Thursday, April 2, 2020

When The Gym Is Closed - By Jim Duggan

In the July 1980 issue of Ironman magazine, there is a column written by Bradley Steiner, which was devoted to answering questions sent by readers of the magazine. Bradley Steiner, as many readers probably know, has been one of the most prolific Iron Game writers for over forty years. In this particular article, he responds to a reader who, because of a hectic travel schedule, is unable to train at a commercial health club. He goes on to mention several ways to exercise without weights and equipment. However, before we get into training, he wrote some words that are very appropriate today.

In the second paragraph, he wrote the following" "Problems in Weight Training, as just about in everything else human beings do, are inevitable. Part of your satisfaction in training should be derived from your resolve to overcome your problems, and succeed in spite of them."

As I am writing this, we are in the midst of a global pandemic. Where I live, Long Island, New York, all non-essential businesses have been ordered closed. This includes commercial gyms. For over two weeks now, those who train at a commercial gym have had no place to train. If that doesn't qualify as a problem to your training, then I don't know what does.

However, as Mr. Steiner so eloquently explains, we should resolve to overcome our problems and succeed in spite of them. Those words were true nearly forty years ago, and they are even more pertinent today. He goes on to offer more useful advice:

"So....when a problem arises, pause, examine it, come to grips with it, and work through it. Never give up or become discouraged. Remember, a quitter never wins, and a winner never quits." Thank you, Mr. Steiner, for your words of wisdom and inspiration.

Now, the main topic of the original article was how to maintain an exercise program when you can't get to the gym. The answer, as you might expect, offers numerous exercises that can be performed in a hotel room, with no special equipment required. For those of you who, like many of us, have been restricted to our homes for the last two weeks, there are several ways to stay in shape and exercise. This will, of course, be a radical change for anyone who is accustomed to using weights, and specialized exercise machines. Unfortunately, sometimes the real world intrudes upon our weight-training existence. Rather than just throw in the towel, we must be willing to adapt, and do whatever it takes.

Here are a few suggestions on how to work out in the confines of your home. To begin with, if you are used to walking or running on a treadmill, you can easily make the adjustment and do your road work outside. Naturally, in light of the concept of "Social distancing," you may have to make a concerted effort to avoid other people, but there is absolutely no reason why you can't get in a brisk walk.

Naturally, doing heavy Squats will be impossible without weights, but there are options available. Bodyweight Squats done for high reps, can develop a level of conditioning that might not be possible when you are continually lifting heavy weights for low reps. You can add variety to your bodyweight Squats by substituting Hindu Squats, or Lunges. Another viable option is Step-ups. Weighted Step-ups have been used by Olympic Weightlifters for years, but what I'm talking about is Step-ups done for high reps. I was originally introduced to these by watching Bob Backlund perform them back in the early 1980s, when he was one of the greatest pro wrestlers of that era. Mr. Backlund was always one of the strongest and best conditioned athletes of his time, and Step-ups became a staple of his exercise routine. Ironically, because of his travel schedule, he developed a routine that he could use that consisted of two movements. Step-ups and the Ab Wheel were the mainstays of his exercise program, and he was able to build a level of conditioning that was truly incredible. An Ab Wheel is a relatively inexpensive piece of equipment that will pay huge dividends in strength and conditioning. Mr. Backlund would perform many hundreds of Step-ups, and hundreds of Ab Wheel rollouts in one workout. I can enthusiastically recommend that you begin with less. Start slowly, master the correct form, and gradually build up the reps. If you've never done them before, you will be surprised at how sore you will feel the next day. As for the Step-Ups, all you need is a box, bench, or platform that is between 12" and 14" in height. Obviously, it should be sturdy enough to hold your bodyweight. If you are handy, you can build one out of wood, cement blocks, or any other strong material. You can do sets of 50-100 reps. Or you can do them for time, and shoot for going for fifteen or twenty minutes without stopping.

No home-based, bodyweight workout would be complete without an old standby. I'm referring to Push-ups. There are many variations that you can do to avoid boredom. Hindu Push-Ups are an excellent alternative. You van also elevate your feet to make regular Push-Ups more difficult. You can also place a heavy chain around your neck, or have someone place a weight on your back to increase the resistance.

Another staple bodyweight movement is Sit-ups. Again, no equipment is needed. Hook your feet under a bed, or couch ( or have someone hold your feet down.) Doing one or two sets to failure will be enough to keep your torso strong. If you get bored with Sit-Ups, you can always substitute Leg Raises.

Push-Ups, Sit-Ups, and Squats do not require any equipment. The following movement does, but it is relatively inexpensive, and is one of the best investments you can make in your training. I'm talking about Chest Expander Cables. If you've never tried them, then you are definitely missing out on an excellent training modality. Cables are an excellent way to build functional strength. There are many places where you can purchase cables, and numerous excellent cable courses available. You won't regret the time spent training with cables.

With the many exercises from which to choose, how do you arrange them into an effective exercise routine? Actually, it's relatively easy to combine different exercises. One of my favorite ways of training is doing the "Deck of Cards" workout. I had written about this back in September 2016. You can pick any four movements, and give yourself an intense workout. There is no need for special equipment. All you need is a deck of cards and an imagination.

Imagination and determine will be the keys to this, and any other exercise program. In a future article, I will outline a program that can be done using nothing but a barbell, and a pair of dumbbells. In the meantime, make up your mind that you will not let a quarantine deter from working out. You will be able to get fit, and strong using nothing but your body. And when the gyms re-open, you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you did not give in to fear, and that you were able to overcome the problem of not having access to specialized training equipment. Good luck to all of us.
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