Training on Imperfect Schedules (Pt 2)

In Part 1 of this series we briefly went over a few training templates that work for people who can realistically only get in two full-fledged training sessions each week.  For many of us 3 or 4 heavy barbell based strength workouts might be ideal, but the constraints of our careers and family lives simply prevent us from putting in that many serious gym days each week.

For this type of client we generally set aside two days per week that are evenly spread out by 2-3 days of rest.  Mon/Thurs,  Tues/Fri, or Weds/Sat are set ups that work well.  During these sessions clients will train the full-body with 3-4 compound exercises and maybe 1 or 2 assistance lifts to work on a perceived weak point.  These types of workouts, if done right will usually average about 90 minutes in length.  If you push the pace and focus you might be able to squeeze the session into an hour.  If you like to take your time, talk to your gym buddies, or gaze at yourself in the mirror for extended periods of time, it might push 2 hours.

Other clients that I work with, are really stretched for time each and every day of the week.  Long office hours with a brutal commute on each end plus kids activities on the weekends mean that this client might do better with a shorter, more focused workout performed more frequently.  In other words, this client has a really difficult time carving out 1-2 hours at any point during his or her work week.

No problem.  I have solutions for that too.

In my early 20s, I was very focused on bodybuilding type training and one of the more effective routines I ever used was the old “one body part per day” routine.  That type of routine is can be very effective for someone with really limited gym availability.  In fact, you can narrow it down even further to just one lift per day if you are really pressed for time.

Below is an example of how one might organize their training into a 5 or 6 day per week plan:

Monday:  Chest

Tuesday:  Back (upper back focus)

Wednesday:  Quads

Thursday:  Shoulders

Friday:  Arms

Saturday:  Hamstrings/Lower Back

If thinking in terms of “body part” bothers you, then you can essentially accomplish the same thing by breaking it down into lifts.  To keep things really really simple, do one primary lift for strength, and one secondary lift for hypertrophy.  An example routine is below:

Monday:  Bench Press or Incline Bench Press 5 x 5;  Dips 3 x 10-12

Tuesday:  Weighted Pull Ups 5 x 5:  One Arm DB Rows 3 x 10-12

or Barbell Rows 4 x 8;  Lat Pulldowns 3 x 10-12

Wednesday:  Squats 5 x 5;  Leg Press 3 x 15-20

Thursday:  Press 5 x 5;  DB Press 3 x 10-12

Friday:  Barbell Curl 4 x 8-12;  Lying Extension 4 x 10-15

(you don’t really need a strength lift for direct arm work)

Saturday:  Deadlifts 2 x 5;  Glute Ham Raise or Back Extension 3 x 15

A simple routine such as the one above could realistically be accomplished through 20-45 minute workouts.  The longer workouts for the heavier days such as Bench Presses, Squats, and Deadlifts and the shorter workouts for things like Shoulders, Arms, and Upper back work.

To simplify even further, drop the secondary assistance lifts and just perform a series of higher rep back off sets of the main lift.  In a format like this, you’d basically perform 3-5 heavy sets in the 3-6 rep range and then follow that up with 2-4 additional sets in the 8-20 rep range for hypertrophy.  If you aren’t interested in the higher rep hypertrophy work just do the strength work and go home.  That’ll work too.

One final variation is for those who want to both Squat and Deadlift with a little more frequency during the week.  Since Deadlifts can be adequately trained with just a single heavy set, it doesn’t place that much more of a time demand on your workout to place them directly after squats when not much of a warm up is needed to work your way up to the main set.

An easy to follow set up would look like this:

Monday:  Squat & Deadlift

Tuesday:  Bench

Wednesday:  Squat

Thursday:  Press

Friday:  Squat & Deadlift

Saturday:  Accessory Upper body (upper back, biceps, triceps, etc)

Any of these routines can work well for clients who want to put an emphasis on cardio work as well.  If you can get your strength work done in 20-40 minutes that leaves another 20-40 minutes to hit some cardio work and you are in and out of the gym in an hour having accomplished your strength and conditioning goals for the day.

In Part 3 of this series, we will look at how to set up a training plan around busy travel schedules in order to train optimally while you are home, and minimize regression while on the road.


One Response to Training on Imperfect Schedules (Pt 2)

  1. Kaylib says:

    Andy – Great suggestions and quite informative. Now what might be the adaptations you deem important to these routines for the life-long older trainer like myself (62yo training since 20yo)?

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