Getting Stronger with Little to No Equipment

It looks like we are going to be here for a while. By here I mean trapped in our homes.

A few days ago I published a program that would get you moving with little to no equipment. However, what if you want to get stronger? (Or at least keep your gains?) What if you want to prepare for your upcoming football season? The key is to focus on what you do have and forget about what you don’t have.

Here’s a simple strength program I designed that’s perfect for any athlete whether football player, weightlifter, powerlifter, or whatever.

Later, I share some other program resources – but let’s look at this first.

Three Day Rotation:

Day 1

1a. Unilateral Squat (pistol squat advanced, RLE split squats, or split squats): 5RM each leg, then -10% for 2 x 5 each leg
1b. Ice Skater Plyos (use KB if advanced): 3 x 6 each side (focus on distance and change of direction)

2a. Unilateral RDLs (off leg freely in extension or against the wall): 3 x 8 each leg (working to 9 RPE)
2b. Walking Lunges: 3 x 8 each leg (working to 9 RPE)

3a. Waterbury Crucifix: 3 x 8 each leg (working to 9 RPE)
3b. Carpet Slider Leg Curls: 3 x 10
3c. Backpack Zercher Squats: 3 x 10

Day 2

1a. Feet Elevated Push-ups (handstand push-ups if possible): 10RM (use weighted backpack for load), then -10% for 2 x 10
1b. Backpack Bentover Rows: 3 x 10 each arm (5 sec eccentric, explosive concentric, and 2 sec pause at full contraction)

2a. Pull-ups: 3 x submaximal
2b. Soup Can Cheerleaders: 3 x 10

3a. Dips: 3 x submaximal
3b. Rock Front Raises: 3 x 10
3c. Backpack Biceps Curl: 3 x 10

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Day 3 Social Distancing Contrast Training

Lower:

1a. Unilateral Squat (pistol squat advanced, RLE split squats, or split squats): take your 5RM and perform same load for 6 x 1 rep
1b. Prisoner Squat Jumps (add knee to chest if too easy): 6 x 3
1c. Weighted Back Pack Squat Jumps: 6 x 3
1d. Assisted Jumps: 6 x 3
3 minutes rest between sets

Upper:

1a. Feet Elevated Push-ups (handstand push-ups if possible): 6 x 3 reps of your 10RM from day two
1b. Explosive Plyo Push-ups: 6 x 3
1c. Half-Kneeling Weighted Rotational Punches (use backpack): 6 x 3 each arm

2. Unilateral Suitcase Carries or Holds: 4 x 30 sec each arm

Explanation and Options

Here are my suggestions. If you want to perform a three, four, five, or six day per week program, this simple program will work. You can simply rotate through the days, and then repeat. If you want, you can make some changes that will turn the plan into a undulated periodization plan. I will explain all of it as I go through each day. I will also give you ideas how to progress and regress each movement. Let’s take a look at day one.

Day 1 Breakdown

day one: superset one
1a. Unilateral Squat (pistol squat advanced, RLE split squats, or split squats): 5RM each leg, then -10% for 2 x 5 each leg
1b. Ice Skater Plyos (use KB if advanced): 3 x 6 each side (focus on distance and change of direction)

Unilateral squats are perfect for any level athlete. You simply pick the version that fits your ability. If you are a straight baller, go with pistol squats. Intermediate athletes can use rear leg elevated split squat, and then just about anyone can perform split squats. If split squats are too challenging for whatever reason, you can always revert back to bilateral squats.

To load the unilateral squats, you can use the following:

  • Gallon jugs: filled with water or sand (obviously pour out the water or sand to lower the load)
  • Backpack: filled with rocks or just about anything you can think of for a load. (Shout out to my cohost of Barbell Shrugged, Doug Larson, for this idea. Rocks are awesome for easy load variance)
  • Old pillow case: filled with rock, sand (make sure it’s secure to avoid a mess), etc
  • With pistol squats, you might find you don’t need a load, or you might choose to use tempo rather than an external load. Example: 5RM at 5-7 second eccentric, followed by down sets with a faster eccentric

This is a good time to use contrast training – whether you are a weightlifter, powerlifter, CrossFitter, or field athlete – to add in some plyometrics for speed and power development. It’s also a great time to move in planes you aren’t used to. Most weightlifters and powerlifters stay in the sagittal plane with flexion and extension. It’s a good time to give those movements a bit of a break while working in the frontal plane with some abduction and adduction along with some rotational movements. This will keep your body symmetrical, moving functionally, and feeling better for when this coronavirus is contained.

