4 x 4: Taking Strength Training Up a Notch
This week, we’ll focus on two facets of strength training that you can utilize to move the needle forward: 4 Moves Every Athlete Should Master & 4 Ways to Up Your At-Home Sessions
The Basis of Strength Training
The benefits of strength training are growing more and more apparent. Whether it be 90min World Cup races or all day gravel expeditions, athletes are steering away from body-typing and the science is reaching the public. We are seeing a push towards more time in the gym.
Aerobically, everyone can "get fit" fast. However, strength training can dramatically improve overall raw power, repeatability, injury prevention, and (wait for it) even aerobic fitness! Strength training is actually quite variable in and of itself and is also super time efficient. Going into the gym and lifting heavy is actually great, but it’s something that has to be built up to. A lot can be done in your home with simple, basic moves while challenging your body with dynamic and varying exercises, by building core strength, and touching up on your upper body. This full body strength experience is what enables your body to work properly. Supplementing some dynamic work also does loads for activating important muscles throughout your body AND improving imbalances.
4 Moves Every Athlete Should Master
The Push: This encompasses the movements by the chest, triceps, and shoulders to do basic daily things like lift your kids, hold things overhead, or fight through a crowd(?). But we need them for function, performance, and injury prevention as athletes. These moves can be push ups, shoulder press variations, bench press variations, etc. I always include some single arm dumbbell presses to isolate one side and really emphasize form.
The Pull: This is a move you will definitely be doing without knowing it. Picking things up around the house, lifting things, and when you’re standing on the bike. Pull ups are a staple and you should work on them. Additionally, variations of rows are helpful for strengthening the core and working across planes.
The Squat: aka quad/knee dominant, this is your squat and lunge variations. The standard back squat & front squats, single leg squats, and lunges (highly recommended for athletes). If anything else, you should be doing these. I always include some lunges in the form of split squats or weighted lunges. They really light up and target the legs isometrically and address imbalances.
The Lift: aka hip dominant, this is your deadlift (DL) variation. These are key for athletes and especially cyclists for working on extension and creating strength from our hips. Standard barbell DL, trap bar DL, or even single leg/Romanian DL.
4 Ways to Improve Your At-Home Sessions
1. Set a Routine:
This is best initiated by doing something that flips a switch in your brain to say “hey, okay I know what this means. We are about to start a session”. For me, I get out the door first thing in the morning and go for a walk. I have to do this before I start anything else. That walk sets the stage for me – if it's a workout day then I’ll start doing some moves to get loose as I make my way back to the house. Initiating a routine or process will set a pattern that helps trigger you mentally each time.
2. Make it Easy:
This is in reference to both the time and space you create. A LOT can be done in 20-30min when done with consistency. If you can, make your space well-suited (and enticing) to use; for example, have a section where the equipment is easily accessible, clean, and somewhere that you like being (maybe a window view or move things outside when it gets nice).
3. Invest in a Few Tools
TRX Band: I can’t recommend this enough. The TRX band is something you can set up at home semi-permanently, travel with, and throw in a door frame. Heck, I even use it AT the gym. They’re a game-changer for enabling you to do about everything you can imagine without all the equipment, machines, etc. I suggest using it to really target some imbalances with single leg training. This article by Redbull is a good one for showing 10 well-rounded moves that will benefit your goals.
Kettlebell(s) or Weights: All you need is two-to-three different weights to take things up a notch. One light weight and one heavier one can enable you to progress your strength, mix it up, and keep the “at-home” sessions going.
A Mat: A simple yoga mat can make all the difference. Besides the fact it helps with your sessions/moves on the floor, it’s visually a sign of where you go to “work”.
Bands: These are great for activating and getting the right muscles turned on for workouts, rides, and strength sessions. I use them both to get ready for an interval day or as a part of my workout. They can additionally be used for upper body work on the shoulders and core!
While planning your workouts--or if you have hit a plateau on motivation--you can really improve your at-home experience with variation. This can mean targeting different muscle groups or the same muscle groups in different ways. Some practical examples are:
Lunges: change it by rotating between Bulgarian Split Squats, Side Lunges, Curtsy Lunges, etc.
Push movements: elevated push ups, single or double arm shoulder press, push ups from a TRX, etc.
Core: (where do I start?) planks, weighted or moving planks, rotations, TRX-based moves…
The point being, you can shift the way you DO movements and force that muscle to do something a little different. It doesn’t take much; consistent sessions that include variety are enough to improve your performance and health.
5. Bonus: Strength Training Exclusive
Send me an email (email@example.com) to get your PureClean Performance exclusive offer on my 4-week at-home strength training plan to get you up and running!
About the author
Carson Beckett is a professional cyclist and certified coach who holds a degree in Exercise Science from Brevard College. With the scientific background to match his competitive experience, Carson maintains a focus on the holistic and dynamic aspects of both training and racing. You can contact Carson at www.carsonjbeckett.com