It’s no ones friend.
And in a world where we work 40+ hours per week, commute another 10+ hours per week and have whatever family commitments to keep, I get how people are looking to save as much time as possible in the gym.
Then there’s the other side of this.
Over the last decade there has been a dramatic rise in the popularity of both Triathlon and Mixed Martial Arts, I’ve a huge part of my client base that are either amateur fighters or amateur triathletes, and if I’m honest, I don’t know who’s tougher!
What I do know is that both sports take a lot of time in their own right, leaving little time and/or energy for the supplemental strength work.
So what do I recommend in these cases?
First we ask about training frequency.
Can you get in the weight room once per week? Twice? Three times?
How strong do you need to be?
What is the strength to be used for?
If the focus is simply strength and you can only train once per week you will do two lifts.
Trap Bar Deadlift Standing Military Press or Bench.
If you have time after these two lifts, it’d stand to you to do some rows and maybe some swings, but those two lifts tick a lot of boxes.
If you train twice per week you can either work Squat and Press on the second day, or use the same lifts but with around 60-80% of the main training day.
Set and rep ranges. If you’re fairly new, stick with the good old fashioned 5 x 5. To save time you can alternate the two lifts leaving a good 90 - 120 seconds between lifts. Use the first 2-3 sets to ramp up and go heavy in the last two sets, but always leave a rep “in the bank” Each week, try to add a little extra to the top set.
If you’ve been lifting a while, then you can change the rep ranges. Week 1: 5x5 Week 2: 5x3 Week 3: 5/4/3/2/1+ Week 4: start over. This allows you to lift heavier each week in and test the limits every 3rd or fourth week.
Another superb way to train for strength is to wave the load and/or reps. For example: 5/3/2 x 3-5. This means do a set of 5, then do a set of 3 then do a set of 2, that is one round. Do 3-5 rounds. Each set is a little heavier, but never to failure. So it may go:
60kg x 5, 62.5kg x 3, 65kg x 2
62.5kg x 5, 65kg x 3, 67.5kg x 2
65kg x 5, 67.5kg x 3, 70kg x 2
Giving you three rounds.
This might push you over the 30 minutes if you’re using two lifts and are already strong, play it by ear a little.
And here's that 70kg x 2:
Strength Circuit An alternative would be to the “Strength Circuit” format I talk about in the W.M.D eBook. A strength circuit may not give you the specific strength increases, but will make you a stronger all round human animal.
To perform a circuit, set a timer for the duration you want to work, usually 20 minutes, but it can be longer. Set up the exercises, comprising of one big lift and 2-4 gradually smaller lifts.
Deadlift x 3-5, Press x 4-6, Goblet Squat x 4-6, V-Sit x 4-6
Or Front Squat x 3-5, Pull Up x 3-5, Dip x 3-5, Sledgehammer Slam x 10L/R
Go through the circuit with minimal rest and then take a good break at the end. If you wear a heart rate monitor, wait until the HR drops to double figures before going again.
Add weight to the first exercise each round if you can. Add weight to the second exercise each week if you can. Don’t worry if you can’t, you will eventually.
I love strength circuits for the grapplers, I’m not sure my grapplers love strength circuits, but they do love the results!
Here's an example:
A final option, is to use a complex.
Again, it’s not going to get you winning any strength competitions, but it will make an extremely durable and all over strong human animal.
Complexes have been a favourite of the combat athlete for many years for this very reason.
And anytime I need to become dangerously fit in a hurry, it’s complexes I turn to.
If you’re looking for strength, keep the reps low, say 4-6 reps per exercise, and don’t string too many movements together.
A classic complex e use in WG-Fit is: Bent Over Row x 5, Clean/Squat/Press x 5, Reverse Lunge x 5L/R for 5 rounds.
Here's the lads going at it as part of our Bootcamp program:
In my own training, I’m using the “Armour Building Complex” popularised by Dan John, it goes: Cleans x 2, Press x 1, Squat x 3
Complexes are great because even though you’re using a relatively light weight (it’s limited by the weakest lift) you are under tension for an extended period of time.
Just be sure to take adequate rest between each round if strength is the goal, less time if you’re looking for fitness.
Putting it together
To structure a week it could go:
1x/week: Heavy lifts. 2x/week: Heavy/Light or Heavy/Heavy using more exercises or Heavy / Complex or Heavy / Strength Circuit
3x/week: 3 heavy using 1 to 2 exercises only, 2 Heavy & one complex or Heavy/Strength Circuit/Complex
It is very possible to become very strong with little time. It may not be the most optimal way to train, but it can be made work.
For those who really, honestly only have time for 1 half hour session in the weight room, I’d strongly suggest you work on some Grease the Groove for other movements, maybe using bodyweight exercises, and trying to fit in a few sets through the day.
I hope that answers your question.
Please get in touch if you need more.