T Nation

Coping with a College Gym Course


Hello all,

I'm an avid reader of the forums and don't post much, but I learned a bunch. I'm sitting at 172 lbs from 147 6 months ago.
I'm currently on madcow's 5x5.

Here are my lifts (1RM in lbs)

bench 190
bent-over rows : 160
squats : 230 (ass to ground yo!)
deadlift : 350
Military press : 120

Here's the problem. I'm starting a new session in college and I have a lifting course. The gym is shit. When I mean shit, it's like there are up to 50 lbs dumbells, a sitting smith bench press, and a pec-dec and a wobbly leg press machine.

A bent 15 cheap barbell and about 150 pounds of weight. Oh yeah, they also bought a fucktons of bosu-balls and balance boards, and they won't buy a cage when asked.

In order to pass the course, I must succesfully create a program and see results from it that I'll have to prove by passing 1RM tests at the beginning and at the end. The thing is, I max all those machines already, and the smith bench press kills my shoulders. I have to train 2 times / week there. I'm already training 3 days at the real gym for the 5x5.

What's there to do so I won't lose my time and make my teacher happy? No serious equipment means I can't train the 5x5 at my college gym. It needs to be a full body workout. Should I just work on isolation?


Have you considered dropping the course or transferring to a school with a real training facility?

Otherwise, why not just fake your first round of 1RM tests and then kill it at the end of the semester?

There are tons of effective training protocols other than the 5x5. This might be a great opportunity to experiment with some new exercises / training parameters. You don't always need tons of equipment to get a great workout. Even with only a set of 50lb dbs I bet you could create a decent routine.


dunno if its possible...if the teachers dont know your maxes right now..wen u go in, just fake your 1RM with a weight you can handle, and at the end of your course just increase the weight for another "1RM".

that way you get to pass the course, keep the teachers happy, etc.

in terms of proper training-find another gym to train/buy equipment to train at home.

if its a case of using the equipment above to increase your strength, weight isnt the only factor-you could also reduce time between sets to make things a little more difficult, although with the limited weight available it still might not be enough.

dont know if any of that helped :slight_smile:


If this is serious, I would have a sit down w/ the instructor, explain the lack of the necessary equipment for an effective strength training program, and have him clarify his expectations.


Continue to work out at your current gym without telling anyone, come in to the shitty gym, do some stretches, 5 minutes of aerobics, 1 bosu ball squat, and 15 push ups. Record this as your program.

Then pass the 1-rm test w/ 30-40 lb improvements in your core lifts, and be done with the silliness.


I should have clarified that I would still continue training at my real gym.

I didn't choose this class. Rock climbing was first on my list but I didn't get it.

I'm definitively faking the 1 RM. I could do an easy/silly workout routine to keep the teacher happy (elastic bands and bosu balls, here I come!), but I would rather use that time to do something productive, that wouldn't tire me too much for when I go do my normal workout (the 5x5).

I already tried to talk to him, asking why so much bosu balls and he looked like he really thought they were great. It's kind of hopeless right now.


you talk to him and explain that you max all the machines already (dumbbells too?) and that you are confused about how to make progress if you already do the max the machine will let you. Ask him what he recommends. Deal with the retarded answer, but then at least you'll have a solid expectation to handle.

Also, you could just increase your rep max--you already max the machines, so you would test successfully by turning your 8 RM (or whatever you do with the full stack in there) into a 15 RM for example. That's progress.

Although I definitely feel your pain. I dunno what I'd do if the dumbbells only went to 50 lbs. I'd find another gym ASAP, but that's not really possible here is it? Sucks.


It sounds like you may want to visit the dean's office, and explain what's going on. You are paying them to teach you, so if a teacher is incompetent you have a right to complain and request that they fix the issue. I'm sure you can find some supporting materials for your arguments.


I agree with Ninjaboy about going to the Dean first - you shouldn't be stuck in a class if you don't want to be there.

If you don't have any luck, and you absolutely have to stay in that class, then you should definitely fake your maxes.

