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Limited Training Equipment. No Barbell for 3 Months

I have a training issue. For the next 3 months, I will only be able to train with dumbbells going up to 100lbs each, a bench, and a pull-up/dips station. Until I join a gym, this is all I have access to. I’m just trying to find a good way to build some muscle with higher rep work with the limited equipment I have access to before having being able to use a barbell at a gym again. It’s only 3 months so instead of not working out, I figured this would be a good time to build some muscle. Any ideas of how to setup the days with exercises and some sort of progression that isn’t completely stupid? I know it’s not ideal but would love to get Jim’s take on what he would advise in this situation.

What were you doing prior to not having access to a gym?

Personally I’d just use the time to go for rep records with dumbbells and get really good at body weight stuff. I don’t know how strong you are but maybe aim for 30 reps of dumbbell rows with 100lbs or 20 dips/pullups, something like that.

Think of the 5’s pro template and change it into a 8’s pro, or 10’s pro - whatever those weights get you to.

You could do SLDL for the deadlift, and squats holding two dumbbells by your side, or do goblet squats.

Goblet squat
Db Romanian dls

3 x 20

Add 10 reps every week until you hit 3 x 50

Done this recently and had some of the most brutal workouts ever. Use this as an opportunity to explore new ways of training mate

Thanks everyone. Before this I was doing the original 5/3/1 4 days a week. Ya, I was thinking of using the time for dumbbell rep records and also doing a lot of bodyweight work. How would you guys set it up if I was sticking to a traditional 5/3/1 template? Would I just choose a total rep amount for goblet squats, sldl, bench, and press? and then fill in extra assistance work with db rows, dips, chins, etc.? The problem with choosing 10’s pro instead of 5’s pro (I assume that doing work sets for sets of 10 reps instead of 5 reps) is I will already be able to goblet squat the 100b dumbbells for at least 10 reps. Should I try a higher “PRO” rep range for main work? Something like 20’s pro or should I just choose a set amount of total reps to complete? So maybe aim for 50 total reps of goblet squats in as little sets as possible? Maybe instead of 4 days a week of each main lift, maybe just do a 3 day a week full body split? I think the full body split would be better, just don’t know how to split up the work.

Any thoughts on how to set up this type of training in a leader/anchor format?

Man without barbells there is no point in training with a 5/3/1 template. Instead do what others have mentioned. Maybe just work with a more traditional bodybuilding template? You have an opportunity to gain some muscle mass while maybe giving the joints a rest just take it in stride

Any advise on setting up a plan then? I know basic exercises to use but not how much volume to use. I know that depends on recovery but I’m just looking for a little guidance. My recovery will be pretty good. I eat a lot of food, get plenty of rest, and ride the assault bike everyday. I do want to use this time in a positive way instead of pissed I can’t use a barbell and properly train for strength. I’m not into bodybuilding so I thought Jim might have some suggestions for me. I have used 5/3/1 for a long time with great success, and instead of taking 3 months off, I thought this would be a good opportunity to build some muscle. Just need a few ideas of how to setup a template. I was thinking of a full body template 3 days a week. Something maybe like:

DB Squat
DB Bench
DB Rows
Band Pull Aparts

DB Press
DB Shrugs

DB Lunges
Band Pull Aparts

If there is a more efficient way, any advice would be appreciated. Maybe a upper/lower split instead for 4 days a week? Just not sure about volume… Should I shoot for total number or reps, like 50-100 of each exercise, or should I do 3-5 sets of 10 and just increase weight when I get 5X10? I just have never used all dumbbells and not sure how to manage volume without main barbell lifts. Thanks.

You can just follow a similar body split as one of the 5/3/1 templates, if nothing you are doing is super heavy maybe consider a full body split, focus a lot on conditioning. I wouldn’t do the 5/3/1 rep scheme though, you can just make up something similar for pressing, workup to a heavy rep max then back off sets, ignore percentages and the week to week changes. For legs this may not be best option, just do lots of reps with whatever your able to.

To keep it simple full body sounds best, the more unique days you have the more creative you have to get.

