| | | Is Life Getting in the Way? Here’s how to Minimize Detraining

Author / John

Let’s face it.  Sometimes life gets in the way of training.  You find yourself committed to long hours, late nights, and poor recovery practices outside of the gym.  I affectionately call this “the grind.”

Since the release of the new CrossFitFootball.com in January, I’ve been in the grind; I’ve been operating in a world of wire frames, flow charts, spreadsheets, and use cases. Through that we have put together a project road map to deliver what we believe will be the best online experience in this industry.  Since the soft launch of our membership subscriptions, the focus has been the organic growth and flow of traffic behind the “pay wall.”  I seemingly plug into the proverbial “Matrix” and get lost, and forget to eat, sleep, and train.  It’s a nightmare and I don’t do myself any favors to allow me to endure the rigors of programs like Field Strong, Fours, The Matrix, as well as the other training projects we are testing at PAHQ.  But I apply 4 simple rules to my training when in the grind to minimize my detraining and enable myself to bounce back when things quiet down.


I’ve found that plowing through my day, and continuing the grind through my traditional training schema leaves me sick, tired, moody, and an unproductive twat.  Because I know I am not alone, I am going to offer you a page from the programming I follow when life has me in the grind.  If you’re like me, then you’re probably sleep deprived, malnourished, and jet lagged.  Below I’ll explain my 4 rules of maximizing your training while surviving the grind.
[s2If !current_user_can(access_s2member_level1)]

You don’t have permission to view the rest of this article.
Log in or visit our Membership Options page to see which plan fits for you!


[s2If current_user_can(access_s2member_level1)]*Premium Content begins now, please consult with the author before publicly using any of this information.*

Rule #1
Watch the submaximal volume

Going light may seem like the way to go because it should be easier to recover from.  But we are Power Athletes, to slow us down, or tame us, is like trying to tame a wild chimp. Sure, we may seem domesticated at times, but more often than not we’re ready to rip someones face off.  To combat face removal, keep the loads relatively high, and the reps relatively low.

Rule #2
Minimize ballistic / maximal eccentric loading through compound movement patterns

Try to limit ballistic and maximal compound eccentric loading patterns.  “GOING TO THE MAX!” (as Nate a.k.a. @TheClinic would call it) is something I avoid while in the grind.  It trashes me, and I can’t recover. Let’s say I’m looking to squat on the grind.  I’ll throw in front squats, split squats, or overhead squats. I can’t load my body as much as I can on the back squat, but I still get to squat.  When your lifestyle outside of your training is dialed in, it’s absolutely essential to take this approach on RM days and testing days to maximize your training effect, but you just won’t be able to recover when life gets in the way.  Always Leave a few gallons in the tank when you’re in the grind.

Rule #3
Focus on BAR SPEED!

So far I’ve said to keep the weight high, but don’t go to the max.  What the FUCK is that supposed to mean?  It means train hard, but keep the bar speed up.  Leave some reps in the tank on your strength work.  It’s not the best way to progress your biomarkers of performance, but it is better than nothing and will allow you to keep up a solid routine.

Rule #4
Don’t train to exhaustion

Everyone is a guilty of this concept: “I’ve only had a good day if you have to peel me off the floor.”  Maximal effort is always assumed in training.  But if you’re in the grind it’s probably an accurate statement that productivity outside the gym needs to remain maximal in order to get life out of the way.  So avoid completely kicking yourself in the balls.  Break a sweat, stress the system, and get out of the gym and handle your business.

With that said, here’s a little 5 day template you can stuff in your back pocket.  Sure variance keeps things exciting, but sometimes routine can be comforting in the chaotic environment of the grind. If I am tied up for multiple weeks at a time, I simply rinse and repeat.  Be sure to include a 10-15 minute warm up.

Day 1

I’m not going for any records, but I want to squat.  So I rack the bar up front so I know I won’t maximally load the movement pattern, and I go for a triple, five, or seven.

Front Squat 3-7RM

5 min AMRAP
Ball Slam – 5 – 10 reps
Russian twist with slam ball 10 – 20 reps each side

1000m row, shooting for a 2:10 500m split

Day 2

Time for a horizontal push.  I’ll pair it up with a horizontal pull.  Desk jockeying doesn’t help my thoracic rotation one bit, so I try to include some rotation once a week.

Close Grip Bench Press 3 RM
3 x Max Rep dumbbell bent over row

Some sort of resisted rotational work for about 15 minutes, low heart rate
Banded rotations
Rotation plyo ball work
Lunge twist to behind the neck overhead press

Day 3

Time to get the heart rate up.  I like the C2, Assault Bike, and Prowlers because there is no eccentric loading but it’s super easy to break a sweat and get the heart rate up.  Don’t kill yourself, remember Rule #4.  You want to be able to see straight after you’re done here so you can go tackle the grind.

