Home Posts tagged "body weight exercises"

Key Considerations for Making the Most of At-Home Training

Today's guest post comes from Cressey Sports Performance - Massachusetts coach, Drew Cobin.

Due to the current status of our country and gyms being closed, a lot of trainers, coaches, and fitness influencers are posting at-home workouts all over the internet. This article will seek to help sort out some of the clutter and help coaches, trainees, and anyone interested to make better at home training decisions.

Now, the first logical question to ask when organizing at-home health/performance training is, what is the goal? This will dictate a lot of the important variables in the at home training program. While just doing something is probably better than nothing, not having a goal in mind will likely lead to mediocrity. This is because without a specific focus, the training strategy will likely be less successful, as it is pulled in too many directions.

It’s kind of like switching majors in college. If the goal is to get a specialized degree, the best course of action is probably to stick to one major and take all the classes that it requires. Getting the degree isn’t going to come easily or quickly, but sticking to one major will definitely lead to steady progress toward the end goal. Training is the same, working towards one goal and staying the course will lead to faster and longer lasting progress.

When choosing an at-home training program, you need to make sure that you consider three important factors: Specificity, Overload, and Fatigue Management/Recovery. Let’s look at each in a bit more detail.

Specificity asks, “Does the program involve exercises, volumes, and intensities that reflect the goal.” So, doing four sets of 50 jumps squats holding a baseball will likely not help that baseball player in search of his baseball performance goal because the exercise itself is not very sport specific, and the repetitions are too high to train for power given the intensity of this exercise.

In consideration of Overload, in order to improve the human system, getting temporarily worse will result in getting better according to Hans Selye’s GAS Model, and the principle of supercompensation. This means that resistance training itself does not build muscle, improve cardiovascular function, or shred body fat. In fact, it is the cessation of training when adaption or the physiological improvement, supercompensation occurs. A good training program will overload the system over time through appropriate periodization or the manipulation of volume and intensity over time allowing for adaption to occur.

Third, we have to account for Fatigue Management and Recovery, since the resistance training or exercise itself does not improve the system; rather, the subsequent tissue recovery and repair does. Too much fatigue can disrupt the system by inhibiting our ability to recover sufficiently. Fatigue is absolutely essential for improvement, but without proper management, it can cause diminishing returns. For example, going too heavy, training to failure too often, or inducing massive amounts of high intensity work can cause an acute or chronic performance decline. With the aforementioned 4x50 jumps squats example, imagine trying to do sprints right after: the sprints will surely be less effective than if you had done something less fatiguing prior. The same can be said for over-fatiguing in a more chronic manner; an example is training to failure multiple days in a row on deadlifts for multiple weeks. In this case, initial acute improvements may be made, but over time, injury may occur and/or performance will decline by neglecting to get enough recovery between high stress training sessions.

So, with that said, making sure the training stimulus is one that allows for quality stress or fatigue distribution daily, weekly, monthly, and even yearly can be crucial in search of maximizing progress. One might ask, is this an exercise that is challenging enough, but allows for proper execution of the rest of the exercises in the program? For example, what might be more effective for strength gain: a) supersetting a high threshold compound strength movement like a deadlift with a low threshold coordination movement like a bear crawl, or b) doing four high threshold compound strength movements in a row back to back, like doing heavy deadlifts, then heavy squats, then heavy bench press, then heavy overhead press? The answer, of course, is the first selection – and then mixing in those higher threshold movements in over the course of the rest of the day or week.

Knowing this, what techniques might be most effective given limited equipment selection at home? Well first, let’s look at three training constants that directly apply to successful training stimuli in application of the GAS model to achieve the desired effects of supercompensation.

Three Ways to Stimulate Hypertrophy (Muscle Growth)

1. Mechanical Tension
2. Muscle Damage
3. Metabolic Stress

Now let’s say building muscle is the goal of an at home training program. The three ways to stimulate hypertrophy or muscle growth should all be included in making a training program effective.

Mechanical Tension represents increasing load on the tissue progressively, or simply using enough resistance. One strategy to do this at home would be to decrease the base of support in order to increase the resistance applied to one specific tissue. For example, in a squat, the prime mover is the knee joint, so in a training cycle, one could start with bilateral squats, progress to split squats, and then finally, single leg squats. This progression will apply more resistance through bodyweight and gravity alone on the quadriceps, glutes, and the stabilizer muscles involved in these movements.

The next order of business is to induce Muscular Damage. The eccentric or lowering phase of a movement will create the most muscle damage. So, we probably want to focus on the lowering phase of the squat, split squat, and single leg squat by spending the most time there. Five seconds or so down during each repetition will likely be a great strategy to induce muscle damage.