For all of these reasons, I paired ice skaters with the unilateral squat. Therefore, the unilateral squat is paired with a lateral unilateral plyometric. The key to the ice skaters is maximal distance along with a fast change of direction. The goal is to improve the athlete’s ability to absorb force, change direction, and produce force in the opposite direction. This movement is great for field athletes. To increase the load, you can use a kettlebell if you have one, or you can hold a book or rock. I teach my athletes to form a figure 8 pattern with the load, so the movement is more rhythmic in nature.

Before I get into explaining the rest of day one – I want to let you know about something special we’ve done. If the free program in this article fits your needs, then great – I’m glad I could help.

But I talk to many athletes who have worked very hard for their strength, and they don’t want to lose a single pound or kilo off their lifts. So I’ve worked hard to get creative… and I’ve come up with some next-level programs that can be done with little equipment or even no equipment.

These new programs – part of our Bronze Level membership – take the strategy and thought of this free program and ramp it up even further. This is the type of program I would recommend for my athletes if they didn’t have access to equipment.

Check them out:

MAXIMIZE YOUR STRENGTH...

EVEN WITHOUT EQUIPMENT

These new programs from Coach Travis Mash are designed to strategically and creatively make the best use of limited equipment (or even no equipment). These programs aren't just generic bodyweight exercises - these are programs specifically geared toward the strength needs of weightlifters, powerlifters, or field athletes.

day one: superset two
2a. Unilateral RDLs (off leg freely in extension or against the wall): 3 x 8 each leg (working to 9 RPE)
2b. Walking Lunges: 3 x 8 each leg (working to 9 RPE)

Unilateral RDLs are a great movement whether you are quarantined or not. I recommend starting this movement with the off leg either pressed against the wall or resting on a stool. The key is to perform the movement with a proper hinge, while keeping the spine as neutral (in extension) as possible. You can use the gallon jug or backpack ideas for loading this movement. This movement is paired with Cory Gregory’s favorite, walking lunges.

(From here on out in this program, you can assume external loads can be used in the form of a loaded backpack, gallon jug, canned goods, loaded pillowcase, book, stool, or get creative.)

day one: superset three
3a. Waterbury Crucifix: 3 x 8 each leg (working to 9 RPE)
3b. Carpet Slider Leg Curls: 3 x 10
3c. Backpack Zercher Squats: 3 x 10

My favorite posterior chain exercise is the Waterbury crucifix. To perform this movement, abduct your arms to where they form a 90-degree angle with the torso. With palms facing forward (supinated) and scapula completely retracted, take a slightly wider than shoulder width stance and knees slightly bent, and then perform a hinge much like a goodmorning. The goal is to keep the 90-degree angle with the arms and torso while maintaining a neutral spine. Your hands are going to want to drift toward the hips for a biomechanical advantage, so make sure to fight that urge. Your hamstrings along with your entire posterior chain are going to be in pain (in a good way) the next few days. It doesn’t take much more than a can of soup in each hand to load this exercise properly.

I talked about the carpet slider leg curls in my previous at home workout article. You can use furniture movers for carpet or wash rags for a smooth surface. While laying supine on the ground (on your back), place your heels on the furniture mover or rag, and then perform a complete leg curl while keeping your hips in extension the entire movement. The final movement in this giant set is a good ol’ fashioned Zercher squat. For any of you who don’t know, the Zercher squat is performed with the load held in the crook of your elbow.

Day 2 Breakdown

day two: superset one
1a. Feet Elevated Push-ups (handstand push-ups if possible): 10RM (use weighted backpack for load), then -10% for 2 x 10
1b. Backpack Bentover Rows: 3 x 10 each arm (5 sec eccentric, explosive concentric, and 2 sec pause at full contraction)

The push-up is one of the most underutilized exercises on earth. There are so many versions, and with any slight variation you have a new exercise. If you want to load this movement, you can simply elevate the legs until they’re at the handstand push-up range. Closegrip push-ups will engage the triceps more simply due to the increased range of motion, whereas wider push-ups will engage pectoralis muscles more due to performing the exercise in a more lengthened position. If you aren’t able to perform handstand push-ups, you can still work the pressing muscles by walking your feet closer to your hands while allowing your hips to go higher in the air. Now you will have a more vertical pressing motion without the extreme load of the handstand push-ups.

