It was about a year ago that they gyms in my area were put in lockdown because of Covid. For the first time since I was an obnoxious teenager I could not go to a gym to play with barbells and other heavy objects. This was a day I thought would never come.
However, over many decades of working out I had learned a variety of techniques for working up a serious sweat. I was not one of those helpless knaves who was completely lost without my exercise machine that did everything for me.
There is a tendency for those of us who do power training to get locked into rigid ways of doing things. Being forced to re-learn many things I practiced in the past will be very valuable for me going forward and might be of use to you.
Here are five workout tricks I learned in this past year
ONE: Move in multiple directions. When we do squat, bench press and deadlift we basically align our bodies to move in one direction. Virtually all weightlifting movements are controlled pulls or pushes along our personal center line.
This is fine for strength sports, but when suddenly confronted with something like shooting hoops, fly casting or playing a racket sport, it becomes evident that there are a lot of muscles (and connective tissues) that do not get worked by training strictly in one direction.
While power lifting may be a primary sport for most of us, I think it is imperative that we include activities in our training that force us out of our limited cocoon of movement.
TWO: Re discover the floor. Many of us watch the adds on tv about elderly people who have fallen on the floor and can not get up. For most of us this seems like something that happens on Mars.
One of the things I discovered when doing lots of calisthenics this past year is that getting up and down off the floor is not much of a challenge for those of us who are fit, but as we geeze it is essential to maintain the ability to get up and down with ease.
I always advise anyone over 65 to get up and down off the floor at least once a day. Form is irrelevant. Just do it!
One exercise that I plan on continuing to use indefinitely is the Turkish Get Up. It requires agility and strength in many dimensions. In the not too distant past, I regularly did get ups with a 24 Kg kettlebell. Having ignored this move for several years, I find that I must almost start over. However, I believe it will be well worth the effort.
THREE: Desk workout. Who would think that you could do some useful training sitting at a desk? This is supposed to be where muscles go to die!
Guess again. Sitting in a chair in front of a screen offers some unusual (and rarely used) opportunities for building strength and resilience.
Super spinal posture and deep breathing are two things that can be done every time they occur to you. All of us can benefit from deep cleansing breaths. As for posture, sitting erect is almost unseen outside of the military academies.
While seated you can do static muscle contractions. You can do this in many different positions. This will help build your brain-muscle connections which can significantly enhance your ability to exert force during your lifting.
You can also do some isometric contractions such as pushing up on the bottom of the desk, pulling on your chair seat, flexing your lower legs, and many other contractions.
The cool thing is that you can pull this off during a Zoom call and no one will have any idea what you are doing.
FOUR: Cardio! I have noted many times that most lifters would sooner eat a loaded diaper than do cardio. The price for avoiding cardio can be very high.
I have been happily running since 1966. I do not expect that many lifters will share my enthusiasm for running. I do it because I like it.
The problem is that many lifters avoid cardio and thus begin to suffer the physical degradation that comes with aging.
The impact of cardio on the brain and major organs is extremely positive and helps rejuvenate muscles as well.
My general advice is to avoid fads such as Tabata and seek out cardio work done at a leisurely pace. In the early days of the jogging boom the mantra was long slow distance. These days we understand the benefits of walking and cycling at a leisurely pace. Find one that you like, or at least hate less than others.
FIVE: Isometrics. Doing static contractions can have a major impact on building your strength and on building muscle size. There are multiple ways to practice isometrics, many of which I have re-discovered from my long past Olympic lifting days.
Static poses where you tense every muscle in your body for 5 to 10 seconds can build both strength and endurance. Initially use about 80-90% of your maximum tension in each pose. Over time either increase the tension and shorten the time under tension or stay at 80% tension and extend the time in the pose.
There are many poses you can use. The easiest for lifters are to take a static position that is an interim position in one of the power lifts. (eg. Squat with thighs at parallel).
I will be incorporating some elements of each of these five tricks into my future training when the gyms open again. IMHO each of these has unusual benefits that all of us can use to our advantage.