When Life Gets in the Way – by Jamie Bolton

We’ve all been there when life just seems to ‘get in the way’of our regular schedule. Deadlines at work, family overload, prior engagements and holidays, to name but a few.Often the difference between those who get results on a consistent basis and those who don’t, is that the former find ways to work around obstacles that pop up in life and get the time in the gym done.
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Some of this is psychological for sure, they MAKE time to train. But a plenty of it isn’t. It’s about being intelligent with the time you have and getting something in regardless.
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It’s about going from say 6 sessions at an hour a piece, and squeezing them down to 3 sessions a week at 45mins each, but still moving in the right direction. Heck, time may be even more pressing than that and it means stripping it down to even 2 sessions a week of 40mins. But you can still be moving forward. If you train intelligently.
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At its core, the key to this approach is stripping out what provides a weak investment of your time, and focusing on the big compounds that offer the best bang for your buck. It’s a pretty simple concept, and it works fantastically well.
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Yet why do people struggle then when time is short? I believe it’s fear. Fear that by dropping the barbell curls their arms will suddenly shrink, that without every conceivable raise their shoulders will morph back into their former-narrower selves. Believe me they won’t. You can give every bodypart enough stimulation so it at least maintains whilst training like this, and the majority of bodyparts can still grow. If you do it intelligently.g
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I like to use the 80/20 principle a lot, and here is no different – 20% of what you do gives you 80% of your results. Using the former example: 6 sessions a week @ 1 hour each is 6 hours total gym time; 3 sessions at 45mins each gives you 2 hours 30mins. Thats still 41.6% of our former gym time. Plenty, then to still achieve at LEAST 80% of our former results.
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There are a million and one ways you could set this up. So I’ll just show you what I like to use when I’m short on time. I take a full-body approach, training 3x per week. I’m a huge, huge fan of Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1, if you haven’t come across it, look it up. This is my fall-back to program. It’s my baseline for comparison. When time presses, I use this to get by in the following way.
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Sunday:

Squat – 5/3/1 Method
Bench Press – 5/3/1 Method
Pull ups – between every set of pressing
Conditioning – DB Swings 3×50

Tuesday:
Power Clean – 5/3/1 Method
Dips – 4×8
Pendlay Row – 4×8
Conditioning – Farmers walks 6x50m

Thursday:
Deadlift – 5/3/1 Method
Overhead Press – 5/3/1 Method
Pull ups – between every set of pressing
Conditioning – Complexes 3×8

Nothing terribly fancy. All bang for buck exercises and nothing more. That said, the tuesday session typically may leave me with 5-10mins extra free, in which case I just play it by ear and add some isolation work if I fancy it. Each day also begins with 3×6 of the JB complex to warm up. I’ll also tend to do 3×5 at 80% of my top set afterwards for the main lifts.

Sometimes I don’t, like others I’m sure, have time even for 3x per week. In which case I go to 2x per week and drop the tuesday session, since it’s composed of mainly accessory work anyway. The Sunday and Thursday sessions are the bread and butter of the program. It also works the other way. Occassionally if I have extra time I wasn’t expecting, there’s room enough here to add a little more, like a few sets of hill sprints or some bodyweight circuits at home. You get the picture. The point is that training like this, there’s enough of a stimulus to keep you progressing, but likewise enough ‘room’ for recovery you can add a reasonable amount more before running into problems.

AWAY FROM HOME

When away from home, its a slightly different proposition. If I have access to a (decent) gym then I’ll crack on with as I wrote above. But if the gym’s shoddy, or rather, there isn’t one, then it’s time to get imaginative.

The first thing I do is to take my TRX Suspension Trainer with me. Suddenly that gives me plenty of options. It’s not very hard to think of a tonne of circuits you can set up with this and standard bodyweight movements. You might not be able to quite load movements enough for the lower rep ranges unsuprisingly (think 3-5reps say), but instead the point is to just focus on quality reps and to accumulate a lot of volume of work.

The Traveller's Best Friend

A simple example of what I might do as a circuit would be:

TRX Inverted Row x10
TRX supported one-legged squat x10
TRX Incline Push up x10

5-6 rounds of this with minimal rest and you’ll be toast. You can of course add more, but taper the number of rounds accordingly.

Wrap Up

I hope this gives you a good few ideas on how to strip down your training when life gets in the way and to be sure to train anywhere. There are a million and one possibilities of how to. How you do it isn’t necessarily important though. The point is that you do it. Sure, life might try to get in the way. But if your training is THAT important to you, then you should be able to squeeze it in, no matter what. Strip it down and hit the basics.