I love Doug’s idea of using a backpack for rows along with a plethora of other movements. You can perform backpack bentover rows bilaterally or unilaterally, and you can take advantage of multiple torso angles to attack the back from multiple positions. Tempo is a great way to add difficulty. I especially like pauses at full muscular contraction to counter the scapula winging that is present in most athletes from sitting on a computer too long everyday.

day two: superset two
2a. Pull-ups: 3 x submaximal
2b. Soup Can Cheerleaders: 3 x 10

Pull-ups are a necessity for athletic development in my book. There is normally somewhere around the house to perform pull-ups – like the eave of a home, a tree limb, or door paneling (my 5-year-old’s favorite). If you are a boss and can perform multiple sets of strict pull-ups for 10 or more repetitions, then I recommend either adding a tempo or potentially an external load.

Soup can cheerleaders sound like a soft exercise, but I promise the burn will bring the toughest of men to their knees. I will explain it, but I am also going to film this movement. With a can of soup in each hand:

  1. Perform a front raise (shoulder flexion) stopping with the arms create a 90-degree angle with the torso.
  2. Perform a rowing motion retracting the scapula and stopping when the lower arm forms a 90-degree angle with the upper arm with the humerus maintaining a 90-degree angle with the torso now to the side.
  3. Externally rotate the humerus while maintaining the 90-degree angle with the humerus and torso.
  4. Extend your arms overhead like a strict press.
  5. Reverse this entire process one section at a time.

This movement is great for shoulder development and stabilization. In this exercise you are using the deltoids, supporting rotator cuff muscles, and even some rhomboids. This one is great for maintaining healthy shoulders.

day two: superset three
3a. Dips: 3 x submaximal
3b. Rock Front Raises: 3 x 10
3c. Backpack Biceps Curl: 3 x 10

In this last giant set, I am having you get jacked. If you are going to be quarantined, you might as well come out of it looking like you’ve been in prison (jacked) versus looking like you were locked up in your kitchen (soft). Dips are one of my favorite accessory exercises if you have dip bars. One simple way is to get two barbells side by side on safety racks in a power rack. Of course if you are performing this workout, you probably don’t have two barbells. You can always substitute in bench dips or chair dips. However, with some wood and a bit of craftsmanship, you could probably make some dip bar.

The other movements require way less mental effort. I recommend a rock or a book for front raises. I have all of my athletes perform complete shoulder flexion to encourage proper movement in the shoulder joint. Lastly, if we are going to be locked down, we might as well do some curls, y’all. Will big biceps make you a better athlete? Probably not, but they look cool!

MAXIMIZE YOUR STRENGTH...

EVEN WITHOUT EQUIPMENT

These new programs from Coach Travis Mash are designed to strategically and creatively make the best use of limited equipment (or even no equipment). These programs aren't just generic bodyweight exercises - these are programs specifically geared toward the strength needs of weightlifters, powerlifters, or field athletes.

Day 3 Social Distancing Contrast Training Breakdown

day three: Lower
1a. Unilateral Squat (pistol squat advanced, RLE split squats, or split squats): take your 5RM and perform same load for 6 x 1 rep
1b. Prisoner Squat Jumps (add knee to chest if too easy): 6 x 3
1c. Weighted Back Pack Squat Jumps: 6 x 3
1d. Assisted Jumps: 6 x 3
3 minutes rest between sets

This day is designed to get you explosive and athletic. I took this right out of the French contrast blueprint. This day is designed to maximize power development not to be metabolic conditioning. By this, I mean I want 100% effort on each repetition along with complete recovery between sets (3-4 minutes).

Normally I perform a loaded movement first – like back squat, front squat, or trap bar deadlifts at around 75-80% load. Unilateral squats are by nature harder, so I am keeping the same load as on day one, which is normally 80%-ish for most people. However on this day, only one repetition is performed simply for potentiation’s sake. If the load is too exhausting, feel free to lower. The weight is meant to excite the nervous system and not to exhaust.

