How to get sport ready with no gym - Part One

With the reopening of gyms in Scotland being pushed back to September 14th for now, most athletes of Scotland will still need to be creative with their physical preparation. This does not apply to those out there have their own home gyms. Nobody wants to hear how great it has been having one whilst the rest of us struggle through bodyweight circuits and minimal extra resistance!

Could there be a better use of time than these circuits and lower resistance exercises? Before we think about what we can do in this period, let us look at reasons why we trained during the ‘old normal’.

We could be training for strength (force production), speed/power or body composition (muscle gain or fat loss). Which of these can we still make progress on without access to extra resistance?

Force production

The use of extra resistance is a key component to increasing strength. Things like tempo (speed of movement) can be played around with to try and achieve a greater ability to produce force. However, traditional resistance training has been round 100s of years and has proven to be the best way to increase strength. In my opinion, the best someone can hope for in this time is to maintain some levels of preparedness to lift so that when gyms do open again you can get back into things fairly quickly without too many negative consequences e.g. excessive soreness.

Body Composition

Body composition through the lens of gaining muscle will be difficult (not impossible) to do with out the assistance of extra load. Studies show a key component to muscle growth is how much work is done by the muscle. This could be targeted by doing low/no weighted exercises to failure or by using tempo, but I feel that this will at best maintain what you have already built. I feel that there is still a place for this but there may also be better uses of the time available.


Extra resistance can be used to help increase speed and generate power however traditionally this is done through the force production we have previously mentioned. If you think of speed being how quickly you can cover a certain distance, then how much ground you can cover in each step would be a component of this. How much force you can put into the ground will be one factor in how much ground you can cover. This would then point to the advantage of increasing strength to increase speed. More on that in a different article! Power can also be increased with extra resistance with the intent to move weights fast. Does this then mean we still cannot train speed and power without our traditional gym?

Not necessarily. The best way to get faster is to run fast! Although force production is a component of speed training it is definitely not the most important. There are many examples of athletes who are fast but not crazy strong in the weight room. If you play team sports, there is a good chance you know a few! Going out and sprinting is a viable option during the time when most cannot access extra loading. All you need is an open space! There a certainly technical components of sprinting which should be worked on with the eye of a good coach to help. However, right now when that is a little more difficult, getting out and running fast could still see improvements in speed!

How to plan your own Speed program

Training for speed does not come without risk. Especially if you have not trained maximally since late March. Therefore, some precautions should be put in place.


Volume would be defined as how many meters you run. Initially, volume should be low, as I have previously mentioned I would rather not do enough than do too much. Far better to start low and progress slowly than push too hard out the gate and cause adverse effects. I would go as low as 40m sprinting initially for your speed session. I would then increase this by about 10m each session. I would also utilise a short to long approach so focusing on shorter sprints first before moving on to longer distances. If we think about a breakdown of team sports most will be shorter in distance anyway with few opportunities to cover say 40m uninterrupted.


If running fast helps you to get faster, you need to make sure you do just that! Too many times speed sessions become speed endurance. To try and improve speed each effort needs to be your fastest possible. In order for this to happen you need to take adequate rest in between reps. Gerry DeFilippo (@Challenger_ST) recommends socially distancing your sprints! Take 6s rest per metre. So, if we look at a 10m sprint there should be at least 60 seconds between each one. I would look to sprint the 10m as fast as possible before then walking back to the start line and then starting your 60s rest. If you need to take a little longer then do so! We want you to be at your fastest, conditioning sessions can come later!

Sample Program

All sessions should have a thorough warm up. You could also include some plyometrics here.

Session 1

4x10m sprints with at least 60s recovery between each sprint

Session 2

3x10m sprints with at least 60s recovery between each sprint

1x20m sprint

Session 3

2x10m sprints with at least 60s recovery between each sprint

2x20m sprints with at least 2m recovery between each sprint

Session 4

2x10m sprints with at least 60s recovery between each sprint

1x20m sprint with at least 2m recovery

1x30m sprint

In my opinion, getting some quality speed work in before you return to the gym and get back into the full swing of your sports training can help to set you apart from the competition. Personally, I feel that this will be more beneficial for the athlete than performing copious amounts of bodyweight circuits! This speed work can also be supplemented with some plyometric training which will cover in part two of this article!

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