T Nation

Lifting in College


Stats: 20 yrs 5'11, 180lbs, 8-10% bf
Bench: 240
Squat: 315
Dead: 500

Ive been used to working out 5-6 days a week for the past few years. This is my first semester away at school, and between campus food and school work, i feel like college is beginning to take a toll on my body.

Lately I have been thinking about doing a kind of MWF routine, using only compound exercises as I am simply just trying to put on mass. I am hesitant to do this though because i feel as though I will not be able to grow working out only 3 times per week. So i was just wondering if anybody had some advice on this?

My routine would be something like

Flat Bench
Incline bench
Millitary press
Lat Pull Downs
Bent over BB rows
Front Raises
Leg Extension
Leg Press
Calf raises

Most of these exercises would be performed with a BB, using a 6-8 rep range. Any advice is appreciated


Looks like you need to ditch bodybuilding for a while. Stick to a simple template and do other athletic things with your spare time.

Do some speed work - jerks, med ball, sprints, jumps, plyos, light speed bench, etc depending on day
Do main lift say bench
Do one bbb lift. Say press I personally like 10's to 5's bbb
Do some lats 3-5 sets vary it
Abs and maybe prehab (rotator work, light curls, light triceps)
For abs pick one movement and try o beat your reps on lower days maybe do some hypers or swings after sit ups or what have you.

Use your spare time to do other athletic things and enjoy your life while getting stronger

For example today i did..
Push jerks ladder and med ball chest throws for speed work then...
Bench 5x1 @90% training max
30 reps chest supp row
5x10 floor press
Prehab (face pull, band triceps, very light flyes and stretching)

Med ball slams x10
Hang cleans 3x3
Light speed pulls if i feel like it 5x1
Main workout...
Squats 531
Leg press 5x10
Hypers 3x15-20
Band standing abs
Light curls superset with grip holds

Thursday ill do some plyos upper body maybe hang pulls then
Incline db 5x10
Pulldowns ss with press

Jump squat 20% tm 5x3
Hang cleans 3x3
( when my achilis heals ill do sprints less jump squats)
Light gmornings 5x10
Leg raises ss with abductor machine

Etc and etc


Oh and i personally have to do calves and balance work to stabilize my ankle (sucks) but i wrestle and neck work i will be doing 4 way neck on pull days i strained my achilis and ankles too many times


College years are one of the best time to make gains. Other kids to lift with, campus gym, unlimited food (if your meal plan permits) and a lot of free time. If you can't make it work now then you never will when you have a job and a family to worry about. Not saying this to be a dick, but perhaps its a time management/organization thing, and rather than throwing out lifting regularly, you need to make other lifestyle changes to accommodate lifting.


For a 3 time a week program focused on mass that works for a college student, I have had great success with 20 rep squats. Ran that when I was in college, and when I wasn't lifting, I was eating at the cafeteria or drinking milk.


Depends on if you're doing the 3 days a week thing because of actual time commitments or if you're trying it because you heard it's supposed to be "all you need" or "better for mass" or something.

Generally speaking if you got your deadlift to an actual 500 on 5/6 day a week programs, I'd stick with 5 days a week unless your schedule actually prohibits it or you just don't feel like that any more. Your hunch is most likely correct in that you feel better on 5/6 days and you've got more faith in those routines.

Not that you CAN'T get the 3 days to work, just that's not what I would pick personally.

As for a 3 day/week routine, the one you posted is absolutely no good. Good Lord no. You don't need both the variations of bench press 3x a week each.

Better 3 day/week program would be something like:

DAY 1:

Military press, strictly no legs
Bench OR incline bench

lower body emphasis: pick 3 lower body exercises (only one can be a deadlift variation).

DAY 2:

Incline bench
Push press

Upper body emphasis (pick 2 back exercises and 2 shoulder/arm exercises. NO more benching today)

DAY 3:

Seated overhead press from pins

Whole body conditioning: Pick 3 exercises that hit every single muscle between them and then do them in a circuit. Mix med ball throws or jumps between the 3 exercises (example: 1) dumbbell row, then med ball throw against a wall, 2) walking lunges, then jumps, then 3) farmers walk.)

Still, all in all I'd much rather do a 5 day program myself.


I guarantee if you aren't working 30 plus hours a week you can easily fit 5 good training sessions in each week. I shake my head at friends who tell me they want to lift but they don't have time to. I train 6 days each, and still manage to work a part time job and do well in school, while still having a social life and time for necessities like playing NCAA 14! It's not that hard, and I'm sure having a family and full time job is much more challenging to fit lifting in with than school


One of my favorite all time articles



If you can't find time in college to lift (especially if you live on campus) you might as well just quite now.


Agreed. I'm a senior, I've been lifting 4-5 times a week ever since I started college (except for after my surgeries when I did 3x a week), have a way above average gpa, and I've always had time to hit the gym. Plus I work 20+ hours a week and go out on Fridays/Saturdays most of the time.

It might take some time management skills though. I don't feel like I have a lot of down time, but that's because whenever I do have down time I either study, work ahead on homework, or if it's the weekend I go out and enjoy myself.


I agree. I worked 40 hrs per week while going to school full time and was able to hit the gym 5xper week just fine. It's only 45-60 minutes out of your day. Go to sleep later or wake up a bit earlier.


You can do it if you really want to. It's a matter of time management and prioritization.

You can do this. Good luck.


I just graduated last year. I lifted 5-6 days a week throughout the entire year. I did this while maintaining a job and finishing my Bio degree with honors. I was also doing 4-5 hours of research a week. I found that you start to learn what is important to you. I would right down a rough hour by hour approximation of what my week (if very busy) or day (if not very busy) would look like.

P.S. I still had fun on the weekends.


Yup, full time job, half time or more student. I work out 5-7 days a week depending on recovery.


I agree with what most are saying: Work on your time management and think positively and you can work out as often as you want while in college.


I wish I was back in college again so I could just train and eat and study. Looking back, it's so simple and stress free.

Seriously, you are provided with a college gym and all the food you could possibly ask for, and your purpose there is to read stuff, learn it, and sometimes write about it; I do that shit just for the fun of it on my own time. So easy.

To address the OP specifically, I think your strength needs improvement. Three days a week will work for growth & strength and so will five days or six days or two days; program wisely and EAT. Good luck.