Across all of Canada, all GoodLife gyms, Fit4Less gyms, university gyms, and presumably other gyms are closed, and for a long time.

I am training for a powerlifting competition and do not have my own 20kg bar and certainly don't have 200kg worth of plates to continue practising deadlifts and squats.

What is the best way to continue making progress on strength for deadlifts and squats?

  • Do you have a second body (like family or a roommate) you could use to do lifts with? Such training might be more similar to what a strongman would do, but it would be a way of still having a lot of resistance to work with. Running with the idea of strongman style training, do you have anything heavy around your home that you could potentially lift and move around? Mar 16, 2020 at 21:45
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    Removing the you-are-your-own-gym tag since that relates to a specific bodyweight exercise program that I don't think fits what you want.
    – Sean Duggan
    Mar 16, 2020 at 21:55
  • @JustSnilloc: There's my 66-year old mother who is recovering from breast cancer and has body-wide aches and pains bad enough that she's recently got a permit to park in the disabled parking spot because she can't walk properly :) Then there's my 72-year old dad who's in even worse condition. About your other questions: I think it's common sense that if you don't have a gym you can look around your house for something heavy like furniture or a TV, but I wonder if someone knows "the" answer for such a situation! Mar 16, 2020 at 22:28
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    Unless you've lived through a war, you have not seen something close to the current crisis. I don't think people have a good answer yet other than "relax, it's an unusual time, so you don't train optimally" and "lift something heavy". You are competitive which means your guess is as good as almost anyone's. Strength training is experience based. We know everything we know by doing it and checking if the results are good. If we don't have experiences with a situation, we have a problem. But worst case, you do badly at one competition. There are worse things in life, e.g. Corona
    – Raditz_35
    Mar 18, 2020 at 11:23
  • Oh btw, you are competitive, don't you have a buddy with stuff at home that you could use? If it's that important, maybe you can arrange something
    – Raditz_35
    Mar 18, 2020 at 11:25

2 Answers 2


I'm sorry, but realistically, you can't.

That being said, if you look at the range of different "fitness" qualities (endurance, power, strength, flexibility, etc), strength is generally the last one to go, and it's also one of the easiest to get back once you've initially built it.

There are some things you can try, there is going to be some carry over from bodyweight exercises to the traditional powerlifts (though obviously not as much as training the lifts). Things like dips and pull ups to strengthen the triceps and back. You can do core work because a stronger core is always a good thing. Pistol squats, while not the same as a loaded barbell squat, will allow you to keep training your legs.

Also, now is the perfect time to address all those little niggles and flexibility issues that you've been ignoring. That tight hip, the knee that aches if you keep it in the same position too long, the shoulder that's a little wonky, everything like that.

Fingers crossed, by fixing the little bits and throwing in some bodyweight stuff now, you'll be able to come back stronger (figuratively speaking) when you're able to get back to training.

  • My question was "What is the best way to continue making progress on strength for deadlifts and squats?" so your pessimistic answer "I'm sorry, but realistically, you can't." is not really an answer. You also say "strength is generally the last one to go", which I strongly disagree with. Have you ever experienced an interruption of say 2 weeks from the gym and tried to deadlift, squat, or bench what you used to do? I do appreciate your effort to suggest working on niggles while I'm off from the gym. Also your suggestion to do pistol squats, which was already in a comment that I wrote myself. Mar 23, 2020 at 18:40
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    @user1271772 My answer was realistic, not pessimistic. If you really want to progress, then invest in an olympic bar and 200kg of plates. Fit it in wherever you can, living room, dining room, garden, etc. If you're not willing to do that, then it's not a priority for you, I'm just giving you different options given the circumstances
    – Dark Hippo
    Mar 24, 2020 at 8:13

If you're already a little strong, then there simply might not be a way to keep progressing on lower body strength. Squats and deadlifts are incredible exactly because the external resistance does something that is tough to replicate. But there's still stuff to try, both to maintain as much strength as possible and to develop other athletic qualities.

Greg Nuckols advises some alternatives:

Lower body training is [a] challenge. Bodyweight squats probably come to mind first, but they're quite easy for people who are already in pretty good shape. However, strict step-ups (just tapping your heel to the floor, and getting no assistance from your down leg) are WAY more challenging than a lot of people realize, even if you're just using your body weight as resistance, and are easy to progress since you probably have items of varying heights around your house. Building toward pistols is also a great challenge. And if you don't have knee issues, bodyweight sissy squats can also provide a great challenge to your quads. For posterior chain training, single-leg glute bridges are surprisingly challenging, especially if performed strictly, and it's fairly easy to add load via a loaded backpack. If you have someone or something to anchor your ankles, nordic hamstrings curls are HARD.


In terms of programming, progressive overload is still the name of the game. Instead of just adding more weight to the bar, you may need to be a little more creative. With bodyweight exercises, you can either increase reps, or increase intensity by building up to more challenging versions of the exercises you're doing. You can also increase weight via a loaded backpack for a lot of exercises. ... In general, as long as you have an objective way to make and measure progress, you should be able to maintain muscle pretty easily, and probably keep building muscle. In terms of strength, your maxes may be down a bit once you can get back under a bar, but as long as you maintained or built muscle, any strength decrements should simply be due to rusty motor patterns, rather than "true" strength losses.

Emphasis mine, to point out the specific answer to your question.

Personally, when forced into home workouts, I focus on my upper body (since the available exercises are still productive) and mobility and muscle endurance for the lower body. I work more on conditioning as well.

  • A new Liepmann answer, in the wild? :O
    – C. Lange
    Mar 24, 2020 at 14:39

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