Band Sissy Squats

In my previous Blast Strap Sissy Squat article I showed a variation of the Sissy Squat supported by straps hung from a power rack. Today I’ll show a variation using a large rubber band. You can get these online from a variety of places, my personal favorite being EliteFTS.

In this variation you’re much less stable, and don’t break (fold) at the hips. This puts more of the force directly on the quads, but for some people the stress on the knee might not be acceptable, so be cautious – go slow till you know. I had previously experimented with a few sizes of bands, to roughly negate my weight at full stretch about a foot off the floor. In my case that was the Jump Stretch Green, or Strong Band. YMMV. You can fine-tune the force of the band by choking up or down on it with your hands. Don’t use too light of a band and just drop – you’ll hit the floor hard. Trust me…

Hang on and use your quads to slowly descend and ascend, hinging at the knees. Use your core to hold your knees to shoulders in a straight line. Hold your arms and hands neutral – don’t yank on the band. Slow and stead is the proper method.

Remember too that this is an accessory, or extra motion if you’re already training hard. Something to flush blood and toxins, or warm up, or cool down, or get the quads pre-fatigued so that the effects of other leg training can be modified for your goals. It’s also great for rehab or working up to doing full squats.


Pre-Fatigue: if you want to focus more on your posterior (hams/glutes) in a squat or deadlift, pre-fatigue, or train your quads to a good tired, worked state, so that they are relied upon less in your other lifts. Many bodybuilders use this concept in their quest to do full-body complete training for balance and symmetry. Others of us might not have to worry about it, but if you are really quad-dominant, you might experiment to see if that gives your hams an added boost. It might be worth the effort.


Training Hike – Half Dome via Cables Route

Sometimes a really good long (16 mile) hike in mountainous terrain with some good elevation gain and loss (5,600′) is excellent training for mountaineering. I wore my Polar RS800CX and got the data transferred to Google Earth, and generated this Elevation Profile:

Training Hike Half Dome Cables Elevation Profile of Ascent
Half Dome Cables Route Training Hike - Ascent Elevation Profile

I had a friend from California with to help me with logistics (permits, lodging, and transportation) and we hiked together. I’m normally alone in my pursuits, so it was a welcome change. We talked about maybe doing Rainier together sometime. It took 4:15 up, and we hung out on top for a while to enjoy the views, then 3:15 down, actually running off and on about half of the last mile. That felt good after 15 miles of hiking. This is excellent training for the Aspen Backcountry Marathon I’ll be doing in August.

Training Hike on Half Dome 3D Image Google Earth
Google Earth 3D Image of Training Hike on Half Dome

I’ve never been to Yosemite before, and it’s one of the best training/testing areas in the world for serious climbers, including Alpinists. Afterward, we spent a while at Glacier Point looking over the trail we’d just hiked, most of it visible, and the awesome exposed face. I fantasized about going back next year with one of my ropegun friends. Hmmmm …

If you want to read more, here’s a link to the article on my other blog: [ Half Dome Ascent via Cables Route ]

I’d love to hear anyone’s opinion of excellent training hikes you’ve done. If you have a blog article about it, put a link on my [ Facebook Page ] for all to share.

Steamboat Half Marathon Follow-up

Well, I did it. I lived through the Steamboat Half Marathon. First of all, here’s how I did by the clock:

Gun Time: 2:19:03 – Chip Time: 2:18:31 – Pace: 10:37
Overall Place: 564 – Gender Place: 197th
Age Group: 50 to 59 Male Division Place: 28th
Out of: 826 overall, 245 in gender, 37 in division

I took off reasonably slow and built up speed gently to a little faster than 10:00 pace. After about 3 miles I realized it wasn’t working well, and I was off my anticipated pace of 9:20. I thought the race was supposed to be mostly downhill, and the elevation profile published on the event website indicated mostly downhill with a few jaggies uphill. I got totally psyched that I was weak to be running so poorly and with such great effort downhill.

I got a cramp in my upper right abdominal quadrant that I thought might be from eating, so I adjusted my intake, didn’t eat any more, and drank my carb/electrolyte mix while taking only water at the aid stations. I forced myself down the hill, until finally around mile 6 I saw a long stretch ahead that was obviously uphill. I realized then that the entire course was like a slowly descending sawblade. Drop down 200′ over about 1/4 mile and spend the next 3/4 mile going back up 150′. Ouch, that explained a lot.

I cut back a bit and considered myself lucky to maintain 10:10 overall, and actually walked some on the steep uphills. Not what I had hoped for, but not that bad overall. I dragged in the last mile run/walk and as you can see from the pictures from just before the finish, I’m hunched over quite a bit. I took the icy towel, my Subway turkey, and crashed in the grass for a bit.

There was a kid’s run about two hours later, so we hung out and put the kids in it, with me as an escort. That was a miserable 1/2 mile. Then we went back to the condo and I hung out in the hot tub until I was sunburned.

