How to Get Stronger in a Crowded Gym (With 8-Week Program)

TAGS: busy gym, campus fitness facility, college student, new students, 8-week program, Joe Schillero, squat rack, barbell

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As college fall semesters kick off, gyms get flooded with new students anxious to use the workout facilities that are now within walking distance of their dorms. We see the same influx of new gym-goers with commercial gyms around New Year’s Resolution time, and before Spring Break as well. As a school administrator, I’m happy to see so many new students on campus. However, it can make getting my own training in during the day tough to do. As I’m sure many of you have already experienced, when the gym is busy it can be hard just to get your hands on the dumbbell you need, let alone a machine. Squat racks are hovered around like dead animals on the side of the freeway until one opens up, and the phrase “how many sets you got left bro?” probably gets uttered a million times a day.

While it may seem like a nightmare, there is actually some upside to being forced to train in a crowded gym. Over the years I’ve found that while I love having access to a ton of machines and equipment, sometimes your workout can grow to the point where your list of assistance work starts to become a mile long. A multitude of options provides great opportunities, but it also can provide a lot of detours on your path from Point A (weak) to Point B (strong).


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Being forced to be efficient in your exercise choices can be a great thing if you choose to take advantage of it. I’ve seen how being forced to limit myself to a few exercises (whether it’s because of time, injury, equipment accessibility, or any other reason), forces me to cut out the crap and only perform exercises that give me a good bang for my buck.

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So for this article, I’m outlining what an 8-week training program can look like when you’re training in a packed gym or when your equipment is limited. It’ll prevent you from having to travel around the gym constantly waiting for equipment and will allow you to get the most out of the barbell and a squat rack once you get your hands on it. The following workouts can be done 100% with your barbell and a squat rack, so once you get your hands on it, you’re good to go for the rest of your session:


Notes:

  • AMRAP = As many reps as possible.
  • RPE = Rate of perceived exertion (how hard to perform the movement on a scale of 1-10, 1 being easiest and 10 being hardest).
  • Percentages are based on your one-rep max with good technique.

Week 1

Day 1

A. Squat: 3x8 with 65%

B. Pause Squat – 3x6 (RPE 8)

C. Barbell Good Mornings – 3x8 (RPE 7)

D. Hanging Leg Raises from Rack – 3xAMRAP

Day 2

A. Bench Press: 3x8 with 65%

B1. Close Grip Bench Press – 3x6 (RPE 8)

B2. Chin-Ups from Rack – 3xAMRAP

C. Meadows Rows with Barbell – 3x10 each arm

D1. Pushups – 3xAMRAP

D2. Barbell Curls – 3x15

Day 3

A. Deadlift: 3x8 with 65%

B. Straight Leg Deadlift (Slow and Controlled): 3x8 with 50% of DL Max

C. Barbell Front Squat – 3x6 (RPE 8)

D. Hanging Leg Raises from Rack – 3xAMRAP

Day 4

A. Standing Overhead Press: 3x8 with 65%

B1. Pause Floor Press – 3x6 (RPE 8)

B2. Chin-Ups from Rack – 3xAMRAP

C. Bent Over Barbell Rows (Strict Form) – 3x10 (RPE 7)

D. Pushups with Closer Hand Position – 3xAMRAP

Week 2

Day 1

A. Squat: 3x3 with 80%, 1x1 with 90%

B. Pause Squat – 3x8 (RPE 8)

C. Barbell Good Mornings – 3x10 (RPE 7)

D. Hanging Leg Raises from Rack – 3xAMRAP

Day 2

A. Bench Press: 3x3 with 80%, 1x1 with 90%

B1. Close Grip Bench Press – 3x8 (RPE 8)

B2. Chin-Ups from Rack – 3xAMRAP

C. Meadows Rows with Barbell – 3x10 each arm

D1. Pushups – 3xAMRAP

D2. Barbell Curls – 3x15

Day 3

A. Deadlift: 3x3 with 80%, 1x1 with 90%

B. Straight Leg Deadlift (Slow and Controlled): 3x8 with 50% of DL Max

C. Barbell Front Squat – 3x8 (RPE 8)

D. Hanging Leg Raises from Rack – 3xAMRAP

Day 4

A. Standing Overhead Press: 3x3 with 80%, 1x1 with 90%

B1. Pause Floor Press – 3x8 (RPE 8)

