Sometimes life over-rides.

We all have this constant battle – what we want to do vs. what we need to do. 

Sometimes what we need to do wins and we have to sacrifice what we want to do. For most people this means that our diet and training can take a hit.

Or at least the opportunity for this to happen becomes prevalent.


Well, not if PropaneFitness has anything to do with it.

Annoyingly, this always seems to happen at the time when in actuality, training and diet should be a priority – you want to trim down for the infamous “beach season” but your exams loom, you have to work longer hours, you spend more time in a seated, sedentary stupor and the excitement of meeting your goals becomes a hazy pipe dream.

What we need in situations like this is a fail-safe, a fall back plan that will provide the minimum effective dose and work without much thought or greatly concerted effort.

During periods where I need to focus on the need to do’s, I relegate training and diet to background noise. It’s still my favorite song, but its playing in the next room.

Here’s how:

Reality training and progression: 

You need to decide how much you can realistically get to the gym. Remember this isn’t optimal – you won’t make earth shattering progress and add 20lbs to your bench, so this isn’t the time to try and reason that 2-a-day sessions or a 6 way split are a good idea.

Set aside 2-3 times per week where you go to the gym. Regardless. If you’re dedicated this isn’t difficult. If you want something and you’re dedicated – you’ll make time.

I use 3x per week as my minimum. If my work goes well and I’m on top of things I may squeeze a 4th or 5th session in.

I drop training volume to a baseline, use compound movements, leave the metallica discography at home and tune in to my body. The last thing I want is to beat myself into submission and sacrifice cognitive performance when it matters. If my body is saying “enough is enough”, at least for the time being, I’m going to listen.

To do this effectively needs some time to learn how you respond and deal with different training stimuli, here is the training schedule I use on a regular basis.

Monday: Push 

Thursday: Pull

Saturday: Legs

All I want from each session is sufficient training stimulus to maintain and progress if I can.

For that I use a simple loading protocol, I focus on waves of 3×3.

At the beginning of this phase, I test my 3 rep max. Explicitly, I train up to a weight that I can perform 3 reps with without really compromising form.

I then use the following progression:

Week 1: 

3RM (-20kg) – 3 sets of 3 

3RM (-15kg) – 3 sets of 3

3RM (-10kg) – 3 sets of 3


Week 2: 

3RM (-15kg) – 3 sets of 3

3RM (-10kg) – 3 sets of 4

3RM – 1 set of 3


Week 3:

3RM (-10kg) – 3 sets of 3 

3RM (-5kg)  3 sets of 3

3RM – 1 set of 4-5

Add 2.5-5kg onto 3RM and begin again. 

Bare in mind, not all of this is compulsory, its done by feel.

For example, in week 2, lets say 3×3 with (-15kg) feels heavy. I see no point of pushing through forced, grinding reps just to write a number in my training log. I’ll make sensible adjustments.

For example, the last time this happened I did:

3RM (-15kg) 2×3 (felt very heavy, second set was slow and grindy)

3RM (-25kg) 3×3 

3RM (-20kg) 3×3 

I focussed on bar speed and technique and the following week was able to complete the session as normal. The point is that you always have a limited capacity to perform. You need to respect that and if on a given day you don’t feel up to the task, make adjustments, this isn’t a license to be lazy, more a reminder to adapt each day and not blindly follow a program.

Only progress to the next week’s workout once the week’s reps are complete, even if “Week 2” takes 3 weeks of training, maybe even a deload week, to get the reps.

Each workout I perform this for 2 movements:

Push: Bench press and Push press

Pull: Deadlift and weighted chin-up

Legs: Squat and Leg press 

What comes after I decide on the day and is done based on how much I think I can handle. Sometimes I’ll simply cover the two movements and go home – at least I’ve covered the bare minimum.

In general I’ll do something like:


1-2 assistance movements for chest and shoulders 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps

1-2 auxiliary movements for traps and triceps



1-2 assistance movements for back 

1-2 auxiliary movements for biceps 



1-2 assistance movements for quads and hamstrings 

1 calf exercise

1 abdominal exercise

On top of this, I warm up for each session with a foam roller, hockey ball and resistance bands, work on tight spots and niggles while trying to combat the lack of flexibility and mobility that comes with sitting in front of a computer all day.

So, with the above. I’ve covered my bases, factored progression into training without having to think about it. Created self-correcting measures to ensure I don’t burn out and built a system that allows me to see how quickly or slowly im progressing.

Next week I’ll cover how I approach diet.




The Next Step

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11 KEY Diet Mistakes You Should Avoid

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