Do you feel you work hard to build a high level of strength only to lose it? Do you feel you have a hard time maintaining your strength? What about while you travel, do you continue training? Do you feel your schedule takes a toll on your strength training? In the past, I would have answered “yes” to these questions, but now my answers are different. My travels have really increased over the past two and half years, so I want to share what has worked for me in hopes that I can help you stay strong even when your schedule is not ideal.
As many of you may know I completed the Iron Maiden challenge in early 2012. At that time I would say that I was at my PEAK strength. After a short from after the IM, I continued with my heaving training and hit 2x bodyweight deadlift. These numbers while not EASY, were EASIER when I could be consistent with a program and owned my own gym that I trained in daily. However, life happens and there are two main reason that have made this training no longer conducive.
1. I had pain in my left hip that was diagnosed as a labrum tear. Then I had a PRP procedure that forced me to take some time off of heavy lower body training.
2. I began traveling regularly which in turn changed my normal training program.
When I am home I prefer to have a set program for MWF, however traveling does not make this possible on a regular basis.
So what have I learned?
I am still STRONG and I have been able to regain a high level of strength since number 1 and maintain it during number 2.
I am not going to lie – I have had my share of overuse injuries due to becoming impatient while I was first learning to deal with the recovery of my hip after the PRP. Sometimes it is our own mistakes that we can learn the most from. Through these injuries and changes I my schedule, I have learned so much. Now I know how to manage and maintain my strength without a set x per week program. While I am not at my all-time MAX, I know how to program to reach those PR’s in a timely fashion when needed.
On April 1st, I was training a student and while doing a demo of the military press, I felt really strong so I decided to test one of my old PR’s. I wanted to test myself and see of what I have been doing was really working. I cleaned the 24kg and military pressed it on both sides with ease.
The best part is that I haven’t been pressing heavy and haven’t really pressed or done much with the 24kg bell since the Iron Maiden (except some swings here and there).
I was so excited because this confirmed that this new way of training has indeed kept me STRONG.
I have no doubts that it can work for you also, if you should choose to give it a shot. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying forever abandon your current strength program. I still love a set program and design programs daily for my students around their goals and schedules. What I am saying is that it is not the only way!
I learned about GTG (grease the groove) from Pavel back in 2008 and also learned about treating your training like a practice. These methods have been a part of my training and programming ever since, but now even more so.
So here’s how my journey to this type of training came about. I really enjoy pressing, however I had to take some time off due to some elbow pain after Very VERY high volume pullups back in Dec 2013. I would call this an over use injury due to becoming obsessed with pullups after my PRP procedure. I was told no lower body training for 3 months, so I began doing WAY TOO MANY pullups. Which I won’t go into great detail on that because that is a whole other blog post. The shortest version of elbow pain story is that I had to be off the pull up bar for almost a year other than an single example here or there for my teaching and about 6 month off pressing. I was determine to completely heal my elbows and be patient about it this time.
Last June (2014) when I moved to Dallas I had two months off to get settled into my new home. So I decided to do one of Pavel’s pressing programs. We all know his programs are amazing and provide results quickly. After not pressing for 6 months, I went from ZERO to 20kg 4R/4L in just 8 weeks. However, after this 8 weeks, my schedule returned to its new “insane” normal which didn’t allow for me to follow this type of program. So I stopped pressing, well at least in this fashion.
From August to December, I trained more bodyweight as I was traveling to teach mostly bodyweight course and certifications with some kettlebell mixed in. My training had returned to a more GTG and practice fashion. (training example at the end)
January 2015, since I had another break from traveling I decided to shock my system and get a little endurance training in. I did Dan John’s 10k Swing Challenge with my students. Then February, I returned to my travels and practice schedule. While I am instructing all my demos become my training, my GTG practice. Most of my training has been progressions/regressions of the following exercises:
And more importantly….
- Breathing/Tension drill
- Planks variations
- Hollow drills
- Grip work
Practicing these skills are what has helped me maintain my strength. All of these skills can be added to your program for greater strength gains.
