The strength training world is an odd place with an alarming number of methods, systems, extremists, Instagram idols and fallacies.
I’m not about to sell you some snake oil method here although it may sound odd to some.
First off though, strength and training for strength is not to be limited to the use of tools like barbells, dumbbells and my beloved kettlebells. Getting stronger is simply the process of a specific muscular adaptation to an imposed demand. Uuur, that just means, if you exercise muscles with a specific movement it will adapt.
Going a little deeper, this exercising must be repetitive, repeatable and must use an acceptable amount of effort.
To get stronger we need to fulfil progression requirements, like one of these three.
- Tension: Applying gradually more tension to the specific muscles performing the movements.
- Capacity: Working on achieving the training repetitions in a gradually shorter window of time. Like doing 5 sets of 5 squats with gradually shorter rest breaks.
- Volume: Gradually increasing the muscles exposure to the specific movement. i.e. repetitions.
This latter requirement is my go-to progression model recently, due largely to how easy it is to get strong by systematically adding reps over a set period of time. This process sets the scene that allows the body to expand its comfort zone with a given stress, load or weight in some cases.
Getting back to my early subject of not always needing tools to get stronger, I was specifically referring to body weight movements.
I’m currently 44 years of age and 93kg and I’ll be dammed if I don’t know how I got here. I’m over twenty years a trainer and still learning, exploring methods, trialling, getting stronger and setting targets that 34 year old me would laugh at. “I’ll never be able to do those”, I probably would have said.
Right now I’m working on achieving better Pistol Squats and …. wait for it… a One Arm One Leg Push Up (OAOLPU).
I hate push ups, so this move is purely for the love of curious exploration.
For an initial period of 4 weeks I’m getting myself ready for delving in deeper into these two movements. Whilst I have achieved the Pistol 6 months ago, I lost it quickly when I took a break. Now I want to be able to do a Pistol anytime.
The plan #1 is simply getting familiar with the requisites of conducting a good OAOLPU and Pistol Squat. For this I am applying progression requirement #1 – tension.
However, rather than attempting to work on the tension elements of each movement with sets of numerous reps in a single session, I am spreading the volume of reps (10 a day) over each day, 5 days a week, with just ONE REPETITION PER SET!
1 rep x 10 sets sprinkled over the day… that’s all.
This method was made popular by Pavel Tsatsouline in the late 90s and is generally referred to as Grease the Groove training. The ‘practice’ of spreading numerous single reps over the day allows for no fatigue, good quality focus, tension and execution of the movement.
Plan #2 next month will bring into play progressing the movements into their full version. Plan #1 uses the OAOLPU on an incline (seriously, I’m 93kg and doing a one arm one leg push up on the floor is beyond me right now). The Pistol Squat training uses drills that make up the positions going down an up in the squat and the tension required to hold those positions. I will write this up in a seperate post soon.
Plan #2 will therefore see me move the OAOLPU closer towards the floor and pistol hopefully towards doing actual full pistols. Again, this plan will use a Grease the Groove approach, ONE rep at a time, sprinkled throughout the day to accumulate 10 reps.
I’ll follow this post up with an update in 4 weeks, when Plan #2 is under way.
PS This plan works fine while following other routines. I’m training the Kettlebell Swing along with High Step Ups and plank variations… all of which will compliment the GTG plan.
Stay strong, stay healthy,