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Strength training when lacking time & energy

Over the next two weeks we will be following Jack, our MLC Sydney Store Manager and the way he trains. Those of you who have visited our store will know how busy it gets, and with no or little spare time Jack is taking this opportunity to show you that getting the most out of your training – despite how busy you are, can be done if it’s done correctly.


I was interested in engaging in some targeted strength training for a variety of reasons – to benchmark lifts that require an understanding of one rep max, to provide a better foundation for my functional training, and as much as anything to test myself against some objective measures every week. However, I work 60 hours plus every week, and often my work day starts when any ‘normal’ person is still fast asleep.  I get up at 3am most weekdays to prep the store for breakfast opening.  So I turned to my trainer, Tony Gonzalez, to design a program that would challenge me, yield predictable results, but be sustainable in the midst of a busy work life and less than optimal sleep.




To explain this best I got a run down from Tony himself.

The approach we used was adapted from Dan John’s and Pavel Tsatsouline’s “Easy Strength”. It’s about training to coax the 80% poundage up, instead of forcing the 100%; increasing strength without fatiguing your system.

The basic principles of the approach are:

1. Use a limited number of “big bang” exercises (eg. deadlift, squat, bench press, military press)
2. Train in the 80% to 95% 1 Rep Max intensity zone; always leave 1 or 2 reps in the bank.
3. Keep reps per set in the 1 to 5 range and total number of reps for a lift around 12 (eg 4×3; 6×2; 3,2,1,3,2,1)
4. Finish your workout feeling stronger than when you started. If your performance is less than perfect, stop your workout and come back another day.
5. Go for a 1 Rep Max only when you are feeling exceptionally strong, but stop short of an all-out max.
6. Lift no more than two to three times a week.


Ultimately training is just another of many stresses we face in our modern lives. Planned well your workouts should train your body not drain it. If your goal is to feel and look stronger, while managing your other priorities, “Easy strength” is a very effective technique.

These programs were designed specifically with my goals, weaknesses and strengths in mind. Contact Tony on tony@theprimaltrainer.com.au to help you achieve your goals faster.

The best result for me was constant and incremental weekly increases no matter what the movement.


SQUAT – 70
BENCH – 70


DEADLIFT – 190KG (so happy with this!!)
BENCH – 100KG (still a work in progress)




We had a great break through on squats and improved my technique which led to improvement movement, better form and higher weights. In addition, there is no doubt in my mind that the dead lift training also improved my squat, and most likely more than squatting alone. Not merely in the better balance between anterior and posterior chain strength, but also in the simple confidence that comes from successfully and safely lifting the heavier weights.

In relation to the entire program I feel it was a great success.
– Decreased total work load but still increase results.
– Decreased injury risk through less than max weights, and additional rest and recovery.
– Increased energy, faster recovery, a ‘bounce’ that I missed when engaged in constant 1RM training.
– An added bonus with my surfing as the strength in my legs increase.

AND – I felt stronger in other areas of my life… there was an unexpected and exciting positive impact well beyond the confines of the gym.


Jack, Store Manager @ THR1VE MLC Centre

'Strength training when lacking time & energy' have 1 comment

  1. May 21, 2014 @ 4:45 am Hannah Rifkin

    Awesome blog! Heading to Sydney from the U.S. for the summer in a couple of days. Look forward to stopping by thr1ve! :)

    – Hannah


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