How to do weights when the gym is closed?

At the gym I do some dumbbell/body weight work (eg lunges, bosu ball squats, side lunges) as well as plyometrics, but also have been hitting the leg press, leg extension, and hammy curl machines. Given that my gym is closing Friday due to covid, how can I replicate the stress of moving heavy weights when all I have is a pair of 12# dumbbells at home? I’m assuming lots and lots of reps with the dumbbells and more plyos?

Great question, and one that I think we are all dealing with to some degree!

The exercises that you’ve been completing at the gym are excellent, in particular the lunges, bosu squats, and side lunges because those can all adapt to a home routine. Moving into the next Covid closure, those 12# dumbbells will be helpful, and there might be other things at home you can use.

I would actually not recommend increasing the reps dramatically because that will not necessarily help with the strength development, so finding a way to move a moderate amount of weight very quickly (plyos/power movements) or finding other implements to move a lot of weight for lower reps will be key.

You can use the 12# DB’s to bring in a lot of good core work (e.g., renegade rows, plank side pass) and to build your exercises to support explosiveness by using them with the same lunges and squats you’ve done previously. In addition, to help tune up your current gym routine for at home:

  • Lunges in the gym ----> 4-6 split squat jumps with the 12# DB’s (x4-5 sets)
  • Bosu ball squats ----> 4-6 single leg squats with 12# DB followed by 5 maximal 1 leg hops
  • side lunges -----> 4-6 lateral lunges per side w/ 12# DB overhead hold (this will challenge your posture and stability) followed by 10 seconds of “speed skaters”

For heavier weights - just for working on strength, when I’m in a bind at home, I’ll take one or two of my kids, or my wife (she’s not heavy; I’m just a cyclist with spindly legs!), and offer a piggy back ride so I can do some squats. You can also look around the house for options. Think about your couch - some are heavy enough that you can use them like a CrossFit tire and do the beginning movement of flipping the “tire” to work on that leg drive while carefully lowering it back down after each rep vs. tossing it.

I hope that helps! There are all sorts of ways to modify now; it’s just a matter of looking around and seeing what kind of sleuthing you can do to find those creative options.

Coach Ryan

Cool, thanks for the tips & tricks! Good thought on the couch flip, I’ll try it will 130# of dog on it too :slight_smile:

Is there on the bike stuff you would recommend to do? I’ve been doing 30 second standing starts, and I know you guys have gone back and forth regarding the efficacy low RPM work.

That’s perfect - 130# dog to work with!

As for on the bike stuff, you’re right; that can be a tricky one. While the forces generated on the bike will rarely, if ever, approximate the forces you can generate in the gym with proper weights, I do think there is the neuromuscular/recruitment aspect that you can work on to improve rate of force development and technique in a very applied way with those types of efforts. You might even think about going less than 30 seconds for those standing starts - maybe 8-12 seconds with longer rests to encourage greater application of power on the pedals. You can also mix up standing with seated efforts. While none of that will be a perfect replacement for weights in the gym to develop maximal strength, it will at least complement that work you’re able to do with strength or explosiveness.

One other thought you might try. You could do some of those more strength oriented exercises off the bike (e.g., lunges with your 130# pup) followed immediately by a standing start effort on the bike. Bouncing back and forth between the bike and the weights could be an interesting way to change up from your usual routine and utilize the home equipment and the bike rather than considering those to be mutually exclusive as we may normally do when we have gym access.

Coach Ryan

Hey guys, this might be worthy of a separate topic, but I came across an interesting article that may expose the thought process behind programming strength for endurance sports.

Interference effect between strength and endurance training

The essence of the article can be explained with the figure below.

According to the proposed model, we want to avoid combining strength and aerobic work that is primarily peripheral. Peripheral strength work would be the high reps work that generally stimulates muscle hypertrophy, while peripheral aerobic work would be (polarized model) zone 3 intervals. I think there’s a place for hypertrophy work in a good strength plan because it’s probably a good way to set up for body composition changes.

One thing I wonder, in response to the standing starts aspect, is whether you really want to be doing that when you also don’t have enough mass to move around to get yourself into the central/neural adaptation end of the above spectrum. Seems like there’s a good chance that without big weights, you may end up causing interference. Thoughts on that?

In the at-home strength training situation we’re in now, the weights we have access to is not likely to be sufficient to get maximal recruitment. You’ll probably adapt quickly even to lifting a big dog or overstuffed couch and soon that won’t be enough! In that case, would a speed-based / plyometric plan be an adequate replacement for the heavy stuff? Dumbbell cleans, jump squats, etc?

Tom, great to see you here on FTL and looking forward to when we can cross the border to ride together again!
For on the bike strength training, I really like a drill/workout that Hunter Allen first taught me. I call them Stomps and they’re great either indoors or outdoors. Rather than slogging away at low cadence in a big gear, you can look at Stomps as power development. How to do them?
Put it into your biggest gear on a flat or false flat (2% grade).
Start from a dead crawl, as close to a track stand as possible. Hands can be on tops, hoods, drops (I like to alternate).
On “Go”, stay seated and stomp like crazy to accelerate. Go-go-go-go and wind up gear/cadence as fast as you can. KEEP YOUR HEAD UP if you’re on the road!
When you hit about 80 rpm (ideally takes you 20 actual revolutions or so), stomp ends. For reference, I hit near 50 kmh and a peak of ~750 W with these for my 64 kg size.
Recover for 5+ min at dead easy pace. Repeat 8-12 times. These can also just be thrown in randomly during a long endurance ride for some variety and fun.

I really like this workout and schedule it at all phases of the year. You need a really stable core to drive the legs. It’s an explosive strength/power drill that really maximizes fast-twitch muscle recruitment, much more so than low cadence riding for extended periods.

Stephen Cheung

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Thanks for the refresher! I’ve been doing something like that, kind of like a standing start, but probably not from a slow enough pace nor getting high enough wattage.

@thom2544, they’re especially fun when outside with a friend (make sure road is safe and allows for side to side riding with a bit of distance between you). It’s a hilarious slow motion drag race those first few revolutions when you do them side by side, then the speed gets crazy fast!

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Dr. Cheung, these are great! We did these seated this past week for our live workout and will be following them up with a similar workout this week, except we will be out of the saddle for these.

Coach Ryan

I do a variant of this in the weeks before CX season. Instead of a few seconds, I will do a 1 km spinout from a track stand. Full recoveries. Alternate between allowing shifting and not. That is a great complement to plyometric work IMO and is one of my absolute favorite workouts.

@ryan @ThermalDoc

What ballpark gear are you using for stomps?

The gear I use is the biggest one that I have, which for me is 50x11. Basically it’s a max effort so it’s not meant to be done with easier gears. Of course, this depends on the gradient of the road, but you don’t want to undergear nor overgear such that you can’t get on top of the gear (so doing this with 50x11 on a 10% grade would just be stupid and lead to me falling over).

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@slauson, I’m in a similar place as @ThermalDoc. I’ll use the largest possible with regard to the terrain. Sometimes I’ll take my rigid singlespeed MTB out on the road and use that on a hill to make sure I am choosing the hardest gear possible. Try out a few options and you’ll see very quickly if you’re over- or under-geared. I would actually encourage finding those points, so you know what the tension should feel like when it’s too hard, too light, and just right. Goldilocks approach!

Coach Ryan

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