3 Ways to Maintain Strength Without Heavy Lifting

Don’t fret! It can be done!

Unilateral training

Pistols, skater squats, super high step ups, single leg box squats are single leg exercise examples. Single leg variations can be just as effective as bilateral movements for developing strength (Speirs, Bennett, Finn, Turner, 2016, McCurdy et al., 2005, Appleby, Cormack, Newton, 2019)

External cues

A good coach will give you good external cues- specific to helping you and what you need that will increase your performance during a training session and learn new skills. Yes- even if that training session is virtual. Really good external cues will help you with muscle recruitment and motor learning (Wulf, 2013). Shameless plug for myself- I have limited spots open for virtual training. DM me and we’ll chat

Internal cues

Neural adaptations, stronger brain activation, higher muscle excitation, greater somatic and sensorimotor activation and physiological responses have all been found with practicing mental imagery…pretty cool huh. (Slimani, et al., 2016). Try it out. It can also help with your motivation and self-efficacy

Mind muscle connection- is it real? Well research is still being done BUT studies have shown to greater muscle activation in unfatigued muscles if you focus on specifically activating a muscle, especially while using light loads…like most of us are currently in gym-less quarantine (Nuckols, 2017, Marchant et al., 2017, Snyder & Fry, 2012)

1. Appleby, Brendyn B., Stuart J. Cormack, and Robert U. Newton. “Specificity and transfer of lower-body strength: influence of bilateral or unilateral lower-body resistance training.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 33.2 (2019): 318-326.

2. Marchant DC, Greig M, Scott C. Attentional focusing instructions influence force production and muscular activity during isokinetic elbow flexions. J Strength Cond Res. 2009 Nov;23(8):2358-66. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181b8d1e5.

3. McCurdy, Kevin W., et al. “The effects of short-term unilateral and bilateral lower-body resistance training on measures of strength and power.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 19.1 (2005): 9-15.

4. Nuckols, G. Does the ‘Mind-Muscle Connection’ Affect Muscle Activation or Performance? MASS. 2017 2:1, 38-45.

5. Speirs, Derrick E., et al. “Unilateral vs. bilateral squat training for strength, sprints, and agility in academy rugby players.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 30.2 (2016): 386-392.

6. Slimani, Maamer, et al. “Effects of mental imagery on muscular strength in healthy and patient participants: A systematic review.” Journal of sports science & medicine 15.3 (2016): 434.

7. Snyder BJ, Fry WR. Effect of verbal instruction on muscle activity during the bench press exercise. J Strength Cond Res. 2012 Sep;26(9):2394-400. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31823f8d11.

8. Wulf G. Attentional focus and motor learning: a review of 15 years. International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology 2013 6:1, 77-104.

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