For the young club athlete some simple bodyweight exercises can be as effective as those using gym equipment, as Tony Lett explains

Strength makes a valuable contribution to athletics performance and adult field-event athletes and sprinters benefit from the facilities of a gym. However, younger athletes can improve their strength from bodyweight exercises that do not involve bulking up yet still improve their power-to-weight ratio.

Athletes using bodyweight training can benefit from a challenging, progressive programme that can be delivered through an extensive variety of exercises. The method of application includes:

» A set number of reps
» One rep for each year of the athlete’s age
» A continuous circuit moving from one exercise to another
» A circuit with a short walk recovery between exercises

The number of differing exercises that can be done is not exhaustive – and below are just some that may be useful to integrate into a club programme with a cautionary note that it requires good observation from the coach to ensure correct application and body alignment.

An exercise must be stopped if the technique breaks down – the adage here is “if it is worth doing, it’s worth doing well or not at all.”

UPPER BODY – Chest, shoulders, arms

» A standard press-up with a straight back
» Wide-arm press-up – this really works the chest pecs (the many different versions include inclined and declined benches or chairs)
» Tricep dips need a chair or bench. Keeping the back close to the apparatus and elbows as close to the body as possible, bend them to 90 degrees before straightening the arms. Beginners should have their knees bent and their feet flat on the floor


TRUNK – Abdominals, obliques, lower back

» Curls or crunchies: These should be done with the hands on the ears, not pulling up from the back of the head. Another version is elbow to opposite knee
» Vee-sit: Laying supine, arms straight behind the head. Bring straight arms and legs up to meet in a central position roughly above the belly button
» Knee roll: Laying on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Roll the knees together to one side to try to touch the floor before returning to upright and rolling the other way
» Leg roll: Lying supine and grasping something behind the head for support, legs straight up. Roll both legs to one side as far as possible, then the other while keeping the shoulders on the floor
» Side plank for the obliques with the body in-line and no sag: Hold for 10sec then drop the hip towards the floor, hold and straighten (can be done with a twist)


LEGS – Hamstring and abductors

» Squat by pushing the bum back as you bend the knees, until your fingers touch the ground, keeping the back straight by looking forwards and not downwards
» Single leg squat as low as possible
» Side plank with leg raise will activate the abductors, IT band and gluteus medius


LEGS – Quadriceps, adductors, calves

The lunge is a great strength exercise and has many variations (see October 23 edition of AW magazine) – here are a few to integrate into your club session:
» Step forward lunge (try it backwards too)
» Lateral step lunge (use both sides)
» Lunge walk (continuous steps over a set distance or number)
» Compass or clock lunge
» Squat thrust (avoid bending lower back in the stretch position)
» Calf raise – raise both heels off the ground and hold for a specified count before slowly lowering. Advance to one leg at a time – improvements can be made by doing it from a step, which will allow the heel to drop and stretch the Achilles tendon (control is vital to avoid injury)

legs 3

» Tony Lett is a UKA Level 4 coach in strength and conditioning