Holiday Workout

The politically correct holiday workout

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The Holidays: Still A Fitness Enthusiast’s
Nightmare

It’s that time of year again. The most dedicated and
hardcore lifters are still in the gym for two hours a day, six days
per week, while the rest of us (a.k.a. the non-loser majority) are
facing a time-crunched, often unavoidable four to six week period
packed full of bullshit shopping, crowded malls, kick ass family
get-togethers, boring-as-all-hell family get-togethers, parties
with friends, parties with co-workers, parties that you just
crashed, and hangovers.

Then your low carb diet goes out the window when your niece and
nephew show up with a tray of cookies they’ve just baked for
you…

And of course there’s the first class flight to Colorado
Springs, being put up in a top hotel, and attending the
Biotest/T-Nation annual bash and having to put up with the annoying
Spike girls who just won’t leave you alone and keep going on
and on about how sexy your accent is, while you and the other
writers take turns hitting Eric Cressey (who’s sporting very
seasonal rosy cheeks, all year long) with a pointy stick.

Or is that part just me?

Seriously, if you can maintain your regular gym routine through
the holidays, then more power to you. Keep on keeping on. In my
sporting youth, I can remember training right through the holidays,
including running wind sprints on Christmas morning to prepare for
a fight in mid-January.

At this point in my life, it’s just not realistic for
me not to expect to cut back on gym time during
the holidays. And to be brutally honest, my life is more enhanced
by spending time with family members I rarely see than it is by
doing another leg workout.

I wrote a similar article to
this one last year, and also presented some related “short on
time” training tips later in 2006. Both articles were
misinterpreted by many. I got a ton of emails and comments about
how to adjust the workout if you could “make it to the gym five
days per week.” And “Is it okay to add extra bench work, or do 30
minutes of cardio, or do extra arm training?” etc.

If you can honestly make it to the gym five days per week during
the holidays and continue with your planned workout uninterrupted,
then stick to your regular routine and read no further. But for the
majority of us, sometimes something has got to give, and when it
comes to spending time with your kids and your families, it’s
often your workouts.

The mistake most guys make during the holiday season is trying
to fit their regular workouts into their busier, more unpredictable
holiday schedule. This never works. All that ends up happening is
they inevitably miss workouts, feel frustrated, and don’t make
any progress. They do too much for it to count as recovery work,
but don’t do enough to actually make any gains.

Not us. We, as Chris Shugart is fond of saying, will “display
adaptability.”

So this year, why not take a proactive approach and make a
conscious decision that for the two to three week period at the end
of the year (or perhaps for a few weeks longer to avoid the newbie
rush in January), you’re going to switch to a customized workout
designed around your lack of time and
availability?

Instead of trying to work around the limitations, we’ll use them
as our parameters. That way it’s almost guaranteed that
we’ll succeed.

So, regardless of our long term goals, whether they’re fat loss,
strength, or hypertrophy, maybe we can use the holiday season as a
mini off-season. Spend some time with your families and friends,
regroup and recharge a bit, and at the very least maintain your
fitness qualities. And quite possibly, because of an entirely new
training stimulus, we may even come back refreshed and able to
attack our New Year’s program with even more
intensity.

The Plan

We’re going to try to train three days of the week. If you
can’t do that, then training three times over 8-10 days is
fine.

We’re also going to focus on undulating rep ranges, so that
(should we have to because of scheduling) we can train three days
in a row without repeating the same workout. But if we can only get
into the gym once every three days, we still hit each body part
twice in any seven or eight day period.

Is this optimal? No. But is it practical and doable?
Absolutely.

Option #1: The Total Body Enthusiast

We’re sticking with an undulating periodization program that
will target all major muscle groups in a variety of rep ranges.

Workout Sample (Cycle through an A-B routine)

Week One

Day One: A workout – 4 x 4 reps, approximately 90 seconds
between sets
Day Two: B workout – 3 x 8 reps, approximately 75 seconds between
sets
Day Three: A workout – 2 x 12 reps, approximately 60 seconds
between sets.

(Workouts will take between 25 and 40 minutes in
general.)

Week Two

Day One: B workout – 4 x 4 reps, approximately 90 seconds between
sets
Day Two: A workout – 3 x 8 reps, approximately 75 seconds between
sets
Day Three: B workout – 2 x 12 reps, approximately 60 seconds
between sets

(You can obviously continue if necessary or stretch it out so that
you get three workouts in over 8-10 days instead of seven. Whatever
works best with your schedule.)

“A” Workout Sample

A: Dumbbell (DB) snatch

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B1: Single DB overhead squat (Hold a DB at your side, twice the
weight of the overhead load – e.g. 10lbs overhead, 20lbs at your
side). Perform the reps for each side.

B2: Bentover barbell row

C1: Single leg Romanian deadlift (RDL)

C2: Incline DB press

D1: Prone abdominal hold ( e.g. plank) 2 sets
(30-90s)

D2: Rotational abdominal work (e.g. woodchops) 2 sets of 10-12
reps

“B” Workout Sample

A: RDL bentover row combo (perform one rep of each)

B1: Single leg squat variation (e.g. pistols, Bulgarian split
squats)

B2: Wide-grip chins

C1: Back extension or Glute ham raise

C2: YTWL exercise

D: Abdominal circuit: Trunk flexion/ Hip flexion/ Lateral flexion
– 1 exercise of each in a circuit. 10 reps of each. Perform 2
circuits.

E: Lower back stabilization exercise (e.g. bird-dog, cobra etc).
One set of 60-90 seconds.

Option #2: The Split Routine
Aficionado

We’ll use the same workout parameters as the total body
enthusiast, but we’ll concentrate on an upper and lower body split
routine.

Workout Sample: Cycle through an A-B routine.

Week One

Day One: A workout – 4 x 4 reps, approximately 90 seconds between
sets
Day Two: B workout – 3 x 8 reps, approximately 75 seconds between
sets
Day Three: A workout – 2 x 12 reps, approximately 60 seconds
between sets

(Workouts will take between 25-40 minutes in general and all
loads should be heavy enough to bring you close to
failure.)

Week Two

Day One: B workout – 4 x 4 reps
Day Two: A workout – 3 x 8 reps
Day Three: B workout – 2 x 12 reps

Workout A: Lower Body

A: Front squat

B: Reverse lunge from a box

C1: Glute ham raise or back extension – 2 sets of 8-12
reps

C2: Swiss ball crunch – 2 sets of 8-12 reps

Workout B: Upper Body

A1: Barbell bench press

A2: Bentover barbell row

B1: DB military press

B2: Chins

C1: DB curls, 2 sets in the designated rep range

C2: Weighted dips, 2 sets in the designated rep
range

Wrap-Up

If you recognize the challenges the holiday season brings with
it, you’re smart enough to know that you can’t fulfill
your regular workouts, and you’re open-minded
enough to try these new routines, then I expect you’ll make
greater progress in January than any year past.

Enjoy the holidays. Best wishes to all of you!