A Simple Method for Complex Results – by Jamie Bolton

If I said I had the secret to take nearly every trainee one giant leap towards their goals, most would laugh.
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“Here we go again. Yet another site. Elite Kinetics sells its soul to the devil and starts pushing some silly equipment / supplement / <insert silly nonsensical item>.”
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.But I’m not about to do that. I’m not pushing any product here. What I’ve got here isn’t some one-size-fits-all crappy answer. It’s complex. Actually, it’s complexes. And in fact, it’s probably the one thing every trainee could do with adding to their program.
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I’m sure I’ve got you all on the edge of your seats now. So I won’t wait any longer.
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Complexes
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Dan John defines complexes as “...a series of lifts performed back to back where you finish the reps of one lift before moving on to the next lift. The bar only leaves your hands or touches the floor after all of the lifts are completed.

In other words, multiple exercises back-to-back with no rest in between. Typically with a barbell, but dumbbells or kettlebells, work just fine too.

Sounds simple? It’s not. It’s brutal. It’s hell on earth. Sometimes – it’s chunder time.

So why on earth are we doing them? This is why:

  • More time on the basic movement patterns
  • Increase training volume in a time-efficient way
  • Fast, total-body warm ups
  • Strength endurance development
  • Increased calorie burn
  • Rip off body fat
  • Increase work capacity and overall conditioning

Sounds pretty good doesn’t it? It is. Let me give you some examples.

Javorek Complex #1
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Istvan ‘Steve’ Javorek is the godfather of the complex. The man who came up with this great weapon. Here’s his barbell complex #1:
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Barbell upright row x 6
Barbell high pull snatch x 6
Barbell behind the head squat and push press x 6
Barbell behind the head good morning x 6
Barbell bent-over row x 6
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The JB Complex
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I may not be the first to do this one, but I do it all the time, so I’m putting my name on it damn it! This is my usual warm-up complex, and as several of my trainees can attest to – most definitely a favourite of mine:
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Push up (hands on barbell) x 6
Barbell Row x6
Barbell Hang Clean x6
Barbell Push Press x6
Barbell Back Squat x6
Barbell Good Morning x6

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Dumbbell Hell

Let’s not forget our friend the dumbbell. Dumbbells provide an additional stability component as they move separately from one another. Here’s a great example:

DB Renegade Row x5
DB High Pull x5
DB Military Press x5
DB Thruster x5
DB Lunge (DBs at shoulders) x5
DB Squat x5

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Implementation
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Complexes can be used in a multitude of ways. Each for slightly different purposes, yet the benefits are common to all.
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Warm ups. I hate lengthy, boring warm ups. Heck I used to not bother. Until I found complexes. A couple rounds of complexes for (without exhausting myself) and I’m good to go. My body is ‘warm’, heck I’m usually sweating at this point. Moreover, my mind is ready. Ready to hit the metal.
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Finishers. I always include some form of finisher/conditioning at the end of a session. Complexes are a great way to do just that. You get all the benefits mentioned above, and you don’t need to worry about special equipment like prowlers, farmers handles etc. 2-4 sets of 8 reps and you’ll be smoked.
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Extra Conditioning. Sometimes on ‘off’ days you just want to do something. For me, this is that something. Get a great conditioning hit and more time on the basic lifts, without detracting from recovery. In fact it may help recovery. What’s not to like?
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Putting your own complex together
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You can set these up in any manner you can think of really. There are only two considerations to remember. One – end with the toughest exercise. Two – make the bar move in some logical order from front to back, i.e. don’t do back squats followed by rows then good mornings and so on. A better option would be to put the rows first. But then, how does the bar get from rows to back squat? Time to add in some presses. You get the picture.
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Finally, sets and reps are arbitrary really. You can go with what I’ve prescribed above. You can up the reps to 8 or more. Or you can drop the reps and up the weight. These really are your oyster. A great, albeit (very) sadistic option is to go through these set by set as ladder reps, i.e. 8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 reps.
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Have some ‘fun’ with these and experiment. And if you come up with an awesome one – let me know!

The Spartan Approach to Assistance Work – by Jamie Bolton

Assistance work is a funny topic.Some people have a list as long as their arm when it comes to it, and hit muscles from every conceivable angle and with every possible piece of apparatus to ‘maximise’ their gains. Others pick exercises which exacerbate their weaknesses, rather than correcting them, leading to muscular imbalances, posture problems and ultimately sub-optimal performance.

