Time consuming training plans are great...if you're a professional fitness model! For the rest of us, try this more realistic training plan plus tips.

The internet is riddled with training and diet programs tailored for the gym rat. Intricate and time-consuming training programs and expensive eating plans that require special trips to the local specialty food store aren’t all that practical.

It can eventually lead you to believe that the results you’re after just aren’t all that realistic if you can’t fulfill those requirements.

If you aren’t a member of the “I post all my meals and personal records on Instagram” crowd and have real-life obligations that can be unpredictable at times then you are in the right place.

You may be the type who struggles just to get in steady workouts, healthy meals, and work in proper rest each week. You may have sporadic work schedules, extra family obligations, and major challenges when it comes to recovery.

Related: How To Meal Prep for your Busy Life

It’s time for the working man’s guide to finally get you on the right track to gains. A plan that is flexible, realistic, and practical. Let’s do the absolute best with what you have to get you the results you want.

The Plan

This working man’s guide will cover the pitfalls, adjustments, and unforeseen circumstances of regular, everyday living. It doesn’t cater to the individual who has more than enough time to train, cook, and eat. You have a life outside the gym. You have obligations from work, family, and friends. You will need an extra set of tools to get you through those tougher times.

  1. Be flexible: Life will give you speed bumps, put up walls, and knock you off track. Make sure you enter into any program with an open mind and the ability and will to adjust and be flexible.
  2. Be ready: Don’t put any program or any part of a plan in stone. Be willing and ready to change something up on a moment’s notice. Too much strict planning will only frustrate you in the end.
  3. Have a back-up: When (not if) life does throw you that curve ball be sure to have something at the ready. Not only a plan B.
  4. Get your mind right: When you finally commit to a plan be sure that you have your mental game on point. Only look ahead and don’t look back. Make progress when you can, not when you want to.
  5. Believe: Believe you can make progress. Believe you will push forward. Believe you will accomplish your goal. Small steps add up over time and only you can decide to either press on or give up.

The Training

Below is the working man’s training plan. It’s designed to be flexible, have built-in fail safes, and is realistic and practical.

The Working Man's Training Plan

No cookie-cutter crap ripped from some professional bodybuilder’s routine and no unrealistic, marathon training sessions which will only lead you panting and crawling for the door.

Related: Think Less, Lift More

This plan has these requirements:

  • Work a majority of body parts each session.
  • Be somewhat short in duration.
  • Easy to understand and execute without much clutter and wasted effort.
  • Equipped with alternatives in case of anything from life gets in the way.
  • Designed in a way to keep your interest and focus on progress.

The How

During any normal week (yeah, I know those are rare) try training every other day. Train a day and then rest a day. You will have two different training days: One will be upper body and abs and the other will be lower body and cardio. So you will train upper body and abs, rest a day, train lower body and cardio, rest a day and then go right back to upper body and abs. Keep alternating upper/abs and lower/cardio days.

Choose a workout column. Columns A and B are traditional exercises found in most any gym. Column C is bodyweight exercises for when you are needing to train from home or on the road. Perform 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps of each exercise. Feel free to adjust the rep schemes as you see fit. The key is to become consistent and not worry and agonize over details. Feel free to mix and match from each category (the first row is all chest exercises, the second back, third is shoulders, the fourth is triceps, the fifth is biceps and the last is abs).

Upper Body and Abs
Column A Column B Column C
Flat or Incline Bench Barbell Press Flat or Incline Bench Dumbbell Press Floor or Feet Elevated Push Up
Barbell or Dumbbell Bent-Over Row Barbell Deadlift Inverted Row or Pull Up
Standing or Seated Barbell or Dumbbell Military Press Barbell or Dumbbell Upright Row or Dumbbell Side Lateral Raise Band Press or Pike Press
Cable Pressdown or Lying Barbell Extension Close-Grip Bench Press Parallel Bar Dip or Bench Dip
Barbell or Dumbbell Curl Inclune Bench Dumbbell Curl or Spider Curl Rever Grip Biceps Chin Up or Band Curl
Floor Crunch or Bicycle Crunch 3-Way Incline Board Sit Up V-Up
Lying or Hanging Leg Raise Scissor Kick Knee Tuck
Lower Body and Cardio

As with the upper body session above, choose a column workout or mix and match the exercises from each row.

