T Nation

Maintaining/Gaining Strength


Hello all,
Basically I want to know what you guys do to maintain strength when extremely busy and stressed. I am a full time nursing student during the days, and nights and weekends I am in fire training. On top of this I work as an EMT.

Currently my workouts are based on a 3 day/wk. But I rarely make it three days a week, more like 1-3 times over 2 weeks. I squat every day(varying %), clean 2/3 days and DL when I dont do cleans. Press and Bench are each on one of the days as well. At the end of each day I hit the rower, prowler or farmers walks. Sorry I don’t have my notebook right in front of me with my exact schedule.

So what is the best way try to make gains during this time? During nursing school(past year and half) I have basically been at a standstill, not getting stronger or gaining any weight.



Outside of the folks new to this game, no one is on a constant upward curve with their strength.

Dan John wrote an excellent article about red, amber, green light times of the year. Times where you know that things will be on the back burner and shock-horror, you may lose strength.

The point is not to stress about it and do the best you can with an understanding that you’re not going to fall off the wagon completely, instead there will be more intense training to come later.

If training is always your number 1 priority, something is seriously wrong in your life.


“If training is always your number 1 priority, something is seriously wrong in your life.”

This is some great wisdom - remember it.

That being said - when shit gets crazy for me - I have two things I do. The first is I shift to “jack shit” 5/3/1 (you don’t hear about this match anymore but if you pound your last set and/or do some fsl - you will make great progress. I’ll throw in some abs/ low back but that’s it.

Or, will scale down to just conditioning. I have done this for upwards of three weeks at a time with no lifting and then been able to start back up where I left off with virtually no strength loss. The benefit to this is that I own a sled and a weighted vest - so I do not have to drive to the gym. I do these things with virtually no transportation time necessary. The best though, is I am fortunate enough to live near a HUGE, steep, hill.

Find one and run up it a lot. You will be amazed how long you can go without squatting and still make gains - I kid you not.


The best way to deal with this situation, as I have written before, is to have an A and a B workout. You can do them whenever you have time and it never becomes a problem, even back/back.

The lifting should be done 2 times/week. The mobility/flexibility work is done everyday. Conditioning work will probably fall into the shitter but if you can do 2 days/week of AirDyne, it’d make a huge difference. Training should be a priority in your life - just look at the turds around you. And it’s not about the training, its about the preparation to help save your life if you do become a firefighter.

So yeah, training should be fucking important. Really important.