Transatlantic Strength Training, Or Lack Thereof

I recently immigrated to the USA via a 7-day transatlantic cruise. Life had been very interrupted and hectic during the weeks building up to this, thanks to multiple leaving drinks, dinners and pre-immigration admin. I was looking forward to an unadulterated week of ‘me time’ on-board, involving four key elements that were previously suffering: training, reading, nutrition and sleeping.

The cruise offered a perfect environment for three of those… Visiting my dog at the on-board kennels everyday offered 5-7 hours of daily reading time and I finally ticked off several super interesting books from my never-ending reading list. The Queen Mary 2 has fifteen restaurants on-board and all food is inclusive and of the highest quality. With an appetite like mine this could have been disastrous. However, thanks to the ever-present voice in my ear (thank you, dearest wife) I was able to resist the dark forces of pizzas and burgers and made smarter choices. I only put on 10lbs but that could have easily been 50lbs otherwise. The photo below was a typical lunch. The third successful element was sleep. Being party animals we were asleep by 9pm every night and thanks to the ever-changing time zones we had an extra hour for five sleeps out of the seven.

What about training? With no clients to train all of my creative energy went into designing six beautiful, mutually complimenting strength training and mobility sessions for myself. The goal in mind was accelerating my weak-feeling body back to where I left off a few weeks ago. In normal, working life a regimen of this planned intensity wouldn’t offer enough recovery time. However, when you’re eating like a well-advised King and sleeping for 9-11 hours per day, a daily hard training session is no problem. It’s just like being back in the beloved Corps. Besides, if you enjoy training hard then do it. I digress…

What went wrong? The plan for day one included of a tonne of loaded pistol squats, loaded step-ups and single leg deads, working the 3-5 rep range. I completely failed to take into account a critical effecting factor when designing my program on the ship – THE GROUND MOVES! All single leg strength work went out the window. I couldn’t even do loaded step-ups without being thrown off balance with a pair of 30kg dumbbells in my hands. In an emergency attempt to complete single leg strength work I tried using the dreaded Technogym leg press machine*. As I gradually added load doing 3-5 reps it became apparent that even that doesn’t work. The ship rocked left-right and forwards-backwards so one rep felt easy - way too light to stimulate my nervous system to the desired effect and the next rep was so heavy that it failed.

*Why is the leg press machine ‘dreaded’? I’m of the opinion that using any machine for exercise, that has you sitting down (with your torso stability muscles disengaged) makes the whole single organism that is your beautiful body, weaker. When do your legs ever have to work that hard without your ‘core’ being switched on? No wonder abdominal hernias are so rife in the corporate gym world. Besides, we spend enough time sitting down anyway. Mini-rant over.

Day two was press day. I had a word to myself after day one’s comical failure and persisted with the planned strength training program. The main course was dumbbell military press and one arm one leg push ups. During a set of five reps of military press with a pair of 30kg dumbbells it became obvious that training low reps is fruitless on board a ship (especially in bad weather). One rep felt like a pair of 16kg’s at the top of a wave. The next rep would fail miserably we hit the trough of a wave. It was time to go back to the drawing board.

Things that don’t work on board a ship:

  • Low rep strength training (heavy)

  • Anything that involves balancing or moving on one leg whilst loaded with more than bodyweight

  • Running on a treadmill – passengers were falling off frequently

Things that work well:

  • Medium to high rep work such as push ups and pull ups (good ol’ trusty)

  • Jump roping

  • Plank variations using suspension trainer (TRX, Woss)

  • Crawling

  • Floor mobility work and stretching

  • Perry’s primal movement mojo shizzle

Training Session Example:

15 minutes, dynamic joint mobility

5 minutes, Perry’s primal resets

5 minutes, crawling

1 minute jump rope, 20 push ups, 10 pull ups, 10 rounds (about 30 minutes)

5 minutes, plank variations using TRX (pikes, twisted pikes, side plank)

10 minutes, contract-relax stretching (static stretching doesn’t work)

I hope this is useful to you when you get around to booking a cruise, which will probably be when you’re well over 60 judging by the rest of the passengers on mine.

Strength and honour!

#QM2 #onboardtraining #transatlanticstrengthtraining



Email: contactATphilipmcdougallDOTcom (ROBOT PROOF)
INSTAGRAM: @phil.mcdougall