Column A Column B Column C
Barbell Back Squat Leg Press/Sled Rear Foot-Elevated Bulgarian Split Squat
Lying or Seated Leg curl Barbell or Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift Reverse Lunge
Loaded Walking Lunge Explosive High Box Jump Pistol Squat
Standing or Leg Press Calf Raise Seated Calf Raise Jump Rope or Single Leg Calf Raise
Barbell Front Squat Loaded Side Lunge Prisoner Squat
Sled Push and/or Pull (10 total rounds) Steady State Cardio of Choice (20 min) HIIT 1 min high intensity:1 minute low intensity (10 rounds)


Of course the best laid plans will eventually come apart due to life events, injury, burnout or just downright lack of motivation. As stated before, roadblocks will go up, speed bumps will form and life will present to you some pretty crappy hands sometimes. Here are a few common errors and fixes to help you on your journey and keep you pressing forward.

What if I want to change the rep or set schemes of the workout?

By all means change away. Just be sure you are getting all of your sets in the time you have allotted for training. Add more sets, increase or decrease reps. You will eventually know your sweet spot.

How long should I rest between sets?

Normally, shoot for 1 minute of rest between sets, but smaller body parts such as shoulders, arms and calves may require less rest (30 seconds).

What if I want to add in my own favorite exercises?

Yes, go for it. As long as it fits into one of the training days go ahead and replace (don’t add to) one of the existing exercises.

I want to train more often. Can I do that?

Yes, just be sure to train no more than 2 consecutive days in a row before taking a rest day. You may feel like training more at times, but it will catch up to you.

I can only train twice per week. Is that enough?

Absolutely. Just be sure to include both training days each week. This will ensure you cover your entire body. If possible, perform some cardio on other days if time allows.

Jason the human flag
Posted on: Sun, 01/17/2016 - 13:02

Finally, somebody tells the average working man that you can still make progress while holding a full time job and raising a family. I usually will hit my traditional gym 2x per week. In addition to that though I look for alternatives, I use the playground as my gym whenever I go with my kids! It is a fantastic place to get a quick workout in while fufilling the family obligation. You get to spend quality time with the wife and kids while getting a workout in!!! Be creative and always look for alternative ways to stay fit! Thanks for this article for us normal guys!

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 01/18/2016 - 13:41

Hi Jason. Thanks so much. I am hoping to get more info like this out on here...

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 02/02/2016 - 10:28

No problem. I'm just glad I could be of some help.

Nathan Rattley
Posted on: Sat, 01/30/2016 - 03:03

That's awesome Brad. Thankyou so much for your help. I've got a hard road, but i'm steadfast in seeing massive change and results. Thankyou for taking time out of your life to help me out mate.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 01/25/2016 - 22:24

Hi Nathan. Is there some sort of body weight routine you can do at home on a "rest day?" Something light and cardio-like? Would you be up for something like that?

Posted on: Tue, 01/26/2016 - 20:37

Absolutely Brad. Any suggestions. I find running with my old knees a bit tough. But if you have any thoughts it would be greatly appreciated mate. Thankyou

Nathan Rattley
Posted on: Sun, 01/24/2016 - 16:57

Hi Brad. Great article mate.
I'm 43. Just starting back at the Gym after a long time. Have just spent weeks planning my nutrition and work outs. It's going to be a huge life adjustment, considering i'm a contractor, working for myself. I work alot of hours, and work pretty damn hard through the day. I'm on my feet all day. Lifting heavy material all day. My challenge is having the energy to work out. But i will not use the word "Can't " this year. My problem is at the moment, I want to be at the gym everyday. I want to keep momentum. I'm scared if i take the time off, i'll relapse :). What would you suggest to do, exercise wise, on a rest day? My goal is to lose weight, maintain lean mass, then build from there once i've reached my goal.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 01/27/2016 - 22:54

Nathan, check this out:


Was that something along the lines of what you were thinking?

Posted on: Thu, 01/14/2016 - 19:29

Dear Brad,

As someone who is 49 years old, trying to keep a roof over his family's head and constantly reading artilces on this site with the view to trying to move forward physique and fitness wise this is without doubt the best bit of practical advice for, I suspect, anyone with real life obligations. Thank you for the realistic approach rather than a general article that takes it for granted that people have 40 to 60 minutes to train 5 times per week which I normally try to accomplish but at least every second week do not manage to do due to life's vagaries.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Fri, 01/15/2016 - 09:38

Hi Gary. Thank you so much for your kind words. Yes, you are correct that not everyone has the ability to keep the perfect schedule. I hope to write more about things like this in the future, so stay tuned. Thanks!

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 01/14/2016 - 11:25

Let me know if you give this program a try...

Posted on: Sun, 01/17/2016 - 13:27

Thanks for saying: “I post all my meals and personal records on Instagram” ..like who are those people??

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 01/18/2016 - 13:38

Hi Miguel. Yeah, most of us don't have that kind of time. Thanks!

Posted on: Tue, 01/01/2019 - 10:50

Hi Brad thanks for coming up with this for us normal people lol. I need to build my rear delts how can i put this together wilth this plan many thanks colin