Being stuck at home for days, even weeks, in a row can often put a damper on increasing or maintaining progress in the gym, especially when it comes to strength. Building strength is one of those “skills” that takes a lot of time to develop and it can often be a challenge to maintain it if you aren’t on some kind of strength cycle. However, even with a limited amount of equipment and the absence of a strength portion in your daily programming, there are still several ways that you can maintain and even build strength without having to add a lot of weight.
Increase Your Time Under Tension
This is also known as lengthening the eccentric phase of a movement (the descent). This method is best used with the squat, deadlift or bench press. Instead of trying to move quickly through sets and reps of a specific movement, challenge yourself to slow down the descending portion and focus on maintaining perfect position and control the entire time. Let’s use the front squat as an example: as you start to lower yourself down into the bottom of the squat, you want to focus on keeping your elbows high, keeping your barbell, kettlebell(s), or dumbbell(s) resting on the shelf created by your shoulders, and maintaining an active and engaged core. As you start to descend, count to three or five seconds, holding a good position the entire time. Once you reach the bottom of your squat, drive through your heels and accelerate as fast as you can back to your starting position while still maintaining good form.
Include a Static Hold
In addition to increasing your time under tension in the eccentric phase of the movement, another way to work on adding strength is to add a static hold. Going back to the example of the front squat used above, after your slow and controlled descent to the bottom of the squat, sit in that position for several seconds. Focus on maintaining a solid front rack position, keeping your chest nice and tall, and your core engaged. Once you have held the bottom position for several seconds, focus on pressing the floor away and accelerating straight up without relying on anyort of bounce out of the bottom.
Add a Pause (or several!)
Another excellent method of increasing strength is to add a pause (or multiple) to your lifts. This method can even be used to build strength in different positions of the Olympic lifts as well. For example, if you are wanting to improve your positioning in the snatch during the pulling portion of the movement, practice adding a pause for three to five seconds right below your knee and then another pause right above your knee before finishing the snatch movement. During these pauses, focus on keeping your shoulders pulled back and down, keeping the bar close to your body by turning on your lats and keeping your core engaged.