I managed to analyze the data from my Polar RS800CX GPS G5 Heart Rate Monitor (graph shown below) and was actually encouraged, because in spite of the obvious hills in the graph, I had managed to keep a fairly quick and even pace average, despite not really training uphills at all. Another interesting thing was that my abs really ached, the muscles. At the chiropractor the next day I discovered that my right psoas was really tight and irritated, which might explain the abdominal cramping and hunching. It’s a chicken/egg situation, so I’ve been working on stretching my psoas (which isn’t at all easy).

Aside from the Aspen Backcountry Marathon I don’t have any clear-cut running goals, and am taking the week off from running, doing only elliptical and stairmaster training. I’ll have to decide next week how to adjust my training to prepare for Aspen.

Steamboat Springs Half Marathon Before the Race

In the past I’ve run two road half marathons, both downhill. One was the AF Canyon Half and the other was the Provo Halloween Half. My times were 2:08 and 2:25 respectively. Neither were really “awesome”, but the first one I’d never run 13 miles before, though I had done 10 mile long runs as part of 20 mile weeks for the previous 5 weeks. For the Provo run I was doing 6 mile long runs in 15 mile weeks, due to some injuries.

Also for the Provo run I was in recovery mode from the Aspen Backcountry Marathon in late August 2011 (with a 7:30 finish), after which I promised I would never run again (above picture was my medal at the end of Aspen). That lasted about 6 weeks and then I slowly got back into it, with some nagging IT Band issues. That was pretty frustrating, to say the least.

For this one though I’ve been working my way up to 40 mile weeks, and training on road surfaces, since this is a road half. Maybe the last one I ever do. I’ve been enjoying my trail training runs a lot, and of course, Aspen 2012 is a trail marathon, and Steamboat is really just a milestone and intermediate goal on the way there.

A few weeks ago, I had been considering a 2:00 finish for Steamboat, working toward a sub-6:00 finish for Aspen. We’ll have to wait till tomorrow to see if that’s reasonable or not. I’ve actually tapered for the first time ever, and have been doing a few dietary mods for pre-race eating that I’ve explored over the past several training runs. I ran a decent downhill 12 mile last week in 2:08, so unless I missed my taper and diet, I should be able to at least equal my PR, and hopefully set one.

I’ll let you know in the next day or two, as well as how I feel about what worked and didn’t for my taper. I will discuss my shoe and clothing choices and talk about how I feel trail running is an optimum training option for already fit mountaineers.

Blast Strap Sissy Squats

Looking for a reasonably safe bodyweight style exercise for your quads and legs? The Blast Strap Sissy Squat is a great option for you to explore. I have done Sissy Squats using a number of different hand-holds, from doorways to bars to railings, but none of them gave me the full range of motion and focused the movement on the quads like the Blast Straps have (and as of this writing they’re on an awesome sale).

I hooked my straps to the top of my power rack, and there’s enough other weight on the rack that it doesn’t slide or tip when I use them.

For those of you who already have, or would rather have them, the TRX Pro Pack + Door Anchor would work just as well plugged high on a sturdy doorframe or other support.


The only tricky part is to line up your feet under your hands so that you have full range of motion up and down without sliding or tipping, or putting way too much weight on your arms. With the straps your hands go up and down quite a ways that they wouldn’t be able to on a static surface like a doorway.

Go slow, figure out your alignment, and remember that my full range of motion and yours might be quite a bit different. Another alignment issue is to point your toes so that they are lined up with your knees so as to avoid knee pain or stress that might lead to or irritate an injury. This may be straight or not, depending on your own joints and muscles and mobility.

In general bodyweight exercises are a good choice for warming up the joints and muscles for larger weights, or even as your main workout. If you can do 10 full range of motion controlled reps, you can either call that a warmup for something else, do 10 sets of 10, or work into sets of 25 and then up to 4 sets of 25. Research has shown that a good effect can be gotten from lighter weights at 4 sets of 25, and if that works for you then by all means, go for it.

Be careful, go slow, stay in control, and don’t get hurt.

Healthy Food – Eat Like a Bodybuilder

This is an example of my recovery evening meal the day after a 10 mile training run on the trails in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah County. I ran a connector of the Bonneville Shoreline Trail near the power towers on the bench below Mount Timpanogos yesterday. Today I had mostly protein shakes during the day, and a massage to work out my IT Band issues, and tonight I’m having steamed chicken breast strips with steamed broccoli and steamed cauliflower.

steamed chicken and veggies
Steamed Chicken Broccoli and Cauliflower - Bodybuilding Diet Staples

This is actually quite similar to the types of meals bodybuilders eat to rebuild muscle after their intense training. Though if they’re large enough, they’d have it 3 or 4 times a day, and usually with whole breasts, rather than “tenders”. I normally don’t eat very much meat, and when I do, it’s generally chicken or shrimp or salmon. The non-mammalian meats. That’s just me. My body just kind of tells me when it’s time, based on various recovery and health issues, so I have something as clean as I can normally (unless I just got back from a week-long or longer expedition – then I’ll be a bit more liberal in my choices) to help rebuild my body.