Sometimes, we just don’t have enough time in the week to get to the gym. As a coach, I work with a lot of mid-aged family men and women, who often spend their business weeks working and spending time with their families. It’s a recipe to throw off any training consistency, regardless of the absolute best intentions. As a result, these lifters end up having to turn into weekend warriors in the gym, using Friday afternoon until Sunday night to cram in their training volume for the week.

Of course, this is less than desirable, but I suppose it’s the lesser of two evils when compared to the option of not training at all. Luckily, I’m ready to help. If you’re confined to Friday to Sunday workout days, then here are some ground rules to think about.

Rule #1: Focus on Movements, Not Muscles

It makes the most sense not to isolate, regardless of what your goals are. Given that you’re only training a maximum of three days out of the week, it’s reasonable to confirm that you won’t get the greatest results if you’re after size, due to the fact that it’s just too infrequent. Making sure you’re moving properly is the name of the game here if you want any shreds of strength you have left, to be maintained. I like arranging my clients’ workouts in the patterns of vertical and horizontal pushing and pulling. This will encourage the body to use big movement patterns like the deadlift, standing press, bench press, squat, lunge, pullup, and row. They belong in your workout as the “core” movements, around which other assistance exercise can and should take second place. These choices will give you the most bang for your buck. Be sure to arrange them in the planes of motion that they fit into.

Rule #2: Squat on Two of the Three Days

On two out of the three days (ideally Friday and Sunday), you need to perform a squat pattern. It’s going to be important to help you deal with an axially loaded barbell, which can induce plenty of hormonal release to aid muscle development. I’d recommend squatting for more volume on one of the days, and squatting for more max strength on another. The biggest mistake you can make as a weekend warrior is to neglect adequately training the lower body.

Rule #3: Make Sunday the Most Metabolically Challenging

If you’re not about to train for 5 days following your last workout, it’s a good idea to go out with a bang. It can be by means of switching the workout system to more of a conditioning-based circuit style method, or it can be as simple as moderating the rest intervals, workloads and exercise pairings in order to tap into an increased metabolic demand. The good thing about training in this fashion is, you can potentiate fat loss for up to 38 hours following the workout, according to recent research. May as well cut into the days you’re inactive by leaving things off in a really good place. Wouldn’t you agree?

Weekend Warrior Routine

Without further delay, here it is. Assuming you’re in the gym from Friday to Sunday, follow this program to get the most out of your time spent.

Day 1 (Friday) – Vertical Push/Pull, Hip-Dominant

  • A) Barbell Box Squat – 5×5
    • Perform ramping sets of 3 reps each, until you reach your working load for your first set of 5. Rest up to 3 minutes between sets.
  • B) Pullups – 5×10
    • If your 10 rep max involves weight, then perform weighted pullups instead. Rest 2 minutes between sets.
  • C) Romanian Deadlift – 4×8-10
    • Be sure to touch the bar to the floor, using full ROM. Remember to keep a flat back. Rest 2 minutes between sets.
  • D) Seated DB Shoulder Press (Neutral grip) – 4×8-10
    • Use a slow negative (eccentric) phase on each rep, and pause on the shoulders for a 1 second count. Rest 2 minutes between sets.
  • E) Hanging Leg Raises – 4×10
    • Rest as long as needed between sets

Day 2 (Saturday) – Horizontal Push/Pull

  • A1) Seated Rows – 15 reps
  • A2) Barbell Bench Press – 10 reps
  • Perform 4 rounds. Rest 2 minutes between rounds.
  • B1) Walking Lunge – 20 steps
  • B2) Glute Hamstring Raise – 8 reps

Perform 4 rounds. Rest 2 minutes between rounds.

  • C1) Under-the-Bar Rows – Max Reps
  • C2) Pushups – Max Reps

Perform 4 rounds. Rest as long as needed between rounds.

Day 3 (Sunday) – Vertical Push/Pull, Knee-Dominant

  • A) Front Squat – 8×8. Rest a MAXIMUM of 1 minute between sets.
    • This will involve significantly lighter weight than you normally front squat for 8 reps. I suggest to use 60% of your current 8RM.
  • B1) Chin Ups (palms in) – 10 reps
  • B2) Barbell Push Press – 10 reps

Rest 90 seconds between rounds. Perform 4 rounds.

  • C) Rear Leg Elevated Split Squat – 4×10/leg. Rest 90 seconds between rounds.
  • D) Half-Kneeling Press – 3×15/arm.
    • Using a single dumbbell, take a knee, and perform a strict shoulder press with the same side arm as the down knee.
  • E) Post Workout burnout – 2 minute leg press.
    • Load a leg press with 2 plates on either side, and perform as many reps as possible without racking the weight, for 2 minutes. Set your timer and get ready to burn!

Who Said Weekends are for Relaxing?

It’s simple. If you’re in a pinch, you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do. In the case of the busy workhorse, that means you’ll have to make do with a killer weekend program to keep your strength and size up to snuff. If you’re a frequent trainee with a few bad work weeks ahead, this one’s for you. If you’re someone who regularly tries to kill it on the weekend, then here’s a bit of structure to aid your quest for muscle.

Of course, I still encourage you to get back on track with your mid-week workouts as soon as possible. We all know that’s the gold standard.