To begin with I’d just like to point out an athlete is anyone aiming to better their performance. An athlete doesn’t just mean elite athletes, it can be anyone ranging from amateur all the way up to professional. In this blog I will take you through some techniques and choices in exercises to involve in your training which an athlete, amateur or elite, can carry out at home.
One thing to mention is the negativity which can sometimes surround home training due to the lack of equipment. Just because you are not in a gym with free weights and endless equipment you can still have a well-structured plan, with a variety of effective exercises which will help improve your athletic performance. With home workouts people just often randomly throw exercises together and aim to maintain, my view is different. Structure your programme well, make sure your exercise selection is effective and aim to progress.
When aiming to become stronger, fitter or build muscle progressive overload must be present in your training. So, first to define overload it is simply increasing the total work performed day to day. But then to progressively overload you find different ways to progress, so by adding more sets or repetitions. You can monitor your sets and repetitions in your home workouts and slowly progress these numbers, another route to seek progressive overload is rest times so manipulating rest times in your home workouts to increase difficulty. Another way is adding load, but this may be quite difficult with limited equipment so instead of adding load to a movement look to be more specific and advance the exercise in a different way.
Changing the tempo is a great way to progress on an exercise without adding load. Tempo is simply to change the pace of the movement you are performing but it can change the exercise completely in terms of difficulty, adaptation and purpose. There are many ways in which you can change the tempo and the most common are slow eccentrics (downwards phase), pauses and fast concentric (upwards phase). The benefit of tempo training to athletes is different tempos can make an athlete stronger, more explosive and help drill good movement patterns within exercise. For example, slow eccentric movements aim to build strength, but fast concentric actions work more on developing explosive power. So, let’s take a press up for example you could perform a ten second eccentric press up with no pauses and a rapid concentric phase. On the other hand, you could perform a two second eccentric, involve a six second pause with a rapid concentric and this would challenge the individual to hold the bottom of the press up. See how the focus can be shifted just by changing the tempo?
Range of motion is another way in which you can progress or regress an exercise, the use of loading often plays a part in partial range lifting. However, instead of using load you can simply think about being more explosive in these smaller ranges. But, training a movement in a larger range of motion helps reduce risk of injury and develop strength because the tendons and ligaments become more accustomed to being in awkward positions and producing force in these awkward positions which is key for athletes. Manipulating range of motion is useful for home workouts as it can give you another avenue to explore in terms of progression, it also gives variety to your training and provides another stimulus. One specific example would be using range of motion to increase difficulty of a split squat this would be done by simply elevating the front or rear foot. It can also be done on other lower body exercises such hip thrusts or Romanian deadlifts.
So, I have discussed some methods to help you improve your home training, but lets take a look at some specific type of exercises and in my opinion important foundations of an athlete’s home training programme. Core work is something, for me, which is crucial in any athlete’s programme, even more so for home training as there is endless amounts of effective core variations which can be performed with no equipment. This gives great scope for progressions within the programme and gives the athlete drive to master different exercises in order to progress. One important consideration with core training is that you work the different movements of the core so anti-extension, anti- rotation and anti-lateral flexion. Besides the convenience of many core exercises requiring no equipment the benefits for athletes performing them are endless. A stronger core means an athlete can generate more forces through the kinetic chain and add these extra forces to sport specific movements. Besides this a stronger core helps to protect the hips and lower back which helps to reduce injury risk, giving benefits to lifts in the gym and enhancing sport specific movements.
There are tons of core exercises which are great to add to an athlete’s programme, but I will just shortlist in this blog a few of my favourites. The dead bug is an anti-extension exercise which involves extending opposite arms and legs from a cradle position, resisting extension of the core throughout. It is great to protect the lower back, stretch the hip flexors, has numerous progressions and a good start point for reps/sets would be three sets of eight per side. A very useful anti rotation exercise is the bird dog this again involves extending arms and legs, helps stretch the hip flexors but instead of preventing extension you must prevent rotation at the core. This has progressions which may include adding very small load, but most importantly perfect form is vital for both exercises. My last exercise is the farmers carry this trains anti lateral flexion, something will be needed to carry in one hand for this movement. As you walk slowly keeping the hand away from the body and resisting lateral flexion. A good start for reps/ sets would be three laps of ten metres on each side.
Single leg exercises should be utilised massively when training at home as they can be performed with just bodyweight and like core movements have endless room for progression. Single leg strength is a common weakness within athletes and the ability to generate and absorb force unilaterally is crucial to most sports so it must never be neglected. To develop single leg strength there is an abundance of exercises with many progressions or regressions. An example of simple ladder progression would be split squat, reverse lunge, walking lunges and rear foot elevated split squat. The jump in progression would happen once the athlete has progressed on an exercise in different ways such as tempo, range of motion and can demonstrate good form.
Besides exercises such as lunge and split squat variations there are plyometric exercises which can help to build single leg strength. Performing jumping and landing movements unilaterally is a great way to build not only strength but stability and control unilaterally. These would be things such as single leg landings, single leg pogoes, ice skaters and multi directional hops.
The points and topics I have mentioned above are just ideas of what to involve in your home training programme, but an athlete’s full programme should involve far more than just core and single leg exercises. The plan should involve different movements on different days and progressive overload should be in the plan.
Referring to my message at the start, be strategic, aim to progress not maintain.
Any questions or comments or if you know an athlete who would benefit from a home workout regime drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Eat Well. Move Well. Live Well.
Optimum3 Strength & Conditioning Coach