Back to School Training Advice

For those of you going back to school now, there might be less opportunities to get your training done. This is especially true for athletes. Below are a few quick tips to make it easier on yourself.

Reduce Training Frequency and/or Volume

This one is pretty straightforward. If you have less time to train often, then train with less frequency. Make sure you keep intensity high, so you continue to grow stronger and at the very least maintain your muscle mass. Programs like 5/3/1 (I’d also recommend reading Beyond 5/3/1, if you plan to run it) offer 2 or 3 day per week training templates, which can still be extremely effective. Sometimes it’s more about quality than quantity.

If you have some time to train daily, but it’s not enough to do all the volume you’re used to, prioritize your workouts. Figure out what exercises are most important (probably the compounds like squat, deadlift, row, pull up, bench press and overhead press) and for the rest of your training try to combine exercises (i.e. instead of doing dumbbell lateral raises and cable external rotations simply do a dumbbell L-Raise) or superset them (i.e. do a set of pullups between OHP sets).

Remember that the added school stress can create a situation where fatigue accumulates more quickly. This doesn’t mean you should stop training hard, but training smart would be a great idea as well now. Be efficient with your time. Do enough to make progress, but don’t hammer away with things that basically only help make you more tired and sore.


Improve Time-Efficiency with At-Home Workouts

Let’s say you have a limited amount of time per week to hit the gym, but you have some time during study breaks where you could squeeze in some quick workouts. An efficient way to set up your training program based on these requirements would be to hit all your big lifts at the gym, when you have access to the weights you need for those. Then just do the rest of your assistance work at home.

Even if you have limited space, you can probably rig up a door frame pull up bar and do some band exercises. A lot of body weight exercises are also possible. I’d recommend checking out Convict Conditioning and Convict Conditioning 2, because a dorm room is a lot like a prison cell.

An example: If you want to get better at pull ups, this would be a good opportunity to try a grease the groove program for that. You’d basically do a few pull ups during your study breaks to get better at them. Use bands to assist if you can’t do a few regular pullups with your body weight yet. Or add weight with a weighted vest.

Study breaks are also a very good opportunity to get some foam rolling and/or stretching done. Or do some yoga to relax and stretch. My active recovery article has some more basic information.

If you feel tired and need to wake the fuck up, try out Elliott Hulse’s bio-energizer routine. You might look like a nutjob doing some of the ‘drills’, but it does work.

Tools you might find helpful for at-home workouts: Door Frame Pull Up Bar | Jumpstretch Bands | Weighted Vest | TRX Suspension Trainer | Rumble RollerThe Grid Foam RollerRegular Cheap Foam RollerLacrosse Ball (for trigger point self myofascial release) | Yoga Kit for Beginners |


In Season Athletes: Train for Your Sport

If your season is starting and you’ve been lifting weights 4+ times per week, it’s time to reduce this and focus on your sport. Give 100% in practices and don’t hold back to reserve energy for lifting. If you get 1-2 lifting sessions in per week during the season, that’s fine. Simply do what your energy levels allow for. If you have free time outside of practice to train, make sure you prioritize recovery over lifting. Now is not the time to get stronger, you should prioritize this during the offseason. Now is the time to become better at your sport.

To get an example of what I’m talking about, check out the in-season training portion of Westside for Skinny Bastards from DeFranco.


Prepare Meals Ahead of Time

If you have access to a kitchen daily with the time to cook, this might not be a big deal… but that’s not the situation a lot of college students will find themselves in. So make it count when you do have time and access to a kitchen or you’ll probably end up eating a bunch of junk food. Cook your meals in bulk, separate them into tupperware containers and also make yourself healthy snacks that can be kept for a while (i.e. beef or turkey jerky, dried fruit, hard boiled eggs, or homemade protein bars). A food dehydrator can be very helpful! Excalibur is a bad motherfucker.


And that wraps this one up. Remember that I’m not a doctor, so this is just advice from a guy who lifts and has been pressed for time in the past himself. I hope it helps some people!