I took some time off from strength training, somewhat inadvertently. Following my 3 day and 21 day training cycles, I had a tough couple weeks with coming off antibiotics and ramping up run training.
So scheduled swolework days would come up and I’d make the judgment call to skip them. After a bigger 8/6/22 workout (which itself came after a 5 day break), I went two weeks until my next strength workout.
I’m not oblivious. During that time away, I realized my rotating strength workouts had become somewhat demanding. This was fine when I was not seriously run training following Vancouver 2022.
Now that I’m getting back to longer aerobic runs, the strength training sessions were a little too much. I wanted to scale back strength training but not train too infrequently, or go too long between training muscle groups.
So I made an adjustment
Right before my 8/21 workout, I decided to keep my current 3 day micro-cycle (strength + maybe cross train, running 2nd day, tougher running 3rd day, repeat). But instead of cycling between two workouts with 4-sets per group, I would do one set of every exercise. This reduces the demand a great deal, but also allows me to train everything more frequently.
Plus, with running now once again taking focus, strength is secondary and this volume better reflects that. I won’t get so tired or sore that it impacts my running, and reduces chances of having to skip workouts. Why skip what should be more easily attainable? Even if I dread an exercise, it’s just one set! I can do that!
I would maintain the overload progression I’ve been following to good results: Progressing from 8 reps to 12 reps over multiple workouts, then increasing the weight, dropping back to 8 reps, repeating. But now, it’s just one set, of every single exercise.
I did my central seven exercises, with some revisions. In my last such workout, I incidentally tried Overhead Squats with dumbbells instead of on the Smith rack. Since that felt considerably better, I decided going forward to do overhead squats that way. I also re-added Russian Twists, which would give my obliques some neglected work.
It went fine.
The 8/21 workout was fairly simple and went great, before I got on the spin bike for some low aerobic work.
Garmin Connect’s strength heat-map shows muscles worked. Red sections indicate groups that were primary movers in the workout. Yellow sections indicate secondary movers. Gray sections are untouched.
This workout was a nice snapshot of all the muscle groups I had been working over the last couple months. Everything from both workouts was for the first time together on one chart. (The exception is the obliques, as I hadn’t been doing Russian Twists in a while before this workout.)
It also provided a clear picture of what muscle groups were missing work. The workout was so easy, and I had only done 8 exercises, with plenty of room for more.
Connecting the missing links.
I decided to research a bit and try to get the whole picture red or yellow in one workout. I wanted every muscle group to work in at least one exercise. And then one set of all that can be my go-to total body strength workout.
In Garmin Connect, I’d go back to a prior workout that worked few muscle groups, then edit in different exercises to see the heat-map change. Then I’d delete them. This allowed me to find do-able exercises that would hit the different muscle groups.
- I decided to re-introduce deadlifts, which I’d done in prior workout plans months ago. This addresses missing red work for the lower back core muscles. I injured my lower back doing them last December, so I had avoided them since. Some helpful feedback (from the Manosphere of all places) recently fixed my form issues that contributed to that injury. I decided to start deadlifts at a definite sub-max weight and progress from there. I also decided to avoid the Smith rack (where I suffered the December injury). Instead I’ll use dumbbells (DB’s), which I’ve done before with good results.
- I mentioned re-adding the Russian Twists. I do these with one of the DB’s from my bench presses, so they’re done at half those exercises’ weight. This reds the obliques, so they’re staying in. I do these on the decline or flat bench after those bench presses.
- I re-added triceps extensions on the cable deck. I had removed these, as my other upper body exercises were already involving triceps as secondary movers. However, I wanted one set of red primary exercises for triceps, so the extensions are back.
- I re-added work on the hip abduction machine (your legs are in weighted clamps and you press them outward). They’re usually a skippable isolation exercise. But the abductors are a hard muscle to red out otherwise, and hip abductions are a red exercise for those. Abductions are not hard to do with considerable weight and proper form.
- The hardest heatmap group to find exercises for is the neck. Exercises you think impact that group (like shrugs or neck extensions) don’t impact them on the Garmin heatmap. Randomly I thought of the levator scapulae muscles. I found a Garmin option for the Levator Scapulae Stretch (a neck stretch against resistance from your arms). It turns out that exercise turned the muscle group red! So I’m doing those now (no weight added).
I gave this a try this morning.
This morning I knocked out a total body strength workout. I did 1 set of 11 reps for all twelve (12) exercises, in this order.
This workout, tough but do-able, only took 21 minutes.
After I finished, I updated Garmin Connect and then realized I hadn’t done or programmed anything for calves. Calves however are pretty easy to program. I just did a quick set of standing bodyweight calf raises, to get to 13 exercises total.
My heatmap for this morning’s workout then looked like this.
So, cool. I managed to work every single muscle group. And, a few of them are yellow. So, I now want to make the whole chart red. This ensures every muscle group Garmin calls out is a primary mover in at least one exercise. This is a total body strength training workout should do.
I had good energy in this workout (at 7am, despite no coffee, I might add!). There’s certainly room to add more exercises. (I’m currently not concerned about keeping these workouts to 20 minutes. It’s a total body workout rather than a split routine. These can now go 30 minutes if needed.)
