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Thread: Can I build strength without committing to proper Squats and Deadlifts?

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    Default Can I build strength without committing to proper Squats and Deadlifts?

    I'm approaching a point in my training season where I hit a familiar speed bump.
    I typically spend October and early November reacquainting myself with the gym 6 weeks of anatomical adaptation (typically 3*20reps at low weight). By week 3 or 4 I remember that I kinda suck at doing barbell squats and deadlifts. I never feel like my form is good enough to load up the bar with enough weight to really challenge my primary mover muscles without overstressing my back. Where I end up is trying to decide if it's worth it to commit to the hours and days it would take to get good at lifting or to just get back to the bike and not risk injury.
    This season I'd like to stick with the gym time as I've identified strength as a real limiter for me in riding and racing. So here is my question: can I build the real strength gains I'm looking for with out barbell squats and deadlifts. Alternatives I have in mind are Bulgarian squats, heavy kettle bell swings for hip hindging and stiff single leg kettle bell deadlifts.

    Anybody have experience/opinions?
     

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    Default Re: Can I build strength without committing to proper Squats and Deadlifts?

    Those certainly are the bread and butter lifts. I have wonky knees and worry about them. Practice on form has helped and so far so good this season with squats and DLs.

    The substitution for DL/Squats I've used in the past is rowing hard on the Concept 2. Not perfect but a different type of stress from riding and when done well is a leg and butt blaster.

    Leg press machines can also be used effectively if available at your gym. Be cautious and use good form not "fake out" with leverage as you see some meat heads doing.
     

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    Default Re: Can I build strength without committing to proper Squats and Deadlifts?

    I really like my kettlebell and slamball. With the slam ball it's dead and doesn't bounce. Every movement involves picking it back up, keep your form in mind and when you're done your legs will thank you.
     

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    Default Re: Can I build strength without committing to proper Squats and Deadlifts?

    I think using the leg press sled for the heavy work and doing step-ups and deadlifts with lighter weights for coordination/balance work lets you safely challenge yourself with higher weights but still get a lot of the benefits from the free weight work... Good form needs to be used with the sled to get the real gains and avoid injury.
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    Default Re: Can I build strength without committing to proper Squats and Deadlifts?

    I think you can, but I also think you should invest the time into learning the correct form for those core lifts. They're highly efficient, will teach form that translates to doing other movements/exercises correctly and safely, and can be a lot of fun on their own. Even things like using a leg press sled will be more valuable if you know how to maintain good squat form. Something that worked for me was doing front squats with just the bar. It's enough weight to feel the movement, but not so much as to be a big challenge and the front squat movement keeps you more upright so it helped my body get accustomed to keeping the bar traveling straight up and down rather than tilting forward to strain my back. I would also do squats with my heels on a thin plate to help take flexibility issues out of the learning process (I dealt with those separately). And I also found that doing bodyweight or just barbell box squats helped as well. Again, that's just what worked for me.
     

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    Default Re: Can I build strength without committing to proper Squats and Deadlifts?

    You can. Get or build yourself a step and do one legged Bulgarian step ups with weight. They are highly effective at mimicking the pedaling motion while isolating each leg. They are also quite safe for your knees and back.
     

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    Default Re: Can I build strength without committing to proper Squats and Deadlifts?

    Also, consider that form videos on you tube and such can vary from very helpful to terrible.

    A key for me in learning these lifts (Squat and DL) was to put the ego aside, purposefully practice form with just the bar, and watch in a mirror. Also had the wife (she is a serious gym rat) watch me lift and we took some video to share with a professional.

    Once I felt good about bar-only form then moved to adding weight.

    Complete aside -- I think it's worth learning the basic lifts. You can do them for life with equipment that is readily available. Doing strength work may or may not produce and obvious bike advantage. Regardless, I'm a firm believer that year round strength work is a big health benefit. Taking time to develop a strength + core routine that you enjoy is well worth it. Invest the time and stick with it!!!

    --Mark
     

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    Default Re: Can I build strength without committing to proper Squats and Deadlifts?

    How old are you?
    What are your cycling goals?
    What is your gym frequency during this period?

    I think it is worth learning how to do squats and deadlifts during this adaptation period.
    Just go as light as it takes- just the bar is fine if that is what you need.
    I also agree with Matt on the front squats- front squats keep you more upright. This will help you in learning how to do a proper squat.
     

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    Default Re: Can I build strength without committing to proper Squats and Deadlifts?

    Wall sits will build quad strength. Big ring training is as cycling-specific as it gets and works well too.
    niksuldalv

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    Default Re: Can I build strength without committing to proper Squats and Deadlifts?

    Thanks for all the replies so far.
    I'm 36, a Cat 3 road racer in the DC area. My cycling goals are all about building my "short game" I'm pretty much a diesel with no sprint or even 1min power whatsoever. Leg speed has never been a problem so strength seems to be my limiter.

