How to build a workout program with your demanding day job? #5ProTips

When I was a student at the university, it is easier to be consistent with my workout program. It was lots of learning and trial and error to find the sweet spot of fitness. I had tried body-building, running, obstacle course racing and finally I found powerlifting. I was all in into Squat, Bench Press and Deadlift. After I graduated, I begin to work. I have to say the work is demanding. At times, I need to work late and out of a business trip. It workout routine was all mess up.

Then, I got married to my beautiful wife, Patrissa. Best moment ever! This situation adds expectation to manage. That is the beauty of life! Full of surprise with the roller coaster of up and down. It is very exciting. Throughout the exciting life of up and down, I never forget about my fitness goal. The year 2017 was about Spartan Race. I have completed 2 Spartan Trifecta last year. This year, the year 2018 my goal will be powerlifting.  I did not hire any coach, but I have a friend who does powerlifting whom I learn from. Also, I invest in buying strength and conditioning books as well. Fitness is about being practical. We need to apply what we learn and work on it. We have to find what works and what does not work. Here is the big question.

How to build a workout program with your demanding day job?

1. You must set a clear objective and why?

Number one tip is to set a clear goal. Please do not state a desire. Something like ” I want to be fit”,  “I want to lose weight” or “I want to be stronger”. It will not work because it is only an idea. It is only a wish. You need to set a crystal clear objective and make it realistic. My powerlifting goal is to reach a total lift of 600kg. That is the number I am progressing towards. I want to be competitive to be stronger every day through powerlifting. One day, I will be a national athlete. That is a clear goal. What is your fitness goal? Why do you want it? It has to be realistic. Your why will remind you how bad you want it. No matter what is the obstacle in your way, you will find a way to make it happen once you have your clear goal. 


Deep pause squat on my light week.

2. You must commit to your schedule.

Remember the context of your life. Everyone will be different. Review your weekly routine and determine how many days you can commit to workout within a week. Can you commit 5 days a week? Can you commit 3 or 4 days a week? Can you commit 2 days within a week? You may have a demanding job, which causes you to work late and even family to manage. It may give you fatigue mentally and physically depending on what job you are in. You have to learn a way to manage both situations. There will be days you need to stay late in the office. There will be days you are able to leave the office early. Take advantage of the day you leave the office early to workout more hours.

There are also days you need to give full attention to your family. Managing with the family will be tougher because everybody has a different dynamic of a family. For me, it is about enormous communication and giving back as much as possible. I would suggest to share your goal with your family and bring them along on your journey. This is what I did to my wife.  You have to find what works for you and your family.  The bottom line is you need to be consistent and discipline to commit workout days. Be flexible with your action, but be stubborn on your goal.

3. You must have an effective workout program.

When you have a demanding job and family to give attention to, time is one of the most valuable assets. Every second count! Your workout program must fit your fitness goal and fit your life context. If your goal is to squat 300kg,  but 80% of the workout program is bicep curl. That is an effective workout program, but you may have a good looking arm. You need to eliminate the waste and add the value to your program. It must be an effective program. The criteria of a good workout program are;

  1. The program must fit your fitness goal.
  2. The program must be progressive overload over a period of time.
  3. The program must be able to address your weakness.

Remember less is more. If you need to perform well in your squat, bench press and deadline, it needs to be in your program. Progressing overloading is a must to stimulate growth in your body. Progressive overload requires a gradual increase in volume, intensity, frequency or time in order to achieve your goal. Finally, your program must address your key weakness. Let`s just say your deadlift performance is a lot better than your squat. Probably, you need to increase the frequency of squat rather than deadlift in your training block. If you required, you can even hire a personal trainer or get an online coaching to help you to develop a workout program to meet your goal.

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Deadlift Training

4. You must categorize your workout program.

Categorize you will keep your routines fresh, stimulate strength and muscle gains with minimal fatigue. It can help to address your weakness and build your strength with limited time. I will focus on the micro level of categorization. For one workout session, I categorized my workout by;

    1. Dynamic Warmup for 10 to 15mins and consists of stretching, foam rolling, releasing tight joints, explosive jump squat, and etc.
    1. Main Lifts for 30 to 45 minutes and consists of the big three lifts. The squat, bench press and deadlift.
    1. Secondary Lifts for 20 to 25 minutes and consist of the big three lifts to support that main lifts. For examples, if your main lift is the squat, you can choose either deadlift or bench press as your secondary lifts. The load would be 65% to 75% of your 1RM.
  1. Accessory Exercise for 10 to 15mins and consist of exercise that will address your key weakness and imbalances of your body.  To support your squat, focus on front squat, lunges, leg extension, Romanian deadlift, and step up. To support your bench press, focus on incline bench press, floor press, dips, shoulder press, dumbbell press,  face pulls, pull-ups and triceps workout. To support your deadlift, focus on deficit deadlift, pause deadlift, back extension and lat workout.

Let’s say you have limited time. It is ok if you do not make it to accessory exercise and even the secondary lift. Move on, and focus on the next workout session. At least you have done your main lifts. There will be days you have more hours during your workout session. So, you can do the exercise that you were not able to complete if you have the energy.

Powerlifting Sample Program

My Typical Categorization of Workout Program.

5. You can take advantage of your rest day.

Rest day is a very important component of training. It is about recovery. Training is digging a hole and recovery is filling that hole back up. Remember to rest and have enough sleep. How does this apply to your demanding job? You can take advantage of your rest day to deliver more work in your job. You also can allow yourself to work extra hours on your rest day so that you can leave your work early during the day of your workout. It is up to you to manage. Keep in mind, every job has a different nature. It is how you find your way around it. Let us keep it simple, on your rest day, work more and on your workout day, work enough. 

Here is the most cliche advice, “If there is a will, there’s a way”. It can be done with proper and right planning between work, family and fitness.  Remember not to be too rigid. Be flexible, but never forget your goal. Always remember why you are pursuing your goal. I hope these tips can help you to build your workout program while keeping your job. It will not be easy, but it is possible. If I can do it, you can too! Never give up! 


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