I'd also suggest finding out what is going to score you the highest marks. If the teacher gives out extra marks for a routine with a bosu ball, and less for free weights, then just include more bosu exercises.

You're only making the best of a bad situation and using your brain (and your teacher's lack of training knowledge) to do it.

It isn't going to affect your normal training, because you do that in a separate gym.


Gah, college is stupid. I took a 'resistance training program design course.' It was largely based on super outdated concepts and was graded that way. (had to essentially forget everything I learn here and create 3x10 cookie cutter programs to get full points)

The only bright spot was the 'lab' portion of the course where we were 'shown' lifts in the gym and had a little time for free lifting. This part kinda rocked because my instructor was a former oly guy for the North Korea national team and I got some pretty good advice on clean and snatch form from him.


see i think this is a time to have fun. work on conditioning and posterior chain. test yourself in a crazy circuit, and the goal would be to get faster at it.

50 pushups
20 revenge rows(see nates kettlebell article, just use dumbbells)
10 alternating single arm snatches
25 overhead squats
30 single leg deadlifts (increase weight here)
plank with legs on bosu
twists with band as resistance


definetly tell the dean and demand action. you are paying for this(or someone is) your situation is ridiculous.
if you want to prove your point, pick up the trainer and press him overhead a few times


Best suggestion so far. Faking your 1RM is cheesy, and should be beneath you. Talk directly to the teacher and explain the situation, at least that way you've done everything you can to address it before it's an issue, rather than jumping right to the Dean. Then be sure to make their jaws drop at the real RM test. See if the teacher would be interested in you tracking a rep max. Solid idea.

Keep going with your 5x5, and use the two days in the school gym for corrective, rehab, and restorative work. Odds are you could do some ball-based core training without interfering with your main program.

Worst suggestion so far. Drop out of this school and enroll in a different school because the gym is subpar? Seriously? Dropping the class, maybe. But dropping out of the school? Unreal.


HA - yeah, that comment was a little tongue-in-cheek...


I was going to suggest prehab, but Chris beat me to it.

Additionally, madcow is lacking in calf and direct arm work. You could do these in class.


Mog16 nailed my situation the most the most in my opinion.
I got the objectives for the course, it's basicaly designing a program that will hit and I read : arms, back, chest, lower body, and cardio, so I'll guess a cookie cutter program will go fine.

I tried maxing the smith press machine. Holy shit it murders my shoulders. It feels like pushing away a lever where the pivot is at your feet, and the arc of movement is actually moving up, then down. Imagine pushing those spinny things to tic the number of people entering an amusement parc. I'll have to resort to the 50 # dumbels for pressing. Any suggestion?

I'm trying to work on an exemption from the course, as I am already in the rowing team. I'll see how that goes.

MC Sp3 : Funny thing you mentioned lack of direct arm and calf work, I already added these to my deadlift day.

Thanks all for the help!

Edit :

I'm kind of stiff in the hamstrings and spoke with the trainer about my interest in making corrective exercise, since I want to pick up Oly Lifting this summer. He didn't seem too hot at the idea, saying that I couldn't really get evaluated on that. I'd still like to do some, I may write a cookie cutter program and go crazy on the corrective exercises.


This is why I went to a small private arts college with no phys-ed programs.

Anyway, just fake it. I'm sure you're feigning interest and writing bullshit essays for plenty of pretentious academics with tenure, and you can do the same here.


x3-4 faking the first 1RM


Is this school Amish or something? That sounds pretty weak for a High school weight room.


I like the whole "fake the 1rm at the beginning then slaughter that shit at the end" idea ... best bet imo


Most colleges require a gym class so there's probably no way to get out of it. I wouldn't dig so deep into it. You are getting the majority of your training outside of class anyway. I'm sure there is something there that will allow you to make the most of your time. Let's forget about what the gym doesn't have and remember that you will be in there with a significant number of 18-22 year old women. In conclusion, be creative with your workouts and spit some game.