Lastly, we want to achieve higher levels of Metabolic Stress, which usually is done through using higher rep ranges. Different strategies such as intelligently designed supersets using not competing muscle groups, and things like 1.5 reps can also be effective for creating metabolic stress. In fact, in athletic performance training programs, achieving metabolic stress can occur in many different ways other than always doing high reps. Strength training occurs in the 1-5 rep range, so if the trainee wants to improve strength, searching for metabolic stress elsewhere may be best in certain situations. Isometrics can be huge for strength capabilities, so pairing an isometric squat variation of appropriate difficulty with a jump or sprint could be a great idea for an athlete while training at home.

Let’s sum it up:

1) Have a goal in mind.

2) Don’t freak out if you can’t train as much.

3) Your strength won’t decline so much that it won’t come back after these next couple of weeks; studies have shown that strength does comes back fairly quickly.

4) Do something fast! Power is the ability to produce force rapidly, and contrary to strength, it does tend to decline quickly. Luckily, power training can be trained easily with just body weight as resistance (sprinting, jumping, landing, shuffling, etc.).

5) Flush out internet programs or workouts by looking for a net positive gain. Look for Specificity, Overload, and Fatigue Management in a program, and look for Mechanical Tension, Muscular Damage, and Metabolic Stress, in a given workout. Then decide if a program or workout will result in a net positive towards your goal.

If learning more and training efficiently during these crazy times sounds intriguing, feel free to reach out to us at Cressey Sports Performance. We’re happy to help out with online programming to get you headed in the direction of your goals, regardless of your equipment limitations. Just drop us an email at csp.trainonline@gmail.com.  

About the Author

Drew Cobin, CSCS serves as a Semi-Private Strength & Conditioning Coach and Strength Camp Associate Coordinator here at CSP. He is a graduate of Central Connecticut State Uni​​​​versity, where he studied Exercise Science and played varsity soccer. Drew has experience coaching in many different avenues, but his great passion is in training for performance. He offers insight into cutting through some of the clutter, and staying on the path towards the goal. You can follow him at @drewcobin on Instagram.

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7 Strategies for Strength Training with the Minimum

Recently, my wife and I vacationed in Italy, and fitness nuts that we are, we frequented several hotel gyms - none of which were particularly well equipped. Here's the one from hotel in Florence; yes, it was just dumbbells up to 10kg.


Immediately upon leaving, I sent an email to Cressey Performance coach Andrew Zomberg (@AndrewZomberg), who I knew was the guy to write up a post on having a great training effect without much equipment. This is what he pulled together; enjoy! -EC

Greater equipment availability generally yields greater efficiency because in order to induce structural or functional adaptations, you have to “force” the body to do so. Unfortunately, getting to a gym is not always feasible. The good news? Resistance training does not always have to depend on cable machines, power racks, and barbells.

Inaccessibility to gym equipment can be discouraging. The good news is that by creating structured programs and discovering new ways to challenge yourself with progressions, you can easily elicit a comparable training effect, just as if you were in a gym. Here are some options:

1. Body Weight Exercises

Undoubtedly, your body weight is the easiest, most accessible piece of equipment to utilize anywhere, anytime. Allowing for a more natural range of motion, body weight exercises enhance spatial awareness and improve the proficiency of movements since no other load is being used.

Progression: Alter the range of motion by increasing the total distance of the movement. For example, when doing a push-up, rather than keeping your feet in contact with the floor, try elevating them to increase stability demands of the core as well as the shoulder girdle. You can also add isometrics to any bodyweight exercise at halfway points and end ranges to impose added stress. You can use tri-sets to keep rest periods short and work in some bonus mobility work.

Sample Bodyweight Workout

Perform each tri-set three times:

A1) Body-Weighted Squats
A2) Push-up
A3) Wall Hip Flexor Mobilizations

B1) Reverse Lunge
B2) Prone Bridge Arm March
B3) Rocking Ankle Mobilizations

C1) 1-Leg Hip Thrusts off Bench
C2) Side Bridge
C3) Split-Stance Kneeling Adductor Mobilizations

2. TRX Suspension Training

Easily portable, this piece of equipment can be anchored almost anywhere and targets virtually every muscle group. The TRX suspension trainer is a great tool for full-body awareness, as most of the exercises call for optimal body alignment from head to toe. It also places a significant emphasis on the core by challenging your ability to resist unwanted movement in every plane of motion at the lumbar spine.


Progression: Lengthen the lever arm to reposition your center of mass further from the anchor to increase the total range of motion. Or, slow down the lift to create a greater time under tension effect thus imposing muscular damage for hypertrophy gains.

Sample TRX Workout:

Perform three times through, resting two minutes at the end of each "round."

