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My weights are out in the unheated garage. I've been on the 5/3/1 program for about 10 months and wish to continue through the winter, does anyone have any advice for training in a COLD environment? My routine is squats, bench press, dead lift and overhead presses (plus some side exercises). I'm expecting temps between -5 to 35f.

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2 Answers 2

I also have my weight room in the garage. Despite how cold it is outside, the garage doesn't reach the same extremes as the outdoor temperatures--but it is still cold. The biggest issue is the steel bar and weights which never quite seem to warm up. That said, there are some things you can do to deal with the cold:

  • Bring your bar(s) indoors after you are done. Since gloves affect your ability to grip effectively, this is the best option to keep your hands from getting extremely cold.
  • Get a space heater. I have a $50 space heater from the hardware store. It's not going to make it actually warm, but it will take the edge off. Let it run for a few minutes before training.
  • Wear layers. It's always easier to take things off than put them back on. A good pair of sweat pants and a sweat shirt are very good at keeping you warm enough. I've had to take the sweatshirt off before (with temperatures in the 32-35 range), but the sweat pants are a must for winter training.
  • Be prepared for the things you touch to be cold. There's no way around this one, particularly if your metal plates are out in the garage all night. It's not practical to take those in and out like your bar.
  • Keep moving. This is the best time to work with higher density training (same volume of work, but lower rest times). Not only does it keep the training shorter, but it intensifies the training effect due to fatigue. You will want to keep moving anyway because as long as you are moving you stay relatively warm.
  • Superset the assistance work. For the same reason as the above point, supersetting lets you get more work done in less time.
  • Spend more time warming up. Start your foam rolling indoors, but do some activation work in the garage before you put any weight on the bar. That will help your lungs get used to the cold, and get your limbs working the way they need to.
  • Do your mobility work indoors. Save the mobility work for last, but do it indoors.
  • Take a room temperature shower afterwards. You may be tempted to crank up the heat afterwards, but trust me--room temperature water will feel almost uncomfortably warm. It's the quickest way to get re-acclimated to indoor temperatures.

I'll be honest, training in the cold is not fun. Keep the duration short and focused, but get everything done. 5/3/1 will probably be about 1 hour in the garage, 45 minutes if you really compress things. Minimizing rest times will help your conditioning, so you may not have to do anything specific for that.

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As a lot of people see gloves as detrimental, how about fat grips? Insulates the bar and trains grip strength, although you might have to de-load. Just an idea. I was never forced to train outside nor do I own fat grips. –  Baarn Oct 30 '13 at 20:04
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Fat grips have a training purpose, and should be used for that training purpose. They definitely change the feel of the bar, but I wouldn't use them as the normal course of action. I trained in my garage all last winter, and while the bar is cold the spot you hold it most will warm up some. It's not that bad. –  Berin Loritsch Oct 30 '13 at 20:09
    
@Baarn If gloves are the only way they can hold the bar (without freezing or sticking), I'd say they are a benefit. –  Lego Stormtroopr Oct 30 '13 at 22:17
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To answer your question I will share some personal experience. There was a period of my life when I did boxing in a gym with no heating. The temperature was approximately -5 Fahrenheit outside and not much warmer inside(since there was never heating inside you can imagine how that felt). At the same time I was doing gymnastics in a gym with barely any heating.

As you know boxing is a sport that keeps you very active, where you constantly move, hopping around throwing punches. I and the other athletes there would sweat a lot but we could still feel the cold. At the beginning it was fine but I started feeling stiff at one point. So one day at the boxing gym(we had dumbbells, plates and bars) I was working out my triceps and managed to injure them like never before on one of the lifts. Tendonitis. They got seriously inflamed over a weight that I had previously lifted often in my life. My biceps' tendons got inflamed as well during gymnastics training.

As a result I had to seek medical help to get better and warm environment for my strength workouts and spend extra time warming up my elbows and shoulders. It's been 4 years now and I still have to make sure my room is very warm, that I have warmed up very good before I start getting into serious exercises on the rings. Thus I don't believe in workouts in extremely cold environment. There is a point past which no warming up will save you from the injuries cold will predispose you to.

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