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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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?
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.
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 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
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.