Maximize Your Training Through a Hectic Holiday Season

downloadI hate Christmas decorations in my house. Absolutely hate them. I don’t understand why anyone would want to put all these red and green creepy ass elves on the mantle just to take them down again, but when my wife asked me to go to our storage unit to get them the other day, I obliged.

You can bet your ass that I’m not hanging a single decoration, though. That’s where I draw the line.

But I love the Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanza season, I really do. It’s a time for family and friends to get together, eat too much, drink too much, share some laughs, and make memories.

There’s a dark side to the holiday season, though. Last minute shopping, malls that are doing their best LA traffic impersonations, year end deadlines at work, and prepping the house for the arrival of long lost relatives that smell like Vicks and and baby powder.

With all that commotion, finding time to train is really difficult this time of year. Finding a full hour to train, plus travel to and from the gym, and maybe mixing in a shower is near impossible.

Luckily, I have you covered with some ways to cut down on the time you spend in the gym, without sacrificing your results. After all, there’s an abundance of calories this time of year, you might as well use them to build some muscle.

Need to do, want to do, would be nice to do

Pareto’s principle states that 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts, so find your 20%. What are the biggest bang for your buck parts of your program? Identify those, and make them a priority. If you have to cut the session after that’s completed, that’s fine, you got in the most important portion of your training and at worst that’ll keep you from sliding backwards.

Next figure out what the next most important part of your training is? It might be more strength training, it could be conditioning, or maybe it’s mobility-this is the stuff that is important but if you miss it here and there it won’t have as big of an impact on you regressing over the long haul. This is the want to do category-when you have time, do this following the most important stuff.

Lastly, there’s the cherry on top, the crossing of t’s and dotting of i’s if you will. This is usually the bicep curls and tricep extensions. These aren’t unimportant, especially if you’re hitting the beach for a mid winter’s vaca, but in the big scheme of things, if you can’t get to them sometimes, you’re still going to be flying high given that you got through the main stuff.

Pick a Main lift, 1 Supporting lift, 1 Antagonist lift

This is a technique I like to employ even when I’m not crunched for time. The fewer things I have to do in a training session, the more effort I’m able to give to each. Pick your main strength lifts first-these should be a press of some kind, a row or chin up, and a squat and deadlift variation. These are the anchors of your strength training and the lifts that you are striving to improve on over time to be big and strong.

Then pick a supporting lift for each, as well as a lift that works the opposing muscles, giving us a total of 3 exercises each day. This might play out like this:

Day 1

1. Incline Bench Press

2. DB Floor Press

3. 1 Arm DB Row

Day 2

1. Front Squat

2. Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat


Day 3

1. Trap Bar Deadlift

2. Nordic Leg Curl

3. Single Leg Squat

Day 4

1. Weighted Chin Up

2. Chest Supported Row

3. Hindu Pushup

Trimming things down to 3 lifts per training session is a lot easier to digest mentally when you’re drained from brawling your way out of Toys R Us than thinking you have 6 or 7 exercises to try to slog through.

Complexes After A Main Strength Movement

Complexes are a great way to get some extra volume into your training without excessive loading. When doing a complex, you grab either a barbell or dumbbells and complete several exercises in a row without putting the bar down. The key in designing an effective complex though is order and exercise selection-if you pick lifts that don’t flow together, you have to keep moving the bar around from one position to another, and if you don’t pick the right exercises, you end of using a weight that’s either too heavy or not challenging enough for some of the movements.

Some of my go to complexes are:

1A. BB RDL x5

1B. Hang Clean x1

1C. BB Push Press x5

1D. Front Squat x5


1A. BB Row x8

1B. Hang Clean x1

1C. Press x5

(replace bar behind neck on last press)

1D. Back Squat x8


1A. Hang Clean x3

1B. Front Squat x3

1C. Push Press x3

Bang out all the reps of the first exercise before moving on to the next without putting the bar down. 3-5 rounds of each of those will give you all the volume you need after hammering a big strength lift first in your workout.

Put Time Limits on your Training Blocks

I’m a big fan of putting time limits on training blocks. For example, yesterday a fat loss client of mine’s program looked like this:

1A. KB Swing 3×10

1B. Push Up Plank 3x:15

1C. Med Ball Slam 3×10

2A. Trap Bar Deadlift x8

2B. TRX Row x10-12

2C. Wall Quad Stretch x:20

3A. Split Stance Iso Hold w. 1 Arm Cable Row x10-12

3B. Incline Alternating DB Bench Press x8/ea

3C. Slideboard Lunge x8-10

The first section with the swings, planks, and slams were done for a prescribed number of sets, but after that, I put 10 minutes on the clock for each of the remaining 3 blocks and we got as much quality work in as we could during that time. The loads are challenging, so my client rested as necessary. If they’re too light, it looks like the Richard Simmons show, just moving from one thing to the next, and if they’re too heavy but the pace is too high, then we see ugly lifts and increase our chances of getting hurt.

Put some time limits on the sections of your program, and try to increase the amount of work you do in that time block with the same loads from one week to the next. After a good warm up, the above session takes about 35 minutes. That leaves extra time to swing by the Dunks’ drive through for a pumpkin coffee on the way home.

Buy a Kettlebell and Chin Up Bar

I love to train at home. Not having a garage at our new rental stinks, because I had a sweet set up back in Boston, but I still have kettlebells, powerblocks, a chin up bar, and an airdyne in my office which allows me to get things in here in whenever I want.

Go on Amazon and buy yourself a kettlebell from Christian’s Fitness Factory. They’re great quality and they’re on Amazon prime so you don’t have to sacrifice your first born to cover shipping. Throw a chin up bar in the mix and you have literally thousands of combinations of strength movements to choose from that you can do at home, anytime. Pair 1 arm kettlebell presses with chin ups and 1 arm kettlebell front squats and you have an ass kicking session.

Training is great, it’s fun, and is important, but it’s not worth stressing over when things get busy. Take some time to sip the egg nog with your family and friends, but don’t let your hard earned progress slip just because you’re busy. With the above strategies, you’ll be able to maximize your training AND your holiday commitments, without either having to suffer.





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