to work on unilateral movements like lunges (forward and back), step ups, single leg Romanian deadlifts, Cossack squats, Bulgarian split squats or if you have a weight using it on one side then the other (be sure to do your weaker side first so you can set the rep scheme that works for both)
7. Max Effort Attempts – building muscle hypertrophy will always increase muscle endurance and strength. Throw those set rep schemes aside and try to do sets of max effort attempts. This can be done with any bodyweight movement as well as lightweight exercises. Push as hard as you can and feel that burn.