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Wing It
February 20, 2019 Dan Raimondi

When life gets crazy, make sure you know how to go into the gym and train without a plan. There’s a little bit of structure, but you have the freedom to improvise, adjust, and adapt. Things are a little crazy for me right now so here is what I like to do in these situations.

Day 1:

Squat: I’ll work up to something moderately heavy. Not an all out maximm, just something “heavy.” After that, I’ll drop a bunch of weight off and do some high rep back off sets. A few sets of 10 or 3 sets of 8. Doesn’t matter too much. I keep the belt off and the knee sleeves off. It makes the session go faster and keeps a little weight off the bar.

Press: I’ll do something similar, or skip the heavy rep and just do 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps.

Deadlift: I’ll work up to a heavy single on a variation I like (i personally like deficit deadlifts).

Whatever: I’ll sometimes pick 1 more thing and do 2-3 sets. This might be an upper back movement like chin-ups or rows, or another pressing movement like a seated dumbbell press or dips.

Total Time: 60-70 minutes.

Day 2:

Squat: A variation done for a few heavy singles. I personally like paused squats.

Bench Press: I’ve been playing around with a Slingshot lately. Could be any variation, again done for some higher reps. Incline bench, close grip- even push-ups could be fine here.

Upper back: Rows or chin-ups, whichever I feel like doing.

Total time: 45 minutes

Day 3:

Power Cleans: I’ll warm up using power cleans, sets of 2-3 reps.

Deadlift: I’ll work up to a heavy single, then do 1-2 back off sets of 5-8 reps.

Bench or Press: Heavy single and backoffs sets.

For Fun: arms, shoulders, triceps, trunk work- anything I don’t normally do but want to have fun with.

Total Time: 60-70 minutes.

There are a few common themes here:

  • I like getting some heavy single rep sets in to keep the “feel” of a heavyweight in my mind. Following with back off sets has the added bonus of building in extra volume, plus the weight feels better after you’ve just done a heavy single.
  • I like ranges. 1-2 sets of 8-12 reps. I can work within the range as I feel like. If I want to do more I can, or less, that’s fine. These periods of training for me don’t usually last much more than 2-3 weeks, so there won’t be much detriment in the long run to having a less structured plan.
  • Have fun: I like to add in movements I haven’t done in a while, or things I rarely do, like bicep and tricep exercises.
  • Sessions are short. 45-60 minutes on average. When life is crazy I’d argue going even closer to 30-45 minutes is better. The longer the lift, the easier it is to rationalize not doing it. Get in the gym, get a couple of things done, and get out.
  • Pair movements together. often times I’ll bench and squat back to back. This saves lots of time.
  • Don’t play on your phone.

It’s helpful to have a “default” plan you can rely on when things get crazy. Structured plans are great, but knowing how to adjust if needed is also a useful skill.