T Nation

New Hectic Schedule: To Program or Not To Program?


I’ve been following 5/3/1 consistently for months now but my life has become a bit up in the air. I’ve moved back to my hometown following a job offer until I start my masters degree in September and with undergraduate deadlines ever looming I’m on a very hectic schedule at the best of times. This means I don’t always get to train or at least rain at the times or days that might be best, and if I’m honest I’m not enjoying being so rigid in my training anymore. I get that programming is optimal in terms of strength development. What are your thoughts on training without any set programme?


I am not a fan of planned programs. Stay conservative and listen to your limits.


There’s a ton of leeway and adaptability in 5/3/1. That’s one of the reasons a lot of people choose 5/3/1.

Pick one of the 2 sessions a week templates he provides. And you have the option of just doing the main lifts and then leaving if all you’ve got is 20 or so minutes in the gym.

If all you can do are the 2 sessions and and you don’t do much or any assistance work, then just work in some bodyweight and light db circuits at home. Optimal? Depends on your goals, but even if it’s not optimal it’s a whole lot better than nothing.


What is more important to you: to have fun or to perform better? If you just want to have fun, do whatever the hell you enjoy whenever the hell you want. You might not get any better, but you’ll have fun (I can’t imagine that myself, but it takes all kinds). If you want to perform better, train accordingly and understand that this means putting training in your top three priorities, preferably top two.


For me personally, doing the second usually results in accomplishing the first.


I’m the exact opposite. If I just did what I felt like I’d progress much more slowly, if at all.


I did the following set up when my life got pretty hectic a while back, and managed to hit some great PRs while having a lot of schedule flexibility:

Main: 5’s pro 3-5x5 FSL
Assit: 25-50 of each category (exercises depended on time and how I felt)

Main: PR sets, 0-3x5 FSL
Assist: 50 ea

Conditioning: bike only for 20 minutes a couple times a week

Here is the key:
On Sunday I would try to plan my week depending on what was going on. If I could lift all 4 days then great. If not, I would combine days so that I would only hit the gym 2 or 3 times a week. I would also change days during the week if something happened. Just about every week was different, but I made sure to hit all 4 lifts at some point every week.


My priorities at present are my degree, working on my promotion and earning enough money. I don’t have a meet planned until November and a month or two off programming can’t be too bad a result I guess but I do agree totally


So let me assume that I only have time to work out twice a week, and let me further assume those days have at least two days of rest between them.

I would start every session with a full body exercise that lets me pick weight off the ground and lift it over my head. My second exercise would be squats if I was more worried about trying to lose weight or alternating squats and dead lift days if I was building strength. For the rest of my session I would use lighter weight super sets to pack in more exercises in less time.


You can do 2 full body sessions per week and hit it really hard when you do go, whilst still making progress. This is probably one of the few exceptions where it may be useful to take sets to failure.

It might only be 60% of your potential progress due to the lack of overall volume, but I would take that as a win if it allows you to progress rapidly in your career at the same time.


The more hectic your schedule, the more you need to plan. I rarely leave anything up to chance as in life, there are many things I cannot control. However, I control the things I can control to give me something to put my feet on.


Now that is some sage advice. Thank you Jim.