    I'm currently doing 2 gym days/week plus a core day as well as one or two Pilates classes at my work.
     

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    Default Re: Can I build strength without committing to proper Squats and Deadlifts?

    I have probably been working on my squat form for the past year. I have been doing them almost exclusively body weight only. Really working on the mobility and not worried about the strength. I think I'm finally getting to the point were I feel comfortable starting to use a bar. I still don't have the ankle flexibility for pistol squats but I'm still working. I guess my point is that you can work on squat technique at home a few minutes a day and leave your gym time for something else. I recommend checking out tutorials by Kelly Starrett.
     

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    Default Re: Can I build strength without committing to proper Squats and Deadlifts?

    You probably can however as the Vsalon intelligentsia is hinting you may consider revisiting your form.

    I thought that squats were a non-starter for me until I read and followed Dan John's method. Without getting into the weeds he finds the right form for everyone with some simple methods and prevents injury with common sense.

    Goblet squats are your friend. Here are some Dan John resources:
    Goblet Squats 11 | T Nation
    IIRC his "mass made simple" book explains and gives a great goblet squat routine.

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    Default Re: Can I build strength without committing to proper Squats and Deadlifts?

    It's a worthy goal to be able to do a 1x BW squat properly. There are so many things that need to be in balance in order to get low and to be able to drive out of the bottom of the movement. I think it's worth being able to do just for the sake of good fitness.

    It may or may not eventually translate to you having a faster sprint, but it will definitely make you a better and more well rounded athlete. It will also help to even out some of the things that cycling sometimes does to imbalance people.

    6 weeks of 3x20 at the same weight sounds miserable and probably isn't doing jack for you.

    I think the goblet squat advice is good. I would work them into a barbell squat routine as some of your warm up sets.

    I would not mess with deadlifts, instead just focus on mastering the low bar back squat.

    I would look at Starting Strength, read the back squat section in detail. Watch Ripetoe's low bar back squat video on youtube.

    Then hit the gym for 3x5 3x a week. Do this for a month and report back.
     

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    Default Re: Can I build strength without committing to proper Squats and Deadlifts?

    SWT you make good points.

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    Default Re: Can I build strength without committing to proper Squats and Deadlifts?

    Try out the Romanian Deadlift. It is a little easier to build form with, as you can focus on and get a feel for loading the hamstrings. It's a great posterior chain exercise, and if you aren't going to conventional deadlift, it's a good substitute.
    That being said, I highly recommend deadlifting. The difference it will make in your ability to power the bike while keeping your upper body in place is amazing.
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    Default Re: Can I build strength without committing to proper Squats and Deadlifts?

    Also a fan of the deadlift.

    SWT (nice post) is spot on about the high rep work. Not likely to be useful.

    I've recently moved from 3 x 8 to 5 x 5 for the "big" lifts. Trying to mix it up a bit, not get stuck in the same routine. May try those goblet squats....

    QUESTION for the Group: Some folks are doing micromass increments each session. Increase a pound or two for 5x5 every session or perhaps every other session. Plateau, drop back a bit, start again. The idea is to build strength and not stagnate doing the same weight each time. Curious if any VS lifters have tried this approach?

    On Bike Force / Strength work: Friel and others talk about doing Grinds. This is high resistance, low cadence, big gear work from 30-60 seconds per interval. A staple of my winter training. Typically do 10-12 reps with 2:30 rest between segments. Basically stuff it in the big gear and suffer to the end. Suggest starting with six reps and seeing how you do. Be careful with the knees on this one.
     

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    Default Re: Can I build strength without committing to proper Squats and Deadlifts?

    Good replies so far. I would also recommend hex bar deadlifts or elevated kb deadlifts.
     

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    Default Re: Can I build strength without committing to proper Squats and Deadlifts?

    Quote Originally Posted by MarkC View Post
    On Bike Force / Strength work: Friel and others talk about doing Grinds. This is high resistance, low cadence, big gear work from 30-60 seconds per interval.
    I call this "riding a single-speed MTB".
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    Default Re: Can I build strength without committing to proper Squats and Deadlifts?

    Quote Originally Posted by David Tollefson View Post
    I call this "riding a single-speed MTB".
    That's on my N+1 list.
     

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    Default Re: Can I build strength without committing to proper Squats and Deadlifts?

    Quote Originally Posted by popandmod View Post
    Thanks for all the replies so far.
    I'm 36, a Cat 3 road racer in the DC area. My cycling goals are all about building my "short game" I'm pretty much a diesel with no sprint or even 1min power whatsoever. Leg speed has never been a problem so strength seems to be my limiter.

    I'm currently doing 2 gym days/week plus a core day as well as one or two Pilates classes at my work.
    Sounds like me, Im taking this all in. I'm a deisel with no sprint, gotta get that jump goin.
     

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