For example, with someone struggling to improve their bench, they may find that doing extra accessory work on pecs (with various flies & presses maybe) is not the remedy to the issue. The issue may be to do with poor scapulae stability, lack of trap and upper back strength and stability (raw lifters especially), lack of lat strength and stability (lifters in gear especially) or tricep weakness.

What it boils down to, is that your assistance work may not even be assisting! First of all lets remember what we are actually trying to achieve when it comes to assistance work. In fact, if you haven’t done so already, I’d recommend that you read the ‘8s of training’ parts one and two to remind yourself what each part of your training structure is designed to achieve, but I digress.

Assistance work comes into play after we have completed our main lift or movement of the day, and typically, we are trying to achieve one of two things:
1. Accumulate more volume for the target muscle groups that work in our main lift/movement.
2. Bring up weaknesses in either terms of performance and/or aesthetics.

The second reason is an often cited one, yet  for probably ⅔ of lifters out their they don’t have weaknesses in the sense they perceive they do. The reality of most people’s situation is that everything is a weakness. Unless you can cite some proper reasoning for why something is a weakness, chances are it isn’t. By this I mean, for instance, weak triceps hindering your bench lockout, a judge at a contest commenting your rear delts effect the shape of your back badly, instability at the hip causing power loss out the blocks when sprinting, and so on.

As you may have noticed from some of my stuff by now, I’m a big believer in minimalism and keeping things simple. We can apply the 80/20 principle again here, i.e. that 20% of what you do is responsible for 80% of your results. What I’m going to propose here thus may sound outlandish, but hear me out. I want you to use two, yes just two exercises for your assistance work.

20% of what you do gives you 80% of your results

What this forces you to do is think about what you are choosing and focus on exercises that provide the most ‘bang for your buck’. Sometimes I’ll go further and only pick one assistance lift. Look at it like this, if I’ve ramped up and done some heavy squats as my main movement, followed up by some trap bar deadlifts for volume, and finish off with some sled pushes and pulls for conditioning, do you honestly think I am losing anything by not doing more?

Moreover, if you do have a long long list of assistance work to get through, I find it detracts from the workout in the sense that you may find you have to ‘pace’ yourself too much, as it seems like there is so much more to do. By limiting assistance work to two movements, it allows you to really focus on what you are doing. Not least, it saves a good amount of time. And don’t misinterpret that last bit, I’m not calling for minimising gym time, what I’m calling for is maximising quality of time in the gym.

Now here’s what I want you to do. For the next two weeks, limit your assistance to two movements that are the best investment of your training time. And if afterwards you really believe you need to add more back in, then do it, but only after two weeks. And don’t add it back just for the sake of of it.

To give an idea of how this may look, I’ll give some examples.

For the bodybuilder, on back day. You might start with deadlifts, and then for assistance follow up with bent-over barbell row and pull ups.

For the powerlifter on bench day, you start with bench press (you would hope!), and follow up with say dips and chins.

For an athlete, after doing power cleans, you might follow up with front squats and military presses as assistance.

In particular, I realise that every bodybuilder out there will be screaming, “that’s not enough”. And quite possibly they may be right, and require the extra volume to grow optimally. But I’d still recommend trying it, you may find yourself surprised. But for the performance athletes, I honestly believe that once you go too far beyond two assistance movements all you really serve to do is detract from recovery and future performance. Especially when you throw into the balance that you have conditioning work, skill work and the like lined up on your schedule also.

To finish off, one last prescription is required. Sets and reps. Now, with the main movement already done in our workout at this point, what we are really trying to achieve here is the accumulation of volume. That leaves things pretty open, and that’s kind of the way I want to leave it to you. Anything sensible, from 4×6-10 right the way up to 5×10-15 can work here. To really switch things up sometimes I’ll even do 10×3 with a weight I could move for 6 reps initially. The point is to get in some volume to support that main movement.

Finally, don’t forget to be a bit flexible with it if you need to. If you’re feeling like crap for some reason that day and the session isn’t quite going to plan, then there’s no real harm in backing off a little, there’s no point in beating yourself up. Equally, on those days where you feel great, don’t be afraid to push it a little more and amp it up a bit.

Wrap Up
That’s the spartan approach to assistance. Why use more than you need to do the job? Try doing just two assistance movements only for 2 weeks and get back to me.

“It is futile to use more to achieve what can be done with less.” Occam’s Razor

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