Training strength with body weight requires that the muscles be challenged beyond what is normal for everyday activities. The key to training with body weight is to increase the difficulty of performing the exercise. For example, very sedentary people can improve leg strength by performing 8 to 10 leg extensions and then holding the leg in extension for 8 to 10 counts. Others can stand up and sit down 8 to 10 times to improve leg strength. Still others may improve strength by stepping up onto a stair and back down. In addition, doing push-ups against the wall or on the floor can improve upper-body strength.
To improve power with body weight, you must add the speed component. Coach clients to consciously choose to move as quickly as possible. It may have been a long time since they thought about moving quickly. Remember to weigh potential benefits against potential risks when creating programs. Always start by improving strength first and then add the speed component later. Make sure clients have balance support so they can concentrate on speed of movement rather than balance and speed.
Use a sturdy box next to a wall or railing for balance support. Make sure it has a nonskid surface on both the bottom and the top. The lowest step in a flight of stairs can be used if a railing is available. Do not progress to a height greater than required for normal activities (e.g., climbing stairs, stepping onto a curb, or climbing into a bus or airplane). Maintaining good posture, participants should step fully onto and off of the box with each repetition, using balance support if necessary. Have clients practice balance separately so they can concentrate on speed.
1. Step On and Off
a. Step onto and off of the step (figure 5.45), leading with the right foot. Step up (right), up (left), down (right), down (left); repeat 2 times.
b. Repeat, leading with the left foot.
c. To address power, repeat the full sequence by stepping up as quickly as possible while retaining good form. Step down under control at a lower speed.
2. Step-Up With Knee Lift
a. Step onto the box with the right foot; swing left knee up to 90 degrees (figure 5.46).
b. Bring left leg back down to the ground; repeat 4 times stepping up with right foot.
c. Repeat 4 times stepping up with the left foot.
d. For a more difficult progression, rise onto the toes when swinging the knee up to 90 degrees.
e. To address power, repeat the sequence lifting the knee to 90 degrees as quickly as possible each time.