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The Socially Distant Powerlifter

The covid-19 pandemic has left many powerlifters gymless, which for some may seem like a horrific nightmare come to fruition. Many of you have little to no equipment at home and feel hopeless that you will have lost significant strength and size once this is all said and done. This may be true that you will lose strength during this time, and if you don't train at all this will certainly be true. However, if the proper measures are taken, this lose in strength can be attenuated greatly, and you can certainly maintain or even increase muscle mass. With that said, here are 5 tips for training at home as a Powerlifter.

  1. Train close to failure. Since most of you have access to little or no gym equipment at your homes, the loads that you will be lifting (Often just body weight) will need to be taken close to failure for your training to sufficiently maintain or build muscle mass. Low loads have been shown to produce similar hypertrophy as heavier loads, so long as they are taken close or to failure. Since most of you will be performing exercises with just your own body-weight or with random household items, this may mean performing 20,30, or even 40+ repetitions in a set.

  2. Perform Exercises similar to the squat bench and deadlift. Powerlifting is a very specific sport. The whole purpose is get as strong as you can in the squat, bench, and deadlift, and because of that powerlifters experience strength and hypertrophy adaptations specific to those movements. Therefore, it makes sense to not only maintain those specific "powerlifting" adaptions, but to also practice those movements to the best of our ability. Performing some sort of squat, press and hip hinge will reduce the risk of those lifts becoming "foreign" to use once we are back to normal training. Examples of at home variations of these lifts are a squat with a heavy backpack, push-ups, and a Romanian deadlift with a heavy house hold object such as a large sandbag or bag of rice.

  3. Use Blood Flow Restriction also known as BFR. Blood flow restriction is a method of training in which you occlude veinous blood flow to a limb by wrapping the limb with some sort of cuff at its most proximal location (This would mean the arm pit or groin). Essentially, what this does is increase the rate of muscular fatigue, allowing lower loads to fatigue a muscle with much fewer repetitions than would be necessary without BFR. To properly perform BFR, i recommend using wrist or knee wraps as your cuff. Then wrap your limb at about a 7/10 in tightness. This should occlude veinous blood flow, but not arterial. Furthermore, you want to perform sets of high repetitions close to failure and with short rest periods. The rep scheme i tend to use most often is a set of 30 followed by 2-3 sets of 15-20 with 30 seconds rest between sets. Then as soon as you finish the last set you will want to remove the wrap to allow the veinous blood to return to normal.

  4. Perform Unilateral Exercises. Unilateral Exercises are exercises that train one limb independently such as pistol squats, single leg Romanian deadlifts, and one-arm push-ups. This makes the exercise much more challenging without the need for additional load. Since many body-weight exercises may be excessively easy for a trained powerlifter; Performing exercises in a unilateral fashion may increase the difficulty of the exercise enough to provide a sufficient stimulus for strength and hypertrophy.

  5. Get Creative. You may not have a barbell to train with, but this doesn't mean you can't find ways to sufficiently train the squat bench and deadlift movement patterns. There are countless ways to make exercises more challenging, you just have to get a little creative. Loading a backpack with books to use as an external weight, slowing the tempo, decreasing rest periods, pairing exercises of similar muscle groups are all valid techniques to increase the difficulty of at home exercises.

In conclusion, not having a gym does not mean we can't train. It just means we need to be creative with the tools we have at our disposal. Obviously, not being able to squat, bench, and deadlift with a barbell is not optimal, but we can still train. The more we do during this time, the better off we will be when this period of social isolation/distancing is over and we can get back to that precious barbell.

May the Force be with you!

-Sam Jansen

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