Strength Training in REAL Life Circumstances

William Boone“…But how should I train when I have so many responsibilities and problems in my life?”

Several people requested the answer to this question, so I’d like to address it in this article. I think that lots of people around the world are asking themselves the same thing every day. There is no hard rule on what you should do when you are in such situation, but I’ll try to sum up everything that I know on the theme. Anyway, firstly let’s talk about what is “hard”?

What Circumstances Are Considered Hard?

Well, let’s face it, almost everybody considers his/her circumstances the hardest possible. Maybe the hardest in history of mankind. Maybe somebody even uses word combination like “ultimate hardness” (have you noticed how the word “ultimate” leaves no other chance?). And while this unquestionably means good thing if we are talking about male sex function, this is not appropriate for life conditions. You should understand that everybody has problems. Everybody has responsibilities. And, importantly, you can’t use your circumstances as an excuse not to train or not to eat right. Watch this video:

If your circumstances are not like these, I don’t consider them hard. Have you ever donated blood to train one more time? If no, then shut up and train. There are literally millions of people around the world that have kids, several jobs, barely make money for food and to pay their bills, and still they train hard and eat properly. No matter what. They just don’t have any other option. I admire such people.

For example, William Boone, old time strongman (see the picture in the beginning of the article (borrowed from http://www.oldtimestrongman.com)), was training despite the heavy demanding day job. He was digging water wells. Just look at that Military Press or Push Press, or Jerk. It’s amazing.

Here’s another example. I met one bodybuilder some time ago. We had a conversation about his career, and he told me a story of how he was able to win bronze prize at Ukrainian Bodybuilding Championship. Of course, he used unreal doses of steroids at that time. But he had no other choice. Ask any competitive bodybuilder, if you want to compete with the best, you must inject “pharma” because they do. Steroids aside, what he told me is that he was working on two jobs and trained 6 days a week. Sometimes twice per day. He spent lots of money, he was completely sleep-deprived and he barely made the money to sustain this regimen. But, anyway, he succeeded and placed third. Was it worth the effort? I don’t know. He said that he could easily buy a good car for the money spent on steroids and food.

Another example is more real. It’s one of my clients. He lives here in Ukraine. He has a kid. He has family. He has responsibilities. He must pay for rent to keep his family warm. He must pay for food to keep his family full. He must work really hard to make it all happen. And still he trains 3 times per week. He has no excuses.

By the way, I don’t use names for personal reasons. I have many other examples of different people who made it despite the hard circumstances. They are ranging from celebrities to ordinary every day heroes. What unites them? They all made training the part of their lives, and made it work. So how can you succeed too?

Practical Ways to Manage Training and Diet in Real Life

If you are in such situation, you need to address this question as soon as possible. Otherwise, you won’t be able to achieve any reasonable results, which is the best demotivator known to me. People always give up on things they don’t see measurable result in. And sooner rather than later.

What can you do? First of all, get real. You should understand that you can’t attain results at the same speed as if you did nothing except training, eating and sleeping. Deal with it.

Regarding training. What can you do to make it work?

  • If you are training and not getting stronger on a regular basis, then my first choice would be volume. Cut it. Leave just 2/3 of sets. Use the Pareto Principle. Leave just 20% of exercises that give you 80% of results. You know what they are. Some kind of press, some kind of row and some kind of squat are all that you need to progress. For example, Military Press, Pull-Up and Sandbag Zercher Squat, and you are good to go.
  • If you are still struggling, refer to Keep-It-Simple Principle. If your training (at any period) gets too sophisticated, you should most definitely review it and make it simpler. It always works.
  • If you are still not making progress, the next choice would be training frequency. If you are training 3 times per week, already cut the volume and get nothing in terms of results, then it’s time to try training 2 times per week or every third day. Feel free to cut the frequency to once every 5 days. From my experience anything less won’t work.
  • I don’t recommend to cut intensity. You should be able to progress managing volume and frequency. If your life gets REALLY hard, you can temporarily decrease intensity. But sometimes it’s better to take some rest.

Read this article to learn more about relationship of training volume, intensity and frequency.

Let’s use this information on routine of some hypothetical Rough Strength disciple [HRSD]. Let’s assume that his routine is reasonable. Let it be Upper-Lower-Upper split. For example:

Monday

A1) Double Kettlebell Floor Press 3 x 5

A2) Weighted Pull-Up 3 x 5

B1) Weighted Push-Ups 4 x 8

B2) Advanced Tuck Front Lever Rows 4 x 8

Wednesday

A) Sandbag Shoulder Squat 3 x 5 (per side)

B) Double Kettlebell Swings 3 x 6

C1) Ring Triceps Extensions 3 x 12

C2) One-Leg Strict Calf Raises 3 x 12

C3) Towel Curls 3 x 12 (per arm)

Friday

A1) Wall-Assisted Handstand Push-Ups 3 x 6

A2) One-Arm Kettlebell Bent-Over Row 3 x 6

B1) Sandbag Push Press 4 x 8

B2) One-Arm Kettlebell High Pull 3 x 6 (per arm)

And suddenly our HRSD gets twins, gets fired and gets two new jobs to keep his family safe. In such situation I would cut down the “volume work” first. So now his routine would look like this:

Monday

A1) Double Kettlebell Floor Press 3 x 5

A2) Weighted Pull-Up 3 x 5

Wednesday

A) Sandbag Shoulder Squat 3 x 5 (per side)

B) Double Kettlebell Swings 3 x 6

Friday

A1) Wall-Assisted Handstand Push-Ups 3 x 6

A2) One-Arm Kettlebell Bent-Over Row 3 x 6

Let’s assume that he still makes no progress. My next move would be cutting the frequency. For example, Day 1 would be Monday, Day 2 – Thursday instead of Wednesday, Day 3 – Sunday instead of Friday.

