Dan Highcock doesn’t want excuses, he wants results. And he isn’t going to let the weight of all those medals around his neck weigh him down. The veteran Paralympic basketball player has big plans for 2016. He has his sights set on a Guinness Record for rolling across the entirety of his native country, England. He’ll also release a book containing his own training regimen for wheelchair-bound gym-goers called Zero Assistance Resistance Training. From troubled times in his late teens to a rocky path toward finally making the Great Britain Paralympic team in 2012, Dan has perfected workout techniques for paraplegics that anybody can put to good use. If a Paralympic athlete can get a killer workout without a spotter, what’s your excuse? Check out how this inspiring superhuman continues to impress and defy the odds and see if you can add a little Zero Assistance Resistance Training to your own routine.
Q: What does your workout routine look like during the season and off season?
A: In terms of workout, I can’t do high-intensity lifting sessions the whole time because it burns me out. I tried it at one point, but after a few months I was playing like s***. Now I take the style that I love, high-intensity resistance training, and I make that work for my needs. It’s a supersetting, tri-setting, high-volume, high-tempo, short-rest-period workout that I’ve modified. So I start my training sessions with my hardest routines — a lot of strength training at the beginning of the week, then I’ll do some full body high-intensity fitness training. And then it’s speed work with resistance bands to keep my hand speed going and to recruit those fast-twitch muscle fibers for the start of the game. That’s been working well.
Q: Zero Assistance Resistance Training — How is it different than anything else out there?
A: I have some paraplegic followers online so I send them a questionnaire and a workout plan. Over the course of a few weeks they tell me about their problems; their partner doesn’t show up or they can’t load the weights on the bench by themselves. There are different levels of ability and strength for paraplegics. So I’ve come up with a system that covers all bases: strength, hypertrophy, conditioning, speed and recovery. All you need is dumbbells, an adjustable cable pulley and resistance bands. You don’t need to hire a personal trainer and don’t have to ask someone for help. I come from the world of people that have disabilities and a lot of them are too proud to ask for help.
Q: Can you share a bit of your current workout?
A: It’s based on a four-day training week. Session one, the first four weeks are all about strength working on four sets of everything with eight reps, 90 seconds rest. It’s like a four-second eccentric and an explosive concentric on everything. That’s with dumbbells. That’s all you need.
In Session 2 you use an adjustable cable pulley. Four sets of everything again. I’m planning a 3-3 tempo, 12 reps on everything.
Session 3 is a circuit training session. I’ve adapted the farmers walk to the farmer’s push. Because a lot of paraplegics can’t work the core directly, I’ve found that doing this with some athletes will really strengthen the core. Pushing the chair in one hand and carrying the dumbbell in the other. It recruits muscles they’ve never recruited before. They’re getting really good results out of that. I’m really proud of that.
And then the last session of the week is a recovery session and some speed work with the resistance bands working on a 1:4 work-to-rest ratio. Each phase uses different tempos, methods and exercises and you get the complete package. It would work for the regular guy or gal going to the gym but this is just really modified for people who may need to train without the help of someone else.
Go deeper into Dan’s Zero Assistance Resistance Training at his official website High 5 Fitness!
Q: What does your nutrition training consist of? Meal prep?
A: No, no, no, I got sort of tired of that and I take a flexible diet approach. I track my macros during the off season to a point, but really hit my numbers when I start training proper. When I’m not playing, I’m not beating myself up if I’m a little over or under my targets. As long as I’m in the ballpark I’m okay. But now that I’m back to training after my most recent surgery I’m back to tightening everything up for the new season. I do stock up on Quest bars, though. I nail around two a day (white chocolate raspberry is my fave!) and I will be sure to have them when I attempt to break the Guinness Record for pushing across the UK.
Q: You’re attempting to break the Guinness World Record for the fastest time pushing (in a wheelchair) across the UK. What kind of prep are you undertaking for that feat?
A: I’ve seen the trail by car and I’ve spoken to many people who have done it on bike and walked the length. It’s a very popular thing to do, but doing it in a wheelchair is a little different. I’ll be in the bottom working my way up. The first day will be the hardest because the inclines are absolutely ridiculous. I’ll be happy to get that out of the way, I’m looking to cover just over a 100 miles a day. It’s happening on September 25. My strategy is to make the most of the daylight, have very early starts and ending late afternoon and evening, covering as much ground as I can. The plan is to smash it in the daylight. If I have to make up time at night, then I’ll do that. I’m excited to tackle the challenge. The current record is eight days, nine hours. As long as I beat that time I’m happy.
Q: You’ve experienced your fair share of ups and downs in life, what advice do you have for anyone out there feeling against the wall?
A: You’ve just got to find something that makes you excited. If you don’t want to get out of bed to go do something, that’s not doing you any good. But I suppose that’s easier said than done, isn’t it? I think people need to find something they’re passionate about and work toward it, live it and believe in it. The key is developing a positive mindset with the belief and faith that with hard work, sacrifice and persistence, literally anyone can achieve what they want in life, no exceptions, no excuses.