The muscle groups in question:
- The forearms
- The hip flexors
- The hip adductors (inner thigh and groin muscles).
It would be easy to just do specific isolation exercises for those groups. But finding other compound exercises that worked with other muscle groups would be more productive and better for run fitness. Isolation is better suited to bodybuilding, which needless to say isn’t a high priority goal of mine.
So I went to work:
I programmed a new total body strength workout, that would work every muscle group as a primary mover.
If you create a strength workout manually in Garmin Connect, you won’t get a heatmap for exercises. I just figured out that doing a super quick set and saving it on my watch allows me to freely edit that workout with a full heatmap.
So I did a couple squats, saved that “workout”, and went to town in Connect on swapping in/out different exercises.
The Hip Flexors
The Flexors are a hard muscle group to program. We use them a lot in our lives, but isolating them as a primary mover is another matter entirely.
Initially I was at a loss for what exercises to consider. But then I randomly thought of burpees, the classic ‘squat to full plank, do a pushup, jump back to plank, tuck jump straight up and back down to squat, repeat’. I entered that as a lone exercise, and found myself a mother-lode exercise:
The burpee works so many muscles. It does in one set what bench presses, squats, and calf raises would do. Plus it works anterior hip flexor muscles as a primary mover, not the easiest group to program. It does all that in one exercise.
So I definitely will add burpees, which I’ve done many times before. I won’t have trouble doing one set of 8-12.
Now, I could subsequently remove my bench presses, since this uses the pecs as a primary mover. But I still want to improve my incline/decline bench weights, as well as build my overhead squat. So I’m leaving those bench presses in. My chest will just get 3+ sets of work every workout at different angles, as will my quads and glutes. Plus, the overhead red-works my deltoids and traps (shoulders).
The one set each of those exercises isn’t a killer, and fronting those with burpees won’t be a problem.
So that only reds out the hip flexors and calves. It also eliminates the need for the hanging leg raises, which red-worked the abs and quads. The raises were always a secondary priority, and finding the captain’s chair free is often a pain anyway. That eliminates a hassle at the gym.
I always do Hammer Curls, a stiff-forearm bicep curl that along with biceps work the forearms as a secondary mover. I really didn’t want to waste time on separate forearm curls or similar.
It was while separately considering Farmer’s Walks (walking the gym while carrying weight at your sides, akin to carrying groceries into the house), seeking out an alternative to obliques and hamstrings, that I found the Farmer’s Walks actually red-work the forearms as its primary mover.
Yes, you are carrying weight with your legs. But your leg, shoulder and back muscles are actually secondary movers. It’s the forearms that do the bulk work holding and balancing the weight. So the rest of your body can capably walk with it.
This seems a lot more cumbersome than simple forearm curls. But its total body engagement is closer to what I’m looking for. Plus, it’s essentially a dynamic cousin of the deadlift. Most of all, it’s one of the more functional exercises you can do. Think about how often you’ve got to carry stuff this way in everyday life (e.g. I mentioned carrying groceries).
No matter how crowded the gym gets, walking across with a pair of weights has never been a problem. So Farmer’s Walks are definitely going in.
There’s pretty much no other exercise aside from the Adductor Machine that works the inner thighs as a primary mover, without being cumbersome and needlessly redundant. Doing burpees on the floor is fine, but I’m not doing clam-shells or weird squats/planks on the floor just to red out one muscle group, when I can just get on a machine and knock out one easy set in seconds.
I’ll just use the adductor machine, before moving to the abductor machine.
The Full Fourteen
From all this I have put together a sequence of what is now fourteen exercises. Below is the Full Fourteen, a total body strength workout (including sample reps and weights). All listed exercises are just one set, with at least 60 seconds rest (longer is OK as needed).
Entry of all these exercises into a sample Garmin Connect workout confirmed that every muscle group is red-worked.
Garmin Connect estimates this workout would take about 21-22 minutes if done efficiently. I’d imagine some breaks would run a bit longer as needed, so it’s more like 22-25 minutes, certainly less than 30 minutes even with some challenges.
Let’s do it.
This going forward will be my total body strength workout, done on schedule every three days (barring races or race taper timing requiring a day off).
I will follow my 8-12 rep and weight progression normally, and see how far I can go with all of the above. For new exercises, I’m using a known-do-able weight and will just progress that the same as the other exercises. This last workout was 11 reps of everything. So the next workout will start with sets of 12 reps. If everything’s fine, I’ll increase exercises’ weight by 5-10 lbs and go back to 8 reps.
Go ahead and give it a try.
Obviously, you’re free to take this template and use it as a workout yourself. Google and research any exercises as needed. From my experience, these are easily do-able exercises in a gym for most people.
Eventually, I will devise a total body-weight strength workout equivalent, and will post it here.
[…] order in which I do my Full Fourteen strength exercises isn’t necessarily dictated by appropriate muscle group. Often I order them based on the […]
[…] need it to, though during base and race training I wouldn’t make it too tough. I do the Full Fourteen, which with efficient sets and 60 second rest breaks (longer as needed for transitions) takes me […]