Strength training is something that I still haven’t worked into my routine the way I’d like. I had a good thing going early last year with squats, deadlifts, and a few full-body exercises that I did twice a week, but then I injured my IT band and had to quit running for two months. It’s hard to pinpoint the cause, but the fact that I was lifting at the time has made me wary of it ever since.
A few weeks ago I reviewed Thrive Fitness, where a solid weight-training program for endurance athletes is presented. The problem: I haven’t had the time (or perhaps, the drive) to start lifting three days a week. Running is just so much more enjoyable to me, and if I only have an hour to exercise on a given day, I’d rather hit the roads or the trails than the gym.
But I’ve found a workable solution. A friend of mine who is big into lifting is always talking about this website called Mountain Athlete. I haven’t spent much time on looking around the site, but I gather that it’s a gym that trains mountaineers, climbers, and other mountain endurance athletes. And it’s part of a growing movement of strength training based on practical, full-body movements, a little like CrossFit.
You see, the whole “isolate the muscle group” idea is pretty much dead, or at least dying a slow death. It rose to popularity because people learned by watching bodybuilders. But to call bodybuilders athletes is a stretch. As far as I can tell, bodybuilding isn’t about strength; it’s about sculpting the largest, most-symmetrical muscles possible, with big, disgusting veins in them if you can. If your only goal is to become Mr. Universe, how well you can use those muscles doesn’t matter.
The new lifting is all about full-body movements, movements like those you actually do when you jump, run up a hill, pick something heavy up off the ground, or the like. Who cares what your quadriceps muscle can do when it’s isolated? If, during a race, I ever come come upon a hill with a sign that says Hamstrings only — use of all other muscles prohibited, I’ll take all this back. Until then, no isolation exercises for me.
So while I can’t yet call myself a mountain athlete, I have found one workout that I love and that I’ve been doing just once per week, noticing major improvements each time. It’s simple and effective, and it works your muscles and your cardiovascular system.
The workout is one of Mountain Athlete’s “power-endurance” workouts, and the premise is simple: Put 55% of your bodyweight on a barball and do a set of four movements 100 times. That’s right, 100.
The particular one I’ve been doing is called “Curtis P’s,” named, I assume, for some dude called Curtis P. The set of movements? A hang-squat clean, a right lunge, a left lunge, and a push press. Repeat 100 times, resting as needed. Once you can complete the workout (no small feat), you try to do it faster, and with less rest.
The video above is of one of the Mountain Athletes finishing up a set of 100 Curtis P’s. After about four workouts, I’m up to 90 of them before total exhaustion sets in, up from only 30 my first day. And it’s not even at 55% of my body weight, more like 45%. It takes me about a half an hour, and I am damn sore for a day or two afterward. But it’s a great workout; it feels a lot like an intense tempo run. Moderately uncomfortable the entire time, murderous at the end. And it makes me feel hardcore, which I am not. What more can you ask for?
At the least, it’s gotten me back in the gym. And it’s actually fun (yet strangely miserable). Should I be doing more? Varying the exercises? Pounding out squats and deadlifts, grunting all the while? Probably. But for now, it’s all this lazy runner can muster.