Pritchard: Residual training effects and tips for at-home workout schedules (column)
The recent global pandemic has put all gyms and health clubs at a stand-still for the foreseeable future. Even worse, it’s taken away enjoyable outdoor activities such as skiing and snowboarding during the heart of the spring season. While the circumstances are rather unfortunate, many people have taken it upon themselves to work out from home and tease through countless articles, videos and social media content daily to get their latest in-home workouts. I applaud those who continue to train through it all, as well as those who provide quality content to their viewers. As a coach and content creator myself, I wrote an article for SkiRacing.com recently highlighting some simple things anybody can do from home with zero equipment.
Although the recent spike in home workout content is an overwhelming positive, I believe most people could benefit from a greater understanding of what different types of training to do and how your body reacts. Not every workout is created equal, and the 30-minute burpees/squats routine will carry far different implications than a kettlebell complex series.
Fitness component breakdown
Before we discuss detailed intricacies of individual workout programs, it is important to gain an understanding of the different fitness components and their respective residual effects. What I mean by residual effects is essentially how long an adapted physiological response will stay with us in the absence of training. To put this in simple terms or provide an example, imagine maximal strength. If we’ve built enough strength to squat 400 pounds for 1 repetition, we have a finite window of time that we will maintain that strength before it begins to decline in the absence of training. Every physiological fitness component has a unique window of corresponding time that it will remain at or near its current level before it begins to decline. This principal has been discussed and researched by seminal coaches over time including Anatoly Bondarchuk and Vladimir Issurin. Each component is detailed below noted by the fitness component, residual effect in days and its characteristics.
- Maximal speed, 5+/-3, neuromuscular and motor control, creatine phosphate recovery
- Strength endurance, 15 +/-5, slow twitch fiber hypertrophy, lactate tolerance
- Anaerobic Glycolytic Endurance, 18 +/-4, anaerobic enzyme activity, buffering capacity, glycogen storage
- Aerobic Endurance, 30+/-5, mitochondria number, glycogen storage, muscle capillaries, fat oxidation rate
- Maximal Strength, 30+/-5, neural control, muscular hypertrophy
As you can see, each fitness component is unique in that they all decline at different rates. Qualities such as speed can rapidly decay within one week whereas aerobic endurance requires nearly a month to decline.
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What does it all mean?
You may be left wondering what exactly you can do about all of this from home despite now having a greater understanding of each fitness component. If your typical gym routine included box jumps or other plyometric type work but now your home routine only includes sit-ups, pushups and body weight squats, you can quickly see that your maximal speed or power qualities will decline during that first week. Depending on how long our global pandemic continues, you will also begin to see declines in your maximum strength from solely doing body weight workouts at home.
Fortunately, there are ways to work around this. Obviously, it will be far from optimal to train from home and make significant performance gains, but maintaining our hard-earned fitness qualities requires less work than most would imagine. As a general rule of thumb I encourage people to jump and or sprint once to twice a week (power and speed), lift something heavy a minimum of once a week (strength), go for long walks daily (aerobic endurance) and do muscle burning (anaerobic glycolytic) and muscle building (hypertrophy and strength endurance) type work a minimum of every seven to 10 days. Doing these things will minimize the effect to which you lose fitness while away from the gym.
Strength is by far the most difficult thing to maintain from home, as most of us do not have ample equipment to train with for appropriate loads. Do the best you can by finding heavy objects in your home (i.e. flowerpots, chairs, backpack with books in it) and do some slow controlled reps with those. Switching to unilateral strength work will likely be even more beneficial as the “heavyish” in home objects will likely tax your strength levels to a greater proportion than bilateral work.
In trying times like these, it can be difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Whatever you do, do not allow yourself or your fitness to fall by the wayside. Set new goals for yourself and challenge yourself daily. Try to set a new record on push-ups or single leg squats and build toward that. Most of all, get adequate sleep, solid nutrition and take care of your loved ones.
Jimmy Pritchard has a BSc in exercise science from Colorado Mesa University and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He is the director of strength & conditioning at Ski & Snowboard Club Vail. Contact him at 970-331-3513 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out his website http://www.pritchardperformance.com.
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.