My purpose for this post is two fold
1) Show you that you can maintain strength without killing yourself in the gym.
2) Show you how amazing bodyweight strength training is.
I have really enjoyed teaching others how great the carryover is to other skills from increasing your bodyweight strength. While traveling abroad for 2.5 weeks (South Africa & Australia) my schedule only allowed for about 4 – (30 min) weighted training sessions. During that time I did Dbl 16kg C&J’s and the rest of the time my training came from BW demos at the certifications I was instructing. Since returning to the states March 10th, I have had 1-2 days home per week to train before traveling again. Here’s an example of my schedule/training from March 10th – April 4rd, just to prove that you too can maintain strength with minimal training sessions. (feel free to skip this section if not interested)
3/10 – Arrive to Dallas after 27 hrs flying back from Perth
3/11-3/15 Spend time with Daughter (on Spring Break from school) & recover from Jetlag
3/16 – Train BW practice
3/17 – catch up on emails, programs etc
3/18 – Train BW practice
3/19 – conf. calls, emails, design programs, pack
3/20 – Fly to North Carolina (Thank you SWA – Tampa delay, reroute to Atlanta, arrive Durham 1AM)
3/21 – Teach an SFG recert (KB demo GTG)
3/22 – Teach an SFB bw course ( bw demo GTG)
3/23 – Fly home (nope bad weather – stuck in Chicago all day)
3/24 – Finally arrive home – unpack, laundry, check on students, emails etc
3/25 – First weighted session in a while (TGU, PU, Dbl MP & SQ, Snatch test)
3/26 – Pack and Fly to California
3/27 – Training session – (Pullup, SLDL, OAPU, Row)
3/28 – Retreat Meetings all day
3/29 – BW & Sprints on Beach then back to meetings rest of day
3/30 – Fly home (spend evening with daughter)
3/31 – unpack, laundry, and work emails etc
4/1 – Training session – (TGU & Snatch test in AM, PM decided to test 24kg MP)
4/2 – Repack, email, program design, conf call
4/3 – Fly to Boston
4/4 – Teach an SFG recert then back to airport to fly home.
Another GTG training that I try to do often is Pullups. I have a bar on my bathroom door and have to hop up and do a set of pullups before I come back out.
As you can see from the above example my schedule is truly crazy and might be wondering how you can add these BW practices into your training or into your current program. I will show you how to do both.
PRACTICE / GTG:
Daily or a few times per week – Pick a few BW skills to work on. I recommend tension drills be one of them due to the carry over. I practice tension drills all the time, it may sound crazy but even while driving or sitting on a plane. Being able to tense your muscle is a skill that must be practiced to get the most benefit.
Example: I will still while driving and engage just my left lat, then my right. Then engage my left glute, then just the right. It is also a skill to be able to determine the amount of tension you need for each given skill/weight you are loading.
I would also recommend you practice the skill of varied breathing. Crocodile breathing (relaxed), Power breathing (tension) and breathing behind the shield (tension while still speaking and keeping the traps, neck and face relaxed). Other skills that I would add to your practice would be plank variations (I will be teaching many of these at the STRENGTH RETREAT in May). Hope to see you there. If you are interested you can register here => STRENGTH RETREAT
BW can be programmed as Medium/Light/Heavy days just like you program your kettlebell or barbell training. How? …You ask, Use your bodyweight, progressions/regressions and different elevations to make the skill more or less challenging.
OAPU (one arm push up)
medium day – use a box for ladders 1,2,3 r / l and OA or OAOL plank holds on the ground
light day – wall OAPU with proper set up and groove solid technique for set of 5-10
heavy day – use a challenge elevation for singles or return to the wall and practice OAOL
If this type of training has sparked your interest then I have several options for you….
1. Keep and eye out for a FULL BW program to appear in an STRONGFIRST article soon.
2. If you are egger to get started, contact me for distance coaching/program design.
3. Register for an upcoming SFB certification or course and learn all progressions to take your training to the next level.