TRX Anti-Rotation Press: x 8/side
TRX Inverted Row: x 10
TRX Bulgarian Split-Squat: x 8/leg
TRX Push-up: x 8
TRX Fallouts: x 10
TRX Overhead Squat: x 8

On a related note, if you haven't checked out EC's article, 10 Ways to Progress an Inverted Row, it's definitely worth a read!

3. Dumbbell and Kettlebell Exercises

Often found in hotel gyms, these are very affordable for the home or office and provide a wide range of exercise selection. Their biggest advantage is they provide enough options to gain a solid training effect. If the weight selection is too low, you can use higher volume schemes and minimize rest periods. When completing these complexes, execute the exercises without dropping the implement to increase the overall intensity.

DB Progression: Use stability balls, or half and tall kneeling positions to create a greater instability factor. Or, focus on the eccentric portion by taking a few more seconds to lower the weight in order to stress the muscle.

KB Progression: Turn the kettlebell upside down to a “bottoms-up” position to change the dynamic of the exercise. By moving the object’s center of mass further from the rotation (your wrist), you create more instability, forcing co-contractions of all the muscles of the upper extremity.

Sample Dumbbell Workout:

Perform three times through, resting two minutes at the end of each "round."

DB Goblet Squat: x 8
DB Renegade Row: x 8/arm
Offset DB Split-Squat: x 8/side
1-Arm DB Floor Press: x 10/arm
DB Prone Arm Marches: x 6/arm
DB Burpees: 3 x 15

Sample Kettlebell Complex:

Perform three times through, resting two minutes at the end of each "round."

KB Front Squat: x 6/side
KB 1-Arm Row: x 8/arm
KB 1-Arm, 1-Leg RDL: x 8/leg
Half-Kneeling 1-Arm KB OH Press: x 10/arm
KB Swings: x 20
1-Arm KB Bottoms-up Waiter’s Carry: x 25 yards/arm

4. Resistance Bands

Very portable, bands are inexpensive and create an accommodating resistance effect. In other words, where you are biomechanically the weakest, the band will reduce its level of tension at that given position. The same effect will occur as you become biomechanically stronger; the level of tension will increase at that specific range. Bands also allow for direct arm and hip care for deeper muscles that provide the adequate stability for these multi-planar joints.

Progression: Play around with your base of support. Utilizing a narrow stance or tall kneeling position will alter the stability demands, making it more challenging to maintain joint neutrality. Or, add isometrics at the end range by holding the contraction for 5 seconds.

Sample Band Workout:

Perform three times through, resting two minutes at the end of each "round."

Overhead Band Squats: x 10
Band-Resisted Push-up: x 10
Side-Bridge w/Row: x 8/arm
X-Band Walks: x 12/side
Standing Split-Stance Vertical Anti-Extension Press: x 12
1-arm Band Rotational Row w/Weight Shift: x10/arm

5. Medicine Balls

Affordable and found in many hotel gyms, these are great for linear and rotational power, given how quickly you must produce force for maximal output, and how the stretch-shortening cycle plays into each exercise. Medicine balls are also good for core activation due to their emphasis on optimal alignment with overhead and rotational patterns.

Progression: Speed up the movement to increase your heart rate and enhance your power skills. Or, simply add more volume to the complex.

Sample Medicine Ball Workout:

Perform three times through, resting two minutes at the end of each "round."

Overhead Med Ball Slams: x 12
Rotational Scoop Toss: x 8/side
Side-to-Side Overhead Slams: x 8/side
Tall Kneeling Chest Passes: x 12
Hip-Scoops to Wall: x 12

6. Gliders

Very portable, gliders (our favorite is the ValSlide) can conveniently be replaced by household items - like furniture sliders or even towels - if you're in a pinch. Given their size and usage, these disks provide a tremendous amount of direct and indirect core work, since most of the exercises force you to fight against gravity in an anti-extension and anti-rotational manner. Gliders also improve stability due to the unnatural surface environment on which each exercise is performed.

Progression: Change your base of support by elevating an arm or leg off the floor. Decreased points of stability will call for greater concentration of the core in order to maintain optimal spinal alignment during each movement. If accessible, add an external load such as a weighted vest for a real challenge.

Sample Glider Routine:

Perform three times through, resting two minutes at the end of each "round."

Reverse Lunges: x 8/leg
1-arm Push-up: x 8/arm
Leg Curls: x 12
Bodysaws: x 10
Mounting Climbers: x 30 seconds

7. Stability Ball Exercises

A staple in most hotel gyms and very affordable for home or office use, stability balls provide a level of volatility that challenges your strength. Basically, in order to combat the dynamic perturbations of stability balls, additional muscles must co-contract to prevent joint deviations.

