No Gear Strength Workout

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by Steve House

This week two of my coached athletes were in locations without a gym, one in Yosemite and one in Pokhara, Nepal. We’ve all been somewhere, away from our home-gym, and wanting to squeeze in a strength workout that would–as a minimum–help us to maintain the strength we’ve been building over the previous weeks and months.

Of course, as all followers of Uphill Athlete know, there is no one magic-bullet workout. I like to think of fitness as a brick wall, each daily workout being one brick, and the strength of the wall coming from the strength of all the bricks together, how strong each brick is, that they were laid carefully together, interlocking, and not randomly thrown together into a pile.

This no-gear strength workout is aimed at being a general strength, full-body workout for a typical uphill athlete, such as a climber, who counts on her strength training to serve as catalyst that enhances the effects of her endurance training. For portability, here it is in a simple list form, as a downloadable PDF: Uphill Athlete No Gear.

Uphill Athlete No Gear Strength Circuit

Warm up.

2x through:
Unweighted walking lunges 20 steps per side. For extra challenge, walk it backwards as well.
20 burpees (pace it, this is not a race)
30 sec plank hold 2 or 3 point (no weight).
30 sec plank hold, other side. 2 or 3 point hold.
30 sec side plank static hold (no weight). For added challenge lift the upper leg up and extend it.
30 sec side plank hold, other side.

Complete the circuit below as many times as you can in 45 minutes. Pace yourself, it’s not a race and you’ll definitely be tired from 30-45 minutes! Rest as needed up to 15-30 seconds between exercises. The more fit can move through all these without pause. If you are using this as your general strength workout, it can be progressed by adding more time and/or completing each circuit in less time.

No Gear Strength Workout

10x/side Lunges with backpack on or weight (rock, waterjug, your dog, etc). On the return, push explosively back to the standing position.

The Lunge is one of our favorite strength exercises for two reasons, 1) it’s one-legged as are uphill sports, and 2) it emphasizes the all-important gluteal muscles. You can vary the muscle group trained by changing your stride length. A shorter step forward involves the quadriceps more, and if you take a longer step you increase the stress on the hamstrings and gluteals while stretching the upper quadriceps and hip flexor of the back leg. Knee should come close to, but not quite touch the floor. You can do this wearing a backpack, holding a weight to your chest, holding a weight above your head, or you can hold a weight in both hands and trace a large circle in the air to incorporate more core (though this variation usually means the legs aren’t taxed very much).

10x strict sit ups. To make this harder hold a weight to your chest, or, if your neck and upper back muscles are well-trained, hold it the weight on top of your head. The goal is to use enough resistance that you could do 15-20, not that you could do 50+.

Our “strict sit-up” is done with a straight back, no curling or crunching which compresses the discs in your spine. And it works far more than the Abdominus Rectus. Count the External Obliques, Latissimus Dorsi, Serratus, Pec Major, and of course the hip flexors as being trained.

10x Strict Pushups with strict form and slow lower with elbows tracking backwards, parallel to your torso.

The “strict push-up” involves all of the same core musculature needed for a plank, plus the pectorals, triceps, and–for climbers–the all important and often over-looked deltoids, the meat of your shoulder. Keeping the elbows tracking straight back is one of the easiest ways to ensure you aren’t cross-loading your elbow joint, which can strain the joint. This exercise also compliments how we’ll train the shoulders and arms with the hindu push-up, or the harder version, the super push-up, to follow.

10x Goblet or Backpack Squats. For a Goblet Squat hold a weight of any kind in front of your chest. For a Backpack Squat, put your backpack on backwards, with the weight (sack of the pack) in front of you. Hands rest on the pack. For full squats you want to get low, rear all the way down if you can. Keep your back straight and very! active. Slow lower.

Squats, and all the variations, are the king of lower-body exercise. A properly executed squat works most of the body from the calves to the triceps and most everything in between, I won’t try to list all the muscles that are trained here.  For no-gear strength workouts 80% of the time, I opt for the Goblet Squat style. I like this because it trains the all-important postural muscles in my back and, most importantly, it’s simple to execute. Just grab a stone and go.

10x Hindu Push Ups. Get in a Downward Dog position and do a push-up while keeping your rear-end up and legs straight. Swoop your chest down, almost brushing the floor, and end in a “Cobra Pose”, rock back into the Downward Dog position. Elbows track along the torso to stay aligned. The “Super Push-Up” version of this reverses the exact same movement to return to the starting Downward Dog as opposed to simply rocking back up into Down Dog.

Hindu and Super Push-ups are the best floor exercises I’ve found that works much of your upper body plus adds mobility. Google the two variations if you’re unclear on how to do this. Like the Squat, this exercise works the entire upper body complex of muscles, too many to list.

You want to make this more difficult? Add more circuits or use your creativity to add another exercise. This workout can be modified in many ways. There is no secret formula behind this series of exercises.

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