Not every client has the time and flexibility to train five days a week like the lifestyle of most fitpros might allow. The “weekend warrior”, or the fitness enthusiast who only works out on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (or perhaps only one of those days), is likely to make up a decent portion of your clientele, and it would behoove every personal trainer to help them to make the most of their time.

Understanding the Weekend Warrior

Never again will I shrug off the assertion that a fitness client “doesn’t have the time” to commit to a regular exercise routine.

I recently re-entered the 9-to-5 workforce for the first time in about 18 years (outside of a gym) and have had to face the stark reality that many of my clients have complained about and insisted on over the years: I. just. don’t. have. the. time.

I really don’t. Not with two small children, an hour and a half daily commute, and a home to care for on top of my full-time job (and a working Sunday to manage this blog!). These are not the words of an excuse-maker. I love working out. I live for it. It’s the air I breathe. Not having a regular workout routine drains my lifeforce. Not being able to fit it in is a real problem, not a fabricated one.

I initially had aspirations to exercise after work. I’d pack my gym bag and get in my car at 5 o’clock and get a text from the hubby that things were already falling apart with the little ones. Rerouted home.

I then decided I would wake up before everyone else and head to the gym in our neighborhood clubhouse. It’s not as stocked as our fancy health club, but it has enough to give me 45 minutes of a challenge. This is really my best bet. Unfortunately, when your young children wake you in the middle of the night almost every night (if your husband’s snoring hasn’t done that first!), well then, 5:45 am is looking pretty bleak.

And let’s be honest, prioritizing consistent sleep is more important than anything. When I am well-rested, I wake up before 6AM naturally and am more than happy to take the bull by the horns. But alas, this has not been the pattern as of late. I’m holding out hope that this will start to change in my favor, but in the meantime, looks like Saturday and Sunday are my only days to get in a good workout for certain.

Determining how to reconfigure my 4-5 day-a-week routine has been difficult but not impossible, and it shouldn’t be for your clients who adhere to this limited routine either. Here are some guidelines to follow for your weekend warrior:

Be efficient

If you only have one day to train your client a week and they only get in one more on their own, then time is of the essence. No dawdling! This doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t allow any rest periods, but really try to capitalize on active rest. Make sure you hit everything not by focusing on body parts, but on movements. Push and pull. And in varying planes of motion. Forget accessory work for the most part unless there is a lagging body part that needs bringing up.

Don’t stall out

It may be tempting to think that strength and growth can’t happen with only one day a week under the belt and stagnate on progress. Keep careful logs (I don’t care how good your memory is, write it down!) and make sure your client is moving up in weight and volume. Periodization rules still apply!


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Don’t be boring, but don’t be silly either

When you stick to main movements like deadlifts, squats, pull-ups, and presses, it’s easy to get caught in a loop of the same things. Remember, you can vary the menu and stay true to the movement. Try a stiff-legged deadlift in place of conventional. Rotate between a dumbbell press, a barbell press, and weighted pushups. Do a recline pull-up one week and a conventional pull-up the next. The week after that, change the grip to neutral, then close-grip.

These are the important variations to make to keep your clients mentally and physically on their toes and effectively stave off boredom. You don’t need to hammer them into a sweaty puddle of burpee challenges alternated with mountain climbers, and followed up with suicides. Overtaxing every session your client doesn’t help them in the long run, and you’d be wise to explain that to them.

Don’t forget cardio

Please don’t put your client on a treadmill even for a second unless you’re peppering in sprints. If you only get them one day out of the week and you know they aren’t getting to the gym any other days, then stress the importance of NEAT activities, and how the accumulation of activity is more important over the course of the week than trying to squeeze in 30 minutes they don’t have and ulitimately end up doing nothing at all.

If you can program in other workout days without you, have them do one day of moderate to high-intensity cardio for 20-30 minutes and another resistance training day. Encourage them to walk frequently every other day they don’t formally exercise. There are often missed opportunities to squeeze in movement whereby health outcomes and longevity can be improved with simple additions of activity. Walk the dog rather than let him out in the yard. Take the stairs. Park far away in the parking lot. Walk on a lunch break. Walk when talking on the phone (I do this; I might look like a lunatic but I’m often surprised I squeezed in 2000 extra steps by walking in circles while chatting on the phone).

If you have a client that you might train three days a week, make the last one the metabolic or “cardio” day. This is a great day to capitalize on EPOC and allow for the workweek to start off on the right foot. Program in HIIT, tabata, or “metcon” workouts in which the intensity is high but the weight is low. The aerobic endurance is challenged but so is the muscular endurance. Think plyos, running stairs, rowing, pushups, squat jumps, boxing, battle ropes, etc.

Stay tuned for ideas on weekend warrior routines in the next blog!

Michele Rogers

NFPT Publisher Michele G Rogers, MA, NFPT-CPT and EBFA Barefoot Training Specialist manages and coordinates educational blogs and social media content for NFPT, as well as NFPT exam development. She’s been a personal trainer and health coach for over 20 years fueled by a lifetime passion for all things health and fitness. Her mission is to raise kinesthetic awareness and nurture a mind-body connection, helping people achieve a higher state of health and wellness. After battling and conquering chronic back pain and becoming a parent, Michele aims her training approach to emphasize fluidity of movement, corrective exercise, and pain resolution. She holds a master’s degree in Applied Health Psychology from Northern Arizona University. Follow Michele on Instagram.