15 Minutes of one of the following
Prowlers – rest as needed
Minute on / Minute off Row / Airdyne

Day 4

Let’s push some weight overhead.  Again, think of push:pull here.  So let’s pay some mind to our vertical pulling.

Vertical Press 5RM (strict press or push press)
3 x Max varied grip vertical pulls (supine chin up, pronated pull up, alternating grip)

20 – 25 Kettle Bell Swing EOMOTM for 7 minutes

1000m row, again, shooting for a 2:10 500m split

Day 5

It’s time to pull. I avoid dead lifting when in the grind.  It’s too taxing for me.  I like to pull the bar dynamically for a few heavy reps.

Work up to a heavy PC, shooting for 80 – 90%

5 rounds
2 – 3 Power Clean at above weight
5 – 10 dynamic horizontal press (plyo push ups, dynamic push ups, clapping push ups)
Rest until ready

I gave you a range of reps so you don’t over exert yourself.  Fall somewhere within those ranges to be sure to get some work done.

Now if you can’t train consecutive days, don’t worry about it.  At least get up and go for a 15 – 30 minute walk.  If you’re dressed for it, drop every 5 minutes and get max rep push ups.  If you have to do that 2 days in a row, then fine, do it.  Just pick up where you left off on this little template as soon as you’re back in the gym, and move the dirt.

If you have some extra time after any of your training days, don’t be afraid of some to take a stroll on Jacked Street with some arm and trap work; supersets are not a thing of the past.

Remember, be smart, listen to your body, focus on getting life out of the way.[/s2If]

Share this article


John Welbourn is CEO of Power Athlete and Fuse Move. He is also creator of the online training phenomena, Johnnie WOD. He is a 9 year veteran of the NFL. John was drafted with the 97th pick in 1999 NFL Draft and went on to be a starter for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1999-2003, appearing in 3 NFC Championship games, and for starter for the Kansas City Chiefs from 2004-2007. In 2008, he played with the New England Patriots until an injury ended his season early with him retiring in 2009. Over the course of his career, John has started over 100 games and has 10 play-off appearances. He was a four year lettermen while playing football at the University of California at Berkeley. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in Rhetoric in 1998. John has worked with the MLB, NFL, NHL, Olympic athletes and Military. He travels the world lecturing on performance and nutrition for Power Athlete. You can catch up with John as his personal blog on training, food and life, Talk To Me Johnnie and at Power Athlete.


  1. Jon Gage on June 11, 2014 at 6:38 pm

    Great suggestions brother. This one is hitting close to home…its waaaay easier to stay in shape when I’m deployed, which I was until May, than when I’m home, which I am now. I’m learning to take it where I can get it…

  2. Gavin on June 11, 2014 at 8:28 pm

    Love stuff like this. Sometimes life gets in the way and I need to do something different, but I’m too stubborn/stupid to do anything that isn’t programmed for me.

  3. Harry Heptonstall on June 12, 2014 at 12:11 am

    I’m not the traditional Power Athlete, working in the creative industry isn’t exactly a 9-5, so training smart whilst in ‘the grind’ is something great to read more about. Good post, this is getting bookmarked.

  4. Paula on June 12, 2014 at 3:09 am

    Great article Luke! I have some clients that this would be very beneficial for. I can’t fall victim to the “grind” for more than a couple of days every quarter or so because at my age it would kill me but when I do I’m keeping this on file.

  5. Bill Pain on June 12, 2014 at 10:50 am

    This is a great post Luke. I am on paternity leave with my first son and struggling to find balance with training. The best thing I realized is to just get some work in weekly and focus on watching my stresses (training, work, family, sleep). I have cut out going for PRs and crazy “metcons” as I couldnt recover well any more.
    I am in this for the long haul. Keep up the great work on PA – I am loving the new format and reading the FS program.

  6. Ingo B on June 13, 2014 at 7:55 am

    If in a longer term pinch, one could conceivably combine the above with @john Pound Town And Jaeger Bombs template, yes? Just for variety’s sake?

  7. Ingo B on June 13, 2014 at 7:58 am

    I should say, alternate between the two templates weekly, not combine.

  8. Bulldozer on June 13, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    This is exactly what I needed. My wife is due with our first child at the end of August and I was wondering what to do with my training while becoming a father. Jagerbombs and poundtown was a good read for it as well. @Luke you forgot to put a shitter next to the work table, eliminates wasted time

  9. Andrew Keimig on June 21, 2014 at 6:54 am

    @Luke you just saved me the time of writing, and PAHQ staff the time of reading, an email about how I should handle my coming transition to full time grad student. I’m not sure how much time I will have to train and was thinking about developing my own template.

  10. Jared Mielke on June 28, 2014 at 8:52 am

    Great read Luke! Thanks for sharing.

  11. Williamtoth on May 6, 2016 at 2:25 pm

    Thank you ever so for you forum post. Keep writing.

Leave a Comment


Never miss out on an epic blog post or podcast, drop your email below and we’ll stay in-touch.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.