B2. Chin-Ups from Rack – 3xAMRAP

C. Bent Over Barbell Rows (Strict Form) – 3x10 (RPE 7)

D. Pushups with Closer Hand Position – 3xAMRAP

Week 3 

Day 1

A. Squat: 3x5 with 72%

B. Pause Squat – 3x5 (RPE 9)

C. Barbell Good Mornings – 3x8 (RPE 8)

D. Hanging Leg Raises from Rack – 3xAMRAP

Day 2

A. Bench Press: 3x5 with 72%

B1. Close Grip Bench Press – 3x5 (RPE 9)

B2. Chin-Ups from Rack – 3xAMRAP

C. Meadows Rows with Barbell – 3x10 each arm

D1. Pushups – 3xAMRAP

D2. Barbell Curls – 3x15

Day 3

A. Deadlift: 3x5 with 72%

B. Straight Leg Deadlift (Slow and Controlled): 3x5 with 50% of DL Max

C. Barbell Front Squat – 3x5 (RPE 9)

D. Hanging Leg Raises from Rack – 3xAMRAP

Day 4

A. Standing Overhead Press: 3x5 with 72%

B1. Pause Floor Press – 3x5 (RPE 9)

B2. Chin-Ups from Rack – 3xAMRAP

C. Bent Over Barbell Rows (Strict Form) – 3x10 (RPE 7)

D. Pushups with Closer Hand Position – 3xAMRAP

Week 4 

Day 1

A. Squat: 3x2 with 85%, 1x1 with 92%

B. Pause Squat – 3x3 (RPE 9)

C. Barbell Good Mornings – 3x8 (RPE 8)

D. Hanging Leg Raises from Rack – 3xAMRAP

Day 2

A. Bench Press: 3x2 with 85%, 1x1 with 92%

B1. Close Grip Bench Press – 3x3 (RPE 9)

B2. Chin-Ups from Rack – 3xAMRAP

C. Meadows Rows with Barbell – 3x10 each arm

D1. Pushups – 3xAMRAP

D2. Barbell Curls – 3x15

Day 3

A. Deadlift: 3x2 with 85%, 1x1 with 92%

B. Straight Leg Deadlift (Slow and Controlled): 3x3 with 50% of DL Max

C. Barbell Front Squat – 3x3 (RPE 9)

D. Hanging Leg Raises from Rack – 3xAMRAP

Day 4

A. Standing Overhead Press: 3x2 with 85%, 1x1 with 92%

B1. Pause Floor Press – 3x3 (RPE 9)