Thank you. I like the sound of working up to a heavy rep max then doing some back off sets for lots of reps. Should I just stick to a squat, push, and pull each day and then add a couple assistance exercises such as chins, dips, rows, curls, etc.?

Would like to know how Jim would approach this as a full body template…

I would do something similar to what I did a couple years ago following my back surgery - no barbells; nothing but weight vest, sleds, Prowlers and KB’s. I developed a separate training program and several different “standards” to train for. I also used the basic principles and the “20% conditioning” principle - in other words we NEVER TEST, we only train. Vast majority of programs and trendhoppers test and never train.

I dubbed this WaLRUS training, since you are the fat, disgusting cousin of the Navy SeAL. It’s meant as a joke so don’t start pulling your puds just yet.

It is very comprehensive and I don’t want to write the program now. But in general, the standard to reach for the Suburban Commando is:

50 DB squats with 100lb DB
50 Dips
25 chins

all with 85lbs vest and must be done in 30 minutes. That is one of half-dozen standards I have and what we TRAIN for (again we don’t test during training). So develop your standards and develop your training to reach those standards.

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Thank you for the advice.

Hey Jim,

I´m in a similar situation right now and I found this interesting post! I will try to reach these “standards” and I think I have a lot of work to do!

How do you trained these days to reach these standards? How many days per week and did you always trained the whole body or upper/lower split? How did a week of training look like?


We have different standards for this involving dips, DB squats, chins, KB cleans, KB snatches, “bodyweight squats”, single leg squats and push-ups. So how you train is usually dictated by what standard you want to achieve; obviously you need some variation. In general, every day you train one WALRUS workout - done for 30 minutes, using the 20% rule or 50% rule or whatever I named it in the Forever book. Just looking for good, solid workouts that don’t kill you. Obviously, the rule can also be applied for the time so workouts may be longer.

Anyway, I don’t know what this question is: “and did you always trained the whole body or upper/lower split”.

Training week looked like one of the WALRUS workouts every day and weight vest walking every day. Obviously, I missed some days here and there but I just plugged away. The full details of the WALRUS are in the Forever book; on it’s own, it kicks ass. When used as the assistance protocol to a lower volume barbell program it is fucking insane.

First things first, what the hell!!! I have the forever book and I never read the „Wendler Classic“ Part with the WALRUS training, dumb! This is exactly what I´m looking for and what I need regarding my current situation, awesome, genius!

Lastly a few questions,

I don´t have a weight vest yet but I hope I´ll get one soon. Can you recommend a brand?

I´m confused because the template in the „Forever Book“ it says 3 days of weight vest (WALRUS) training?!??!

I can´t train with a barbell right now, so I plan to train the WALRUS workouts on Mo/We/Fr. I will do push-ups and chins every training day. What leg exercise should I do right now if I don´t have a weight vest? I have dumbbells and kettlebells!?

Should I do the same leg exercise Mo/We/Fr or is this too much when my goal is to achieve the standard you named above, the 50 DB-Squats with 100lbs?

What would you do in my situation to get better, especially stronger in my legs!?


You asked me what I personally did - this was done as rehab for my back surgery. Hence I had to do something everyday or nearly everyday.

What leg exercise should I do right now if I don´t have a weight vest? I have dumbbells and kettlebells!?

DB squats, Single leg squats.

Should I do the same leg exercise Mo/We/Fr or is this too much when my goal is to achieve the standard you named above, the 50 DB-Squats with 100lbs?

It’s a DB squat - you can probably do it 3 times/day if you really wanted to.

I would do something every single day to make my legs stronger. Because that’s what I did when I couldn’t squat/deadlift.

thanks Jim for your reply and your answers! I think I´ll stick to the template as it´s written in the forever book and train 3x per week. I´ll do push-ups and chin-ups every training day. I´m not sure yet how often I should do the DB-squats to achieve my goal (50 DB squats with 100lbs) but I think I have to experiment what frequency is good or not. Maybe I alternate between DB-squats one training session and KB-swings the next session and then back to squats… I don´t want to train many different exercises, just focus on one and try to achieve the goal. Anyway, thanks and have a great day and I hope your not freezing your ass off with this current weather/winter situation!