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Weightlifter v stuffy air plane seat

Weightlifter v stuffy air plane seat

I really despise sitting so even the idea of being sandwiched in a tight and cramped chair for 8+ hours makes me lose my mind. If you find yourself in a similar situation, embrace the journey and make the most of your flight time with these helpful ideas.

Glute activation

A little while ago I was messing around trying to do a candlestick roll into a pistol squat (try it, it is oddly addictive) when one of the CF coaches watching observed my knee fold inwards. He then got me to do a couple of simple drills out of his curiosity and it turns out I cannot even step off a box without my knee collapsing inwards. The problem? Exceptionally weak glutes. I was already partially aware of this issue because my knees collapse before driving out in heavy squats, I just did not realise the extent of the issue.

Coach explained to me that the connection between my brain and glutes has temporarily switched off so I just need to activate that route again. He then gave me some basic homework which could be done absolutely anywhere. Concentrate on trying to feel each glute separately as you squeeze left and right consecutively for 3-5 seconds (no one will know you are doing it). Can also do this whilst waiting for coffee/the bus or when sat in traffic in a car.

Coach also got me to do a few single leg glute bridges and asked what was activating (quads, glutes, hammies or lower back). My right side is stronger than my left, but it was difficult, and near absent in the left, to isolate my glutes; my hammies and quads were the dominant players. Now, at least three times a week I hold single leg glute bridges for 30-45 seconds whilst closing my eyes and really focus on trying to feel my glutes. Give it a go if you also lack glute strength.

Core activation

Another area I have personally neglected, but am getting better at regularly taking the time out each day to strengthen. A strong core is fundamental for big lifts, it is your centre piece so look after it.

Place the little pillow they provide you between your lower back and seat and practice bracing your core, as you would before each lift (note: bracing is very different to “breathing in” which is commonly thought to be bracing, there are plenty of articles on the internet explaining how to brace correctly). Brace for 10-20 seconds then release and repeat for several sets. Feel the air fill your entire trunk; the pillow will act as a guide and provide comfort.


The morning before I boarded one of my planes, I carried out a heavy session, so I wanted to get one step ahead of cramping and used my flight time to massage my traps, lats, quads and hammies. It meant that when we finally landed, it was not a ball ache to walk off the plane. My muscles were relaxed and recovered and I could complete a workout again the next day fine.

Stretching & rotations

It is really important to keep mobile because full range of movement will provide better and safer lifts. So, although you may not be able to get into a deep couch stretch or fully rotate your rotator cuff, you should be able to rotate your wrists and ankles in circular motions and stretch them out. Also rotate your neck and shrug your shoulders in a circular motion. If possible, stretch out your thoracic spine by holding onto the seat handle and gently twist your body around. Alternatively, complete such actions when you take a trip to the washroom; it is still quite small but I believe it is enough space for one to complete some basic stretches.

Mental planning/recharging

You probably do not want to be doing active recovery for so many hours, therefore once you are done, or in between sets, why not use this time to plan your next session. This is especially beneficial if you do not follow a programme (which may be most likely if you are traveling). You may be limited for time when you do find a gym so get ahead of the game and go in with a broad plan.

It is also a good time to recharge your mental functions by relishing in your recent good lifts and sessions. It is important to reinforce this positive cycle as it will give you all the energy and focus for your upcoming sessions. It is OK to reflect on things you need to improve on but limit this to a maximum of 20 minutes; spend more time feeding your subconscious brain positive thoughts.

There you have it, a combination of physical and mental activities to keep you occupied whilst enroute to your next big adventure. What are you waiting for? Book your plane tickets now!