The unilateral squat is contrasted with prisoner squat jumps (bringing knees to chest while in the air for advanced). However, there are multiple plyometrics one could perform like:

  • Prisoner Squats
  • Russian Hops
  • Prisoner Squats w Knee to Chest
  • Ice Skaters
  • Broad Jumps
  • Unilateral Broad Jump

The unweighted jump is followed up with a loaded jump. Once again, you could perform a loaded jump with all the plyometric variations. I recommend keeping the same movements for 2-3 weeks, and then change them out to avoid accommodation. Assisted jumps are the favorite of my athletes. If you have a high enough half-rack, you can attach green jump stretch bands to the top to accentuate the assisted jumps. If you don’t have bands, then hook a belt to a door to unload the jump just a bit. The key is to increase the speed and height of the jump preparing the nervous system for increased potentials.

day three: Upper
1a. Feet Elevated Push-ups (handstand push-ups if possible): 6 x 3 reps of your 10RM from day two
1b. Explosive Plyo Push-ups: 6 x 3
1c. Half-Kneeling Weighted Rotational Punches (use backpack): 6 x 3 each arm

2. Unilateral Suitcase Carries or Holds: 4 x 30 sec each arm

For the upper body power development day, we are sticking with the same load as performed on day two, but we are only performing three repetitions. I want you to keep the same angle as day two as well. This movement is first contrasted with explosive plyometric push-ups. I want all-out maximal power and height with each repetition. This giant set is completed with a half kneeling rotational punch. I love this movement for encouraging proper movement in the hips while stabilizing the hips at the same time. Rotation is the most important plane of movement on earth when it comes to power development (just think about a punch, golf swing, or the swing of a baseball bat).

We are here for you during this Coronavirus crisis.

Let us help with customized programming and coaching when you have limited access to gym equipment.

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By the way, there are plenty of upper body plyometrics to substitute in such as:

  • Crossover Books Push-Ups
  • Depth Push-Ups
  • Clap Push-Ups
  • Med Ball Punches or throws
Warm Up

Don’t forget a proper warm up should be performed each day before the main workout. I suggest doing some dynamic warm ups and movement preparation each and every day during this lockdown. Here is a suggestion for a simple but effective warm up:

  • Mountain Climbers: 60 seconds
  • Lunge in place: 10 per leg
  • Bodyweight Squats: 10 reps
  • Hamstring Sweeps: 10 per leg
  • Side Planks: 20-30 seconds per side
  • McGill Curl-ups: 4 reps of 15 second holds
  • Bird Dogs: 30-60 seconds per side
  • Foam Roll the entire Body
  • Bodyweight Unilateral RDLs with hip external rotation: 8 per side
  • Sled or Pillowcase forward drags: 30-60 seconds
  • Sled or Pillowcase backward drags: 30-60 seconds
Conditioning

As for conditioning, here are some ideas:

  • Mountain Climbers
  • Burpees
  • Jump Rope
  • Jumping Jacks
  • Scap Jacks
  • BW Lunges
  • Backpack Swings
  • Backpack Stair Climbing: for time
  • My favorite: strength movement, paired with conditioning movement, and paired with a mobility movement

Mash Meathead Metabolics (example):
1. Backpack Zercher Squats for 10-repetitions
2. Burpees for 10-repetitions
3. Grasshopper Dynamic Leg Stretch
10-15 minute AMRAP

Making the Best of It

I hope this helps. I know some of us are sweating it pretty badly because we love the gym. This plan should at least keep us from losing our gains, but some of you will actually improve quite a bit with this plan. Let’s take care of our bodies, get some rest, and be ready for when this thing is over. If you have any questions, email me at info@mashelite.com

I am praying for all of you. I know we are going through some tough times, but we will get through this. The question is:

Will we use this time to improve ourselves, or will we sit in front of Netflix and pout? Some of us will come out the other end better than ever. Who will you be?

STRENGTH UNIVERSITY VIDEO CURRICULUM

THE PERFECT WAY TO GROW IN KNOWLEDGE DURING THIS TIME OF SOCIAL DISTANCING

It's finally here... Learn about technique, programming, assessment, and coaching from a master. For strength coaches and for athletes, these 53 videos (7 hours and 56 minutes of footage) will prepare you to understand the main lifts for maximum performance and safety. Get ready to learn...

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