Strength plan in trouble - advice needed

Hi guys hoping for some advice.

I have been training for 7weeks in the gym as part of a 10 week off season programme but UK lockdown now means I can no longer use the gym.

I had just finished strength phase and I have 3 weeks left (2 sessions a week) all of which would have been the power phase (or strength maximisation phase) ie the key part to turning strength into power.

I now find myself with no gym and no equipment. Can anyone advise what I can do for the next 3 weeks as an alternative to these twice a week gym sessions that may save my training plan or at least convert some of the strength to power!

Help!

Hi,

Sorry to hear that.
What was your plan?? Did you get it online or from a personal trainer?

Depending on the exercises you were doing leading up to it, you could do some basic bodyweight power exercises (think box jumps).

If you maybe put up what you were doing, and what you were hoping to do a few of us should be able to help.

Post the exercises and the brains trust will suggest no-equipment alternatives

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Frazrider,

Sorry to hear about your current circumstances.

I am a strength & conditioning coach and wrote this free, short e-book (below) at the start of the pandemic to help athletes — both the elite (like those with which I work) and the sub-par (like myself on a bike haha!) — maintain strength, power and speed with limited resources when gyms were shut down.

How to Maintain While Training from Home
A Guide for Creating Adaptation with Limited Resources

Very much not trying to self-promote here. I just believe that the underpinning concepts (stimulating the nervous system, time-under-tension, energy systems) might be more valuable than just thinking in terms of being able to replicate your traditional gym-based program somehow at home.

If you have any specific questions, I would be glad to help! TrainerRoad and those here have been immensely helpful to me as I have dived deeper and deeper into cycling.

— Ryan

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Thanks Ryan, great read!

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Thanks for sharing this, fantastic read so far.
Concise and pragmatic, all that we need at the moment.

Kudos to you Ryan! This should help a good few people on this forum.

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Hi

I was doing squats, leg press and leg curl. Worked up form adaptation, through hypertrophy and should just get strength phase finished on Wednesday.

But the plan was then to do 3 weeks, twice a week of power. Ie the same exercises with lower weight and faster movement.

I can stick to the bike plan just no idea what to do for the 6 days of gym I’ll miss. I also have no equipment.

Any ideas would be great. Happy to try anything on or off the bike as a substitute.

I may have a old back pack and some sand for squats but concerned it may be bad for the back.

On a positive I’ve got beyond strength phase but fear that could be pointless if don’t convert to leg speed. Could I do /replace with more riding with lots of dynamic sprints?

Frazrider,

A couple of quick ideas…

  1. Depending on how heavy your baseline is, loading a backpack with sand, books, etc is a great option. If you are worried about your back, consider putting the backpack on the front of your body (wear it backwards) or just giving it a huge bearhug. Strapping it up front will be similar to a front squat, relative to a back squat, in that it will lead you to maintain a more upright torso (which should pose less risk if you are concerned about your back). It will also make the load relatively heavier since you are at less of a mechanical advantage to move it. The bear-hug method has the same benefits as above, but it also requires you to hold tension in your upper body (since you have to HOLD the load, not just let it rest on your shoulders/traps via the backpack straps). This tension is also conducive for greater safety when squatting under load.

  2. Performing something with little-to-no load and great velocity (such as jumps and ground-based sprints) are tremendous for inciting neurological adaptation. In other words, they may not be ideal compared to lifting with heavy loads for strength gains (as little load does little mechanical damage to the muscles), they still do work the other pathway to creating strength and speed via the nervous system (teaching it to fire fast in a coordinated fashion). Of course, if you have not been sprinting (running-sprinting, not bike-sprints! haha!) then I would definitely suggest a progression for that. In the same sense, I would recommend box jumps (of conservative height) over just ground-to-ground jumps if you have not been jumping a lot, as the box reduces landing forces (which can be a bear on joints and muscles if not built up to correctly). One tip for trying to replace loaded exercises with jumps and plyometrics: the more you can replicate the movement pattern, the better transfer you will get; e.g. vertical jumps <–> Squatting; Broad Jumps <–> Deadlifting; Split Squat Jumps <----> Lunges

  3. Consider layering in Isometrics for retaining strength. I would defer to that section in the ebook I posted above for the best explanation I can give, however, if you try to move an immovable object, it is similar to trying to overcome the weight carried in any weight room movement. The neurological adaptations will be very similar to traditional strength training. Again, I would recommend trying to pair an ISO with its similar movement pattern.

Again, I know these aren’t 1-for-1 replacements for your specific exercises, but without knowing your exact resources at home (get creative! A large plastic storage container filled with books can be a “sled”; a giant rock can be a medicine ball; resistance bands are great and cheap online) and how long your lockdown will truly last, I defer to these principles to make more broad and adaptable changes to your programming!

