Training for the Busy Working Guy

A couple of principles that I follow might help the “thinking process” of someone who works a normal job, has a social life, and still wants to train.

First, embrace the concept of “Pareto’s Law.” This Italian economist discovered the “80-20 Rule” :that is, 80 percent of your results comes from 20 percent of what you do.

In a football program, you will find that 20 percent of your athletes produce 80 percent of the yards, the tackles and the points. In training, 20 percent of your program

will get you to that 80 percent mark. That other 80, of course, gets you ever closer to that elusive moment when you produce a “100 percent effort.” That could mean one’s lifetime best lift, throw, or physical condition.

I have recommended for years that athletes attend to this 20 percent as early as they can in the athletic career. It can be summarized in a simple question: if, for some reason, you could only train 45 minutes a week (three sessions of fifteen minutes), what would you do? The answer to this question, if honestly addressed, is the key to a busy working guy’s training. Would you warmup? Do yoga? Well, then, what? As a discus thrower, I answered this question with a couple sets of overhead or front squats, thenhalf-turn drills with a powerball into a wall. I could easily hold “80 percent” on that schedule.

So, what are your goals? If you are an O lifter, what would you do in those 45 minutes? I might alternate snatches and clean and jerks through those 15 minute workouts. What about this or that or this: yes, they are important…but I only have a few minutes!

So, the working guy has to take the long-term goal and run it into the “Prison Riddle,” the 45 minute question first. What ever answer arises…is the beginning point of the solution to the quandary of being a full-time person and a full-time athlete.

Second, take a touch of insight from the book, Dinosaur Training. On page 113, Brooks notes an old IronMan “Roundtable” where John Wooten describes his training:

“I started out on a strength routine, really piling on the poundage in the following exercises:

1. Two hands deadlift, favorite exercise of Goerner
2. Walk with weight, favorite exercise of Milo of Crotona
3. Carry bar in dead lift position, favorite exercise of Arthur Giroux
4. Bent Presses, favorite exercise of Saxon
5. Reverse Continental and jerk from behind neck, favorite exercise of Saxon.”

Well, there is a great insight here: what is the favorite lift of the “heroes and heroines” of your sport? Westside guys should look at Box Squats, O lifters who like Bulgarian training, should think about Front Squats, fans of Russian training should look to squats, power cleans and heavy spinal erector work.

I have been collecting “gems” of lifting and recording them in a little red notebook since 1975. Every time I hear a point that just “rings true,” I add it to this book. I have found through the years that one exercise keeps showing up as a “favorite lift:” the power clean. John Terpak, George Woods, many Soviets, lots of American lifters and throwers have labeled the power clean as “key” to athletic success. Certainly, take a little bit of this advice, no matter how busy, and toss power cleans into your program.

Read what the greats do, and follow their advice. Not blindly, of course, but when enough people argue for this or that as the key to success, listen. I’m a contrarian at heart, I like to go the opposite direction of the crowd at times, but, trust me, adding the O lifts, one hand lifts, overhead work or strongman moves is as contrarian as anyone can get in the last two decades.

Finally, Andy’s question dealt with an interesting idea *what lifts give the most bang for the buck?”

My short list:

Clean and Press: if all you did was Clean and Press, you could be awesome

Front Squat: flexible, solid and strong

Power Snatch and Overhead Squat Combo: Tony Nielson, a young man I coached for a few years, was the smallest football player on the field, yet I watched him run for 200+

yards in several games. His reason: this combo. Easy to learn, difficult to master, excellent long term benefits.

Dragging a sled, pushing a car or hill sprints:shoot me, but I believe these are superior to squats for most athletes.

Power Clean:’nuff said

Farmer Walk:a year ago, I would have laughed at these — now, I don’t laugh

One arm lift of some kind: they work, they are simple to learn, they work

Total equipment needs: bar, weights; a revolving Olympic dumbbell is nice, a pair of Mike Rosenberg’s thick dumbbells are nice; all you need is a bar and weights.

Option One: Saturday and Sunday Superstar

This kind of program is designed for the person who has some time on the weekends and not much the rest of the week:


Lift Day

Power Snatch
Power Clean
Front Squat
One arm lifts (Clean and Press to max each hand)
Whatever reps and sets you like; I like 3 x 3 or 2 x 5 or Singles (after warm ups, these are the “meat” sets)


Strongman or Highland Games or Whatever you like Day

Power Clean and Press (Singles up to a Max)
Sled dragging, car pushing, hill sprints
Anything else you would like to do!!!
Farmers Walk (Death March Style)

One other day a week (Wednesday???)

One lift: either Power Clean and Press, Power Snatch and Overhead Squat (might be best of the lot), Front Squat, Power Clean
Some kind of carry: Farmers Walk, maybe that “Dead lift carry” idea,sandbags.

That’s it. Now, O lifters would do the classic lifts on perhaps Saturday, and the power moves and squats on Sunday, with the “other” workout being an 80 percent (or less)

total day. Highland Gamers would add an event or two on the back end of each day, although I would keep the walks and the dragging stuff.

Option Two:

Abbreviated Training Clusters:

Week One

Day One
Power Snatch
Front Squat
One arm Clean and Press
Farmer Walk

Day Two
Power Clean
Power Clean and Press
Overhead Squat
Sled Dragging, Car Pushing or Hill Sprints

Week Two

Day One
Power Clean and Press
Power Snatch and Overhead Squat
Front Squat

Day Two
One arm lifts (Presses, Snatches, Swings, deadlifts, whatever*have
Sled drag, car push, hill sprints
Farmers Walk

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