Progression: Elevate your feet or attempt pause reps at the end range to make the unstable environment even more challenging. Or, create additional perturbations by having a training partner hit the ball in different directions in an effort to knock you off your stability during the lift.

Sample Stability Ball Workout:

Perform three times through, resting two minutes at the end of each "round."

Elevated Push-ups: x 8
Leg Curls: x 10
Stability Ball Rollouts: x 10
Dead Bugs – arms and legs: x 6/side

A Few Notes

  • Be sure to invest a few minutes with soft-tissue work and ground-base and dynamic movements to prepare your body for the workout and prevent injury.
  • Be mindful of areas that need more emphasis than others. For example, structural balance is a common issue due to postural adaptations. Placing more emphasis on the posterior chain and upper back will reduce the overused areas and still provide a solid training effect.
  • Select "casual" rest intervals for most programs. But if you decide to create a greater disturbance, reduce the rest time. Just make sure the load is relatively low so form is not compromised. For complexes, the goal is not to put the object down until you have completed the entire round of exercises prescribed!
  • Make an effort to log your workouts. Noting your exercise selection, volume, load, and tempo will spare time in programming your next workout so you do not backtrack but rather progress.

Give some of these ideas a try next time you're in an "equipment pinch" and I think you'll find them to be a lot harder than they look!

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Workout Routines: Exercising on Vacation – Part 2

In my last blog post, Workout Routines: Exercising on Vacation - Part 1, I outlined why I think it's a good idea for most people to have at least a little structured exercise over the course of a vacation that spans a week or more.  Today, I wanted to use my own vacation workout schedule as an example of how you can stay active without filling up your schedule too much. First, though, I think it's important to make two points: 1. There's a difference between "physical activity" and "exercise" - and it's fine for a vacation to include a lot more of the former than the latter.  You'll see below that I didn't "exercise" every day, but I was very physically active the entire time.  We walked on the beach almost every morning, and during our trip, we did ziplined, swam, rode horses, snorkeled, and hiked.

2. What you do before you leave for vacation is likely as important as what you do during vacation.  I prefer to intentionally "overreach" right before I leave for any extended period of time, as it allows me to essentially "write off" the first few days of travel as recovery (everybody likes to sleep on airplanes and crush awful airport food, right?). To that end, we flew out on a Saturday morning very early in the morning, so I chalked Saturday up as a travel day.  That meant that Mo-Fr in the week before were training days (MoTh - upper body, TuFr - lower body, We - energy systems work).  Since I knew I wouldn't really have access to any heavy weights to use for lower body training, I made sure that it was the last thing I did before I left.  Here's how the rest of the vacation looked (keep in mind that my wife joined me for all these sessions; it wasn't like I was ditching her on our honeymoon): Sa: Travel Day (just a walk on the beach that night) Su: Upper body TRX work consisting of inverted rows, pushups, Ys, Fallouts, External Rotations/Ws, and some curls for the girls (hey, I was pretty much on the beach; don't judge!)

Mo: Sprinting on the beach (eight sprints of about 80yds).  When the view is this good, you really can't complain about being out of breath.

Tu: Lower Body TRX work consisting of pistol squats, stir the pot (video below, thanks to Dewey Nielsen), Bulgarian split squats, calf raises, and side bridges

We: Upper body TRX work consisting of (more) inverted rows, flutters, 1-arm row w/reach, and fallout extensions

Th: 2 hours of snorkeling was plenty of physical activity for me Fr: Another light TRX session, which was just kind of a filler of inverted rows (figured I'd use this week to be proactive with my bum shoulder) and additional core work.  To be very honest, I was pretty sunburned by this point, which is why I kept it short.  Did do some prone reaches (props to Dewey below once again), which is a good exercise to try, if you haven't seen them before:

Sa: 3 hours hiking in Manuel Antonio National Park.  Not a bad view from the top, huh?

Su: More sprinting on the beach, this time for 12 sprints of about 60yds. Mo: Travel Day, so not much moving around besides the 2-3 mile walk on the beach that morning We arrived home at midnight, and I was back to my normal lifting schedule on Tuesday. As you can see, this wasn't a ton of training time.  In fact,  I don't think a single one of these sessions lasted more than 20 minutes, and all of them were done outside in the fresh air and sunshine.  I'm not saying that you have to include this much exercise in your vacations, but I am trying to show that if you are interested in maintaining an active lifestyle even when you travel, that it can be done quite easily and without a ton of time invested. Plus, most of these were body weight training exercises, so you don't need a lot of equipment to get them done. Have some vacation exercise strategies of your own?  Please share them in the comment section below. Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a deadlift technique tutorial!
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