The “weekend warrior” works hard all week in the rat race and saves up their energy for weekend-only workouts. Research shows that this approach to working out is actually linked to positive health outcomes. One study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine Journal indicated that all-cause mortality and cancer rates are significantly lower in both weekend warriors who met the minimum activity recommendations and those who didn’t but were active 1-2 days a week when compared to inactive individuals. Weekend warrior workouts shouldn’t be undersold or scoffed at.

It’s important to bear in mind that some activity is always better than none. If your client is able to dedicate one or two days a week to a fitness endeavor, help them make the most of it.

The Weekend Warrior Possibilities

For the client that has only one day to spare, a total body workout is in order. This likely means the client is seeing you one day a week, and it’s your responsibility to keep them progressing with minimal time and encounters. It can be done!

Make use of one or more of the three C’s: Circuits, combos, and complexes. The point is to hit all the major movements and/or body parts, making the most efficient use of your time. Take notes, and make sure the numbers or variables go up even a little every week. If your client gets stuck and can’t get one more rep out of the prescribed sets and weight, add another set, or do a drop set after they hit failure. There’s no reason this client can’t get stronger and fitter if you’re holding them to task.

If two days are what your client has to spare and you see them only one of those days, it’s best to allow a day of rest in between (Friday and Sunday workouts) if possible. If workout days are back to back, still hit all the movements on both days but work in different rep ranges so that you’re challenging different muscle fibers.

You might assign a circuit for them to do on their own where the weight is light and the reps are in the 20-30 range. Then the session you train with them, program a push/pull routine in the 6 to 10 rep range. Even if they’re a little sore from their circuit, they’ll work past it pretty quickly and you will be targeting the fresher Type II fibers rather than the fatigued Type I fibers.

Ideally, your client is a true weekend warrior and can work out all three days. If that’s the case, you’ve got a driven athlete on your hands and you can take more liberties in programming and assign more advanced workouts to be done on their own. Depending on the client’s goals, you could do a push-only routine on Friday, a pull-only on Saturday, and a met-con (metabolic conditioning) day on Sunday.

Alternatively, you could do horizontal push/pull movements on Friday (think push-ups, seated rows, and hip thrusts) and vertical push/pull movements on Saturday (think overhead barbell press, under-the-bar pull-ups, and deadlifts). You could save heavier squats or lunges to work into your metcon/cardio day on Sunday or work them in where you want, but don’t skip them!

[sc name=”plyometric” ]


Sample Workouts

One Day: Circuit Training

Work in a 15 rep-range, no rest between movements, and rest 1-2 minutes between circuits.

  • Warm-up with jumping jacks, air squats, and shoulder drills
  • Squat thrusters (from seated on bench, stand and press two dumbbells overhead)
  • Hip bridges
  • Push-ups (If the client can do more than 15 easily, advance the movement)
  • Alternating lunges
  • Under-the-bar Pull-ups (arrange a racked barbell at hip-height; lie underneath, grasp the bar, and pull chest to the bar while body stays straight. Keep knees bent and feet on floor to regress; elevate feet to advance)

Two days: Push/Pull

You have latitude here to pick your intensity and rep range. For this routine, you could work in the 8 to 12 range, 3 to 4 sets. Rest 1-2 minutes between sets using active recovery techniques.

Day 1 (Push):

  • Warm-up with an inchworm, shoulder Wall Angels, and dynamic hip movements like deep squats and walking lunges
  • Bench press, (hold hip bridge for 45 seconds while resting)
  • Sumo squat (hold plank for 45 seconds while resting)
  • Dumbbell overhead press (perform 45 seconds windshield wipers while resting)
  • Bulgarian split squat, superset with tricep push-downs

Day 2 (Pull):

  • Warm-up with stationary lateral lunges, WY shoulder drills, and bird-dogs
  • Standing cable row (run stairs 30 seconds between sets)
  • Romanian deadlift (hold boat pose 15 seconds between sets)
  • Bent-over reverse dumbbell flye (30 seconds mountain climbers between sets)
  • Jumping eccentric chin-ups (10 medicine ball chops in each direction between sets)

For a 3-day Weekend Warrior, adopt the 2-day workout above and make day 3 HIIT-oriented or simply assign a cardio day that is lower-intensity but ideally at least 45-60 minutes. If your client prefers short and sweet, Tabata might do the trick or just a quick 2-mile run.

Here are some other ideas for quick workouts:

A Fast Upper Body and Core Workout for the Time Crunched Client

A Fast Lower Body Workout for the Time Crunched Client



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.