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Home is where the gym is:

26 exercises for Endurance Athletes

by Daniel Silver and Chris Bagg

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Whether cooped up at home during a global pandemic, stuck in a hotel room traveling, or away from your gym to visit your in-laws, a good “no gym” strength training plan is crucial for any endurance athlete. Follow this advice from elite strength coach Daniel Silver about how to make the best of constrained situations and continue your strength gains.

This is a bodyweight and one-piece-of-equipment program for a triathlete or endurance athlete who needs to do strength work from home. The best program for any athlete is one designed according to his or her individual needs, but sometimes you need a program that will be good enough for the circumstances at hand. All you need is a backpack loaded with five to thirty pounds, depending on the athlete’s ability.


Following the program

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We believe that a basic understanding of WHY you are doing things is pivotal to an athlete’s success. We don’t need a physiology lesson, but to follow a strength program correctly, understanding some basics is key.

1) Everything is a core exercise. Make sure you are focusing on posture, posture, posture the whole way through every exercise. Overall, we are hugely independent in our posture, which means there isn’t any one “correct posture.” When moving with load or speed, however, a general rule of thumb is that you want motion to come from your extremities, while everything from your head to your pelvis stays stable as you move through space. Think of your favorite runners or cyclists: their torsos remain relatively poised while their legs and arms (runners) or legs only (cyclists) move freely. Swimmers are the same: poised trunk, moving legs and arms, so focus on that core.

2) Forget your definition of hard. In working with a lot of endurance athletes over the years, one fundamental error I see is that people use the same gauge for their strength workouts as they do in their endurance workouts. For example, I often see people start too light with weight, rest too little, and treat their session like a run, ride, or swim, where enduring is the obstacle. Strength and power training are the opposite of endurance. Strength training needs to be hard enough right off the bat—you focus and work hard enough to need that rest by the end of the set.

3) A good gauge for adding reps or weight is that if you feel like you could have gotten more than two reps past the prescribed amount, you should add some weight to your backpack.

4) There isn’t much weight associated with this plan, so you can approach this from a “two days one, one day off” schedule, moving through all five days in the course of a standard seven-day week.

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Day One :

Minus the hip extension hold, all of these are tempo controlled, which means you’re going to focus on moving for certain intervals of time. In this case, move continuously during the exercises, on a three seconds lower and three seconds lift pattern, never pausing at the top or bottom of the movements. The purpose of this tempo is to target the slow twitch muscle fibers, creating new mitochondria in our cells and generating other positive attributes for endurance. If we go too fast, we don’t isolate those fibers; if we lock out our joints and pause, we let blood flow into the muscle, and lose some of the benefit by permitting oxygen into the working fibers. The time length of these sets is also great for complementing the development of our tendons and ligaments, as these need a little more time under tension to adapt. We recommend looking at a watch and not trusting yourself to count.

Day Two

Active mobility, injury prevention, blood flow, and general recovery from a slightly harder session are our goals for the day. We often injure ourselves in ranges of motion not trained by traditional strength exercises, and the exercises on day two put us in those positions to make the tissue more resilient at its most vulnerable point. Move slowly through these positions, allowing yourself to experience the full range of motion, noting places where you find yourself inhibited.

Day Three

Power is our focus today, and rest is of paramount importance. We are training purely neuromuscular qualities with our power training, which means we want a low amount of high-quality work in a non-fatigued state. Endurance won’t like this, since it won’t feel like your normal training. Today should be a little fun, and should feel like you’re doing virtually nothing and wasting your time. Trust us: you aren’t.

Day Four (repeat day two, but subtract one set from everything)

Think of this as reminding your muscles of proper movement patterns. The benefits come from doubling up on the same workout, but without doing as much, so you cut a set today. You get the coordination and cueing and blood flow benefits, reminding your muscles how to move properly, but removing some stress.

Day Five

Core endurance. This one will be more up your alley, endurance athletes: move in a circuit, resting enough so you can keep good form in the exercises, but not more than that. Focus on moving in a controlled manner, neither rushing nor lingering too long on each movement.

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