Throughout the past year, you have put in the training hours amidst a global pandemic. You have made the gains, and are feeling pretty good about where you’re at. And although the holiday season will look different this year, you’re still planning on baking your favorite cookies and drinking some rum and eggnog and having a turkey dinner feast. All very deserved.
However, you have worked too hard to let the power you earned this year go to waste with two weeks of inactivity, even if, in some cases, your gym might even be closed again right now.
You’re in this thing for the long haul, so two or three weeks isn’t the end of the world; however, with some simple, deliberate actions, you can easily preserve all the strength you have gained this past year.
Three Quick Tips:
Train Power, Speed and Tempo Work From Home
Before you freak out that you’re not going to be able to work on your strength because all you have are a couple of light dumbbells at home (or maybe you have no weights at all), we have two quick tips for improving strength and power even when you don’t have access to heavy weights.
Add a tempo
Tempo training is a great way to build strength without taxing your central nervous system the way a heavy weight does. You better believe those 16 kg goblet squats will feel like strength work when you do a set of eight and take three seconds to descend and three seconds to hold at the bottom.
- Same goes for dumbbell floor press or bench press. Take your light dumbbells, or some heavy books or other heavy object you have on hand, and slow them down: Three seconds to lower, three seconds to hover at your chest.
- The sky is the limit here: From deadlifts to split squats, to shoulder press, lunges and step-ups, tempo training is a great way to tax your body in a new way, all the while preserving and potentially building strength.
Add Plyometric work
Plyometrics are exercises where the muscles exert maximum force over short intervals of time, such as a vertical jump. They’re useful for building speed and power, and the best part is it can be done with just your bodyweight.
3 Plyometric exercises to add to your training:
- Single leg bounding
Head to a track, or a garage, a gym, a basement, a driveway (even your hallway if you have a good wide one) and work on your single leg bounding. The goal here is to get height and distance and limit how much time you spend on the ground. See if you can string five bounds together. The more you practice, the more you’re going to feel like an agile rabbit bounding through a forest, like Amanda in this video.
Single leg bounding is a great way to improve both power and balance, which will translate back to movements like cleans and snatches when you’re back in the gym.
- Plyo push-ups
Tired of push-ups? Build strength through plyometric push-ups.
- Version 1: Clapping push-ups. Perform a push-up, pushing hard off the ground so that you’re able to leave the ground and clap your hands together. Can you string these together?
- Version 2: Build two targets on either side of your hands, so that you can push yourself off the ground and onto the targets. Bumper plates work well or two firm medicine balls. If not, even heavy books of the same height will suffice. How high can you go? As high as Amanda in this video?
- D-Ball (or medicine ball) slam box jump overs:
There are a few variations of these, but start with the simple d-ball slam, box jump over. Any heavy ball will suffice, and you can use anything to jump over if you don’t have a box. Check out speed athlete Amanda Ruller doing them here. She makes them look easy. She also offers a couple more variations here.
- Keep the reps low and focus on quality.
Note: If you don’t have access to a box, you can easily substitute anything of a similar height to jump over. And if you don’t have a ball, you can substitute a sandbag, or just work on your explosive box jump overs.
Turkey dinner. Shortbread cookies. Mulled wine: These things are going to happen. There’s no point in shaming or guilt tripping yourself about it. You have planned this well in advance and we condone this decision.
That. being. said….
There are still plenty of meals available during the holidays where you can hone in and keep it clean.
Focus on high satiety foods:
So you’re going to be eating some high calorie foods, and a great way to counter this the rest of the time is to select foods that are high on the satiety index, meaning they’ll help you feel full and full or energy longer, and hopefully stop you from eating even more of the bad stuff than you intend to.
One part of this comes down to protein: Keep your protein routine as normal as possible, as protein is needed to keep your muscle mass. Or even consider increasing your protein at meal time while decreasing your carbs, because you know you’re going to be getting carbs from your eggnog later this evening.
- Focus on clean sources of protein, like lean meats, eggs, cottage cheese etc. Also, if you normally rely on protein powder in smoothies to get enough protein, keep this routine going. If you don’t, now is a great time to try our egg white protein isolate powder. It’s clean, minimally processed and tastes completely natural—as close to the real food as you can get.
- A good rule of thumb, if you’re training hard, is to consume your bodyweight (lb) in grams of protein each day. For example, if you weigh 150 lbs, you should be eating 150 grams of protein per day.
The second part comes down to fibre: Fibre makes you feel full, so focus on eating high fibre foods during your meals. Some high in fibre foods to get you thinking include broccoli, collard greens, swiss chard, artichokes, berries, avocados, apples, and nuts, to name a few.
The bottom line: Eat your lean protein and vegetables at dinner, so you’ll feel less hungry for cookies and pie and ice cream for dessert.
Check this out:
Increase your HMB intake in food
What is HMB?
HMB is an active metabolite of the amino acid leucine. While that might not mean much to you, what you need to know is that your body needs HMB to protect and repair muscle tissue. It does this by slowing muscle protein breakdown and speeding protein synthesis, as well as by preserving structural integrity of your muscle cells. When it comes to athletic performance, HMB has been shown to help speed, strength and muscle mass gains, improve endurance and recovery, including reducing muscle soreness.
Further, it has the added benefit of reducing muscle loss when you’re less active, ideal for the times you’re spending more time with than family than the gym! However, you’ll need to take an HMB supplement to get this benefit. More on this in a bit.
Side note: Our bodies also have the ability to make HMB in both our liver and our muscles. In the liver, HMB gets converted into HMG-CoA, which is essential to both create and repair cell membranes.
While it’s hard to get enough HMB from our food alone, we recommend eating foods high in HMB to help you preserve your muscle mass.
Three foods high in HMB include:
HMB is a great way to give your body a little freeby. After the craziness of 2020, you deserve a little freeby, no? Or at least a break from muscle soreness.
Back to the freeby...
HMB helps you preserve the muscle you have, so if you’re not going to be lifting as hard as normal for a week or two over the holidays, taking HMB will help ensure you don’t lose your strength over the holidays. What better Christmas present than that, right?
But don’t listen to us. Listen to science: Other than creatine, HMB is one of the most well-researched supplements around. This 2013 study from the University of Arkansas, for example, found that taking HMB led to significantly less muscle loss after 10 days of bed rest.