If he still makes no progress, I will cut one more set from each exercise. If we have a problem anyway, I will suggest him some rest.

Regarding nutrition. Well, nutrition is very debatable thing. Some people say you need to count calories, some say you don’t. Some people say you need to eat high amounts of protein, some say you don’t. Some people say that carbs are evil, some say they are not. Your head can explode just from ordinary information search on nutrition. And if you have hard time you can jump off the cliff just from one thought about it.

So how can you make it easier? There are actually several ways:

  • Don’t count calories, make a plan. It’s pain in the ass to count calories every single fucking day. So instead, I suggest you to make 2-3 daily diet plans and just follow them. It requires nothing but some food weighing and discipline.
  • Go to food store only 2-3 times per week. This will save time.
  • If you have average to slow metabolism, follow intermittent fasting protocol. This not only will make you leaner, but will save lots of time. You’ll be cooking only once per day and you’ll be eating like a king.
  • Focus on protein. Sometimes you just can’t get it all right. Focus on protein, because it is the most important macronutrient. Good old meat, eggs, fish and cottage cheese. You’ll be leaner and bigger.

Again, if something doesn’t work in your nutrition plan, use your analytic skills. If you are too fat, increase your protein intake and cut calories. If you are struggling to gain muscle, then add calories and, again, increase protein intake. Be smart, but don’t sweat it.

Coping with Mental Aspects

Hard circumstances are hard not only physically but also mentally. You probably know this. Sometimes you feel that the world is falling apart. Sometimes you feel that you are on the bottom of life. Sometimes you think that it would have been much easier if you had never existed. It’s unbearable sometimes. You feel that there will never be any stability in your life. What can I say? Recently I had dark times. Well, I still have them right now. What I learnt, is that you need to embrace instability in your life. It is the only way to remain sane. It is easier said than done. But when you accept the circumstances, stop whining and concentrate on right things, every piece of the puzzle gets into its own place. Learn to embrace instability as soon as possible or you will never find inner peace in this world. It’s something that sounds like Buddha, but it is true. You are always free in your mind.

And another thing I’d like to mention on mental aspects is the power of exercise. I mean strength training. Strength is all about nervous system, right? That is why, in my opinion, the stronger the person – the calmer he/she is. You need to practice some form of strength training regularly and make it part of your life.

Closing Thoughts

What can I say to sum everything up? Life can be hard. Life can be rough. But stress builds character, as they say. And I totally agree. Learn to embrace instability, learn to be free. It’s all in your head. No need to make excuses not to train. And on the other hand, no need to worry that you are not training as often and as much as you like. It’s a good thing. You learn to value training. It becomes much more precious practice. And despite its importance, training shouldn’t be a thing that takes away all your time. Thanks for reading. Like and share.

Play rough!

Alex “Ultimate Hardness” Zinchenko

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P.S. What are your thoughts? Let’s chat in comments.

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12 thoughts on “Strength Training in REAL Life Circumstances

  1. Pingback: 50 Reasons Being Fit Sucks - Alex Zinchenko's Rough Strength

  2. Joe

    Mental endurance is key- I am married with 4 children, work full time and attend university full time. My wife has terminal cancer at the tender young age of 30, and I am currently halfway through an inpatient program in another part of the country for PTSD that I incurred as an infantry Marine in Iraq, 2003. I’d love to be back with the family, but that is currently not an option.

    I could just shit on myself and give up, but instead I eat vegetables and fruits every day, work my sandbag two days a week and do calisthenics once a week. I have no weights in this inpatient facility so what did I do? When I was preparing to travel here, I packed all my belongings in a duffel bag, so when I arrived, I could empty it out and make my own sandbag. The second day as a patient, I begged a ride to the hardware store, purchased 100lbs of sand, duct tape, and zip ties, and made my own “rough strength sandbag”.

    When I leave here I go back to work, school, and a sick wife with four kids- but I will not quit- because I am in control of making myself better. So suck it the fuck up!

    P.S.- Alex- you should really consider making some “Rough Strength” t-shirts with your Grizzly bear logo (maybe on the back)- I would buy one!

    Reply
    1. Alex Zinchenko Post author

      Hey, Joe. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. You are the man. Never give up. I hope you wife gets better. You are the inspiration. If you need anything just ask.

      As for t-shirts, I’ll try to make it happen.

      – Alex

      Reply
  3. Joe

    Thanks Alex, I appreciate your ability to analyze the principles behind exercise and lifestyle through writing- it is broad enough to apply for beginners and those of us who have little patience for a myriad of gym routines. Keep up the good work and thanks for the encouragement. Never stop pushing.
    – Joe

    Reply
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  6. Fabio

    Hi Alex,

    I really really appreciate your approach towards training and your attitude.

    And the BAD video… It moved me.

    I just think you’re a good guy, and you share with us very important info about training (something that you can apply and not just tease you and then you have to buy something to really to get into action)

    Keep Strong!

    Fabio

    Reply
  7. Pingback: How to Keep Yourself Motivated? | Alex Zinchenko's Rough Strength

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