B2. Chin-Ups from Rack – 3xAMRAP

C. Bent Over Barbell Rows (Strict Form) – 3x10 (RPE 7)

D. Pushups with Closer Hand Position – 3xAMRAP

Week 5 

Day 1

A. Squat: 3x8 with 67%

B. Squat Down-Sets – 3x8 with 50%

C. Barbell Split-Stance Squats – 3x8 (RPE 7)

D. Hanging Leg Raises from Rack – 3xAMRAP

Day 2

A. Bench Press: 3x8 with 67%

B1. Bench Press Down-Sets – 3x8 with 50%

B2. Chin-Ups from Rack – 3xAMRAP

C. Meadows Rows with Barbell – 3x10 each arm

D1. Pushups – 3xAMRAP

D2. Barbell Curls – 3x15

Day 3

A. Deadlift: 3x8 with 67%

B. Barbell Front Squat – 3x8 (RPE 8)

C. Hanging Leg Raises from Rack – 3xAMRAP

Day 4

A. Standing Overhead Press: 3x8 with 67%

B1. OHP Down-Sets – 3x8 with 50%

B2. Chin-Ups from Rack – 3xAMRAP

C. Bent Over Barbell Rows (Strict Form) – 3x8 (RPE 8)

D. Rack Pushups (Barbell in Bottom of Rack) – 3xAMRAP

Week 6

Day 1

A. Squat: 3x3 with 82%, 1x1 with 92%

B. Squat Down-Sets – 3x6 with 55%

C. Barbell Split-Stance Squats – 3x8 (RPE 7)

D. Hanging Leg Raises from Rack – 3xAMRAP

Day 2

A. Bench Press: 3x3 with 82%, 1x1 with 92%

B1. Bench Press Down-Sets – 3x6 with 55%

B2. Chin-Ups from Rack – 3xAMRAP

C. Meadows Rows with Barbell – 3x10 each arm

D1. Pushups – 3xAMRAP

D2. Barbell Curls – 3x15

Day 3

A. Deadlift: 3x3 with 82%, 1x1 with 92%

B. Barbell Front Squat – 3x6 (RPE 8)

C. Hanging Leg Raises from Rack – 3xAMRAP

Day 4

A. Standing Overhead Press: 3x3 with 82%, 1x1 with 92%

B1. OHP Down-Sets – 3x6 with 55%

B2. Chin-Ups from Rack – 3xAMRAP

C. Bent Over Barbell Rows (Strict Form) – 3x8 (RPE 8)

D. Rack Pushups (Barbell in Bottom of Rack) – 3xAMRAP

Week 7

Day 1

A. Squat: 3x5 with 75%

B. Squat Down-Sets – 3x5 with 60%

C. Barbell Split-Stance Squats – 3x8 (RPE 7)

D. Hanging Leg Raises from Rack – 3xAMRAP

Day 2

A. Bench Press: 3x5 with 75%

B1. Bench Press Down-Sets – 3x5 with 60%

B2. Chin-Ups from Rack – 3xAMRAP

C. Meadows Rows with Barbell – 3x10 each arm

D1. Pushups – 3xAMRAP

D2. Barbell Curls – 3x15

Day 3

A. Deadlift: 3x5 with 75%

B. Barbell Front Squat – 3x5 (RPE 9)

C. Hanging Leg Raises from Rack – 3xAMRAP

Day 4

A. Standing Overhead Press: 3x5 with 75%

B1. OHP Down-Sets – 3x5 with 60%

B2. Chin-Ups from Rack – 3xAMRAP

C. Bent Over Barbell Rows (Strict Form) – 3x8 (RPE 8)

D. Rack Pushups (Barbell in Bottom of Rack) – 3xAMRAP

Week 8 

Day 1

A. Squat: 3x2 with 87%, 1x1 with 95% (or go heavier if you feel good)

B. Squat Down-Sets – 3x5 with 70%

C. Barbell Split-Stance Squats – 3x8 (RPE 7)

D. Hanging Leg Raises from Rack – 3xAMRAP

Day 2

A. Bench Press: 3x2 with 87%, 1x1 with 95% (or go heavier if you feel good)

B1. Bench Press Down-Sets – 3x5 with 70%

B2. Chin-Ups from Rack – 3xAMRAP

C. Meadows Rows with Barbell – 3x10 each arm

D1. Pushups – 3xAMRAP

D2. Barbell Curls – 3x15

Day 3

A. Deadlift: 3x2 with 87%, 1x1 with 95% (or go heavier if you feel good)

B. Barbell Front Squat – 3x3 (RPE 9)

C. Hanging Leg Raises from Rack – 3xAMRAP

Day 4

A. Standing Overhead Press: 3x2 with 87%, 1x1 with 95% (or go heavier if you feel good)

B1. OHP Down-Sets – 3x5 with 70%

B2. Chin-Ups from Rack – 3xAMRAP

C. Bent Over Barbell Rows (Strict Form) – 3x8 (RPE 8)

D. Rack Pushups (Barbell in Bottom of Rack) – 3xAMRAP

This program is just one example of how you can get stronger with minimal equipment and do it efficiently in a manageable amount of time. Remember that while variation can be a great thing, sometimes being forced into simplicity can re-focus your training in a way that will pay off in the long run.

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