Getting STRONG at Home
2020 was a year to be forgotten, for a host of reasons. Dredging up those memories is kind of like looking at your fashion statement in your 8th grade yearbook…some things are better off not remembered. One of the things that I took away from the quarantine we were under for 6 months in 2020, was the power of training with minimal equipment, and how you really CAN get an effective workout at home, with the proper programming and exercise selection.
While at home training is always better than “not training”, there is one key component that needs to be considered: the ability to increase mechanical tension over time, or simply put, the way to make the resistance “heavier” so we can induce adaptation and make those strength gains!
Take the pushup for example, this is a great movement to include in any at home program, because there are a myriad of ways in which we can enhance the mechanical tension. Doing them on your knees? We can bring you to your feet? Doing them on your feet? We can add a band. Using a band? Ok Hercules, we get it, you are strong…have your significant other throw a Sandbag on top!
But what about a bent over row with a Sandbag? If the Sandbag weighs 60 pounds, we are relegated to higher reps if you are a stronger individual, or lower reps if you are not as proficient at the movement, or newer to training. Either way, you are pretty married to one rep range, and unable to alter that mechanical tension to vary the rep range target. Is there a place for this movement? Absolutely, but it needs to be sequenced and programmed in very carefully, and will come with inherent limitations.
This is the very reason why I do not like programming dumbbell movements for at home training.
What if you are a very strong male, and all you have is a pair of 40’s? For bicep curls, this can work, but what about squats? Or Floor Presses?
While I have no doubt you can make a mind muscle connection, this load will not be sufficient to provide enough stimulus to make strength improvements. If the goal of the session with the movement is to provide progressive overload, and serve as an indicator exercise in that phase of training, then we need to make smart choices that ensure there is room for progression and improvement in a given rep range.
So what do you do? I know you don’t have a full set of dumbbells at your disposal, but fear not, all you need is a set of suspension straps, many use the TRX straps, we prefer the Jungle Gym XT straps, at Metabolic.
The wonderful part about suspension training is we can adjust your body and foot placement on almost ANY bi lateral upper or lower body movement to provide enough mechanical tension to make any exercise “harder”. We can also add bands, or even a weight vest to provide another element of difficulty as you progress through your session.
Going back to our “row” example, with the Sandbag row (which, once again, has its place) we are not limited to the “load” (your bodyweight), because we can simply alter the difficulty by walking your feet in a mere 3 inches. This is a game changer, because it allows the principles of progressive overload to be applied to at home training, and legitimize the effectiveness of these workouts.
Suspension training will also open up a ton of exercises for your chest, back, delts, biceps, triceps, core, hamstrings, glutes, and quads that you simply cannot do without them. While you certainly can “replace” them with exercises that work the same muscle groups, these movements will not be as effective in the long run in the “at home” setting. Exercise variety, while not absolutely necessary, is extremely important to many training at home, and suspension trainers can certainly provide that.
Sandbags, bands, kettlebells, and dumbbells all have their place in at home training, there is no mistake about that, but to really progress, and continue to get stronger, these movements need to be placed strategically around a bevy of legitimate bodyweight exercises that can be progressed over time.
Suspension training, much my like haircut in 8th grade, changed the game for me, and I could not imagine ever training without them again!