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Look into Al Kavadlo. He’s a trainer that promotes body weight work. Several books on Amazon.

Many thanks. This is v useful.
I essentially have 6 sessions over 3 weeks I need to do. It was meant to be low weighted (relative to 1RM) but done quickly. It was jump squats and then just v quick leg press push and leg curl.

So it’s is these 3 I am trying to replicate. It feels like maybe light backpack on and vertical jump will replace squat.

Maybe split lunge to replicate curl?

Maybe just more jumps eg box jumps to replicate leg press also.

I am sensing doing something over the 3 weeks with high velocity will be better than conceding and going straight to my base plan without the power phase?

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Maybe this will help, I wrote this program when COVID started for a couple clients to get through the crazy lockdown. They seemed to have enjoyed it!

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Appreciate it - thanks.

Just looking to finish the 3 weeks left on plan with velocity exercise but will consider this for future and maybe for maintenance.

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A great substitution for the leg curl would be a version where you are lying supine (on your back) on the ground, beginning with knees bent in a glute bridge position. Place your heels on a towel (lift toes up to reduce friction on ground) and let the towel slide as you extend your knees to full extension, then return to flexion (knees bent where you started). It is essentially the exact same as a leg curl. If you are looking for something more akin to a “heavy” leg curl, you can do single-leg variations (either go single-leg for just the portion that you are extending out to a straight leg [the eccentric portion of the movement] or for the whole extension to flexion movement [the eccentric and concentric phases])

If you don’t have tile, hardwood or smooth concrete, another option is to begin in a similar position (without the towel), and slowly inch-by-inch march your heel out until you hit near-full knee extension.

Here is a youtube video of the leg curl w/ towel

To your final question, I personally would agree that trying to salvage it for a few more weeks would be beneficial. But I might be biased as a strength & conditioning coach :wink: The fact that you were aiming for a low-load, high-velocity phase means you really won’t be that far off from your desired plan. If you were in a max strength phase, that would be a little more of a drop off

What do you think of single leg curls with an exercise ball? Like this (random YouTube): https://youtu.be/e3EeeA6L3YQ

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Another solid option. :+1:

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Disclaimer… not a strength or cycling coach (although I am a coach in a different sport… more technical and power based). If it is the Fascat plan you are running or anything like that with the power phase: you could look at replacing those with plyometrics: rebound box jumps, plyometric lunges and weirdly skipping (jump for our US readers) rope… rebound box jumps would replace the jump squats for the quads, lunges will get the hams (if you do it right with the weight back and do not lean forward, that activates the lower back and quads too much) and the rope work will do the whole back of the legs covering the rest… not perfect but usable.

[Edit] if you don’t have anything strong enough to do rebound box jumps on then you could do standing long jumps. The trick there is to make them more plyometric by not sticking the landing to a full stop. Land and go immediately to the next one. Don’t need kit for that.

[2nd Edit] Rebound box jumps are hard on the leg joints. The deep ones to hip height or above(with kettle bells and all that stuff) are for the testiculators. Just pick a height that will allow you to do the cycling range of motion and when you drop back down cause you to brace a little. Speed is the point not height.

Single legged chair squats, or against a wall using a swiss ball, are a pretty hard challenge for most people (if you don’t cheat and lean your torso miles forward).

Single-legged glute bridges are also excellent, as are glute bridge walk-outs.

Walking lunges up and down the road with a heavy backpack (do them slowly, deep and with constant tension) are another good option.

3 hard sets of each of those and your legs will know about it.

Some many good options already, you should be pretty much covered!

I’ll just throw in the glute-ham raise as a replacement for the leg curls if you have somewhere/something to lock down your ankles. If speed and power are targeted, you can give yourself a little boost with your hands at the bottom of the movement so you can get back up forcefully and quickly.

I’ve also had good success with “pre-activating” my power movements with isometrics. You could step on a cheap tow strap and try to lift it in the same fashion as a trap-bar deadlift. Hold that max tension for 3-5 seconds and then perform your set of jump squats. You will be amazed by how much easier it is then to recruit a lot of muscle fibres - or at least that’s how it feels!

I did the same plan you are doing last year. For the power phase, it would seem to me a good substitute for the lighter weight explosive squats and leg press would be box jumps. Jump squats were fun and they certainly did get a lot of attention at the gym but jumping up on the box repeatedly without weights will probably have very similar effect.

The key bit for this phase is the plyometric aspect. So you start on the box and jump off and back on as quick as you can. Jumping from static onto the box isn’t ‘plyometric’. You are looking a working your switch from eccentric to concentric as fast as possible. I think that’s the point of the jump squats… open to correction on that.

Another option is just side to side jumps over a small obstacle. We use your standard gym low bench, but even a tool box from home works. You just hop back and forth sideways over it. No dwelling on the landing. Rep and set as you can based on the no dwell on landing requirement.

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