Powerlifting, studying & a social life. How do you balance it all?

Powerlifting, studying & a social life. How do you balance it all?

Powerlifting is a sport and like any sport you need to commit substantial time and energy to be the best that you can be. But as we all know, sport is not the only area of our life which requires a high degree of commitment and time. We all have other commitments such as work, education, relationships, family, relaxation and more.

Like many other competitive athletes in the sport, do you struggle to find the time and energy to juggle so many demands?  Do you constantly find yourself running on fumes trying to fit in 3 hours of training, 5 times a week, while also studying full time, working part-time and spending time with friends, family and loved ones?

The truth of the matter is, as your demands for powerlifting training increase, the time and energy you can commit to other areas of life begins to diminish.

You may find yourself spending all your time and energy training, with less spent on your friends, families or loved ones. You may be beginning to say no to “partying” every weekend, because you want to squat the next day. You may be beginning to skip class or beginning to show up late to work, just because you want to finish all your accessory lifts.

Alternatively, you may have two assignments and a test due, so you find yourself saying that there is no point in training today, that you don’t have the time to do your workout. You might be going out drinking regularly and in the morning think, I am too hungover to workout, what is the point.

If you have experienced or are experiencing this trade-off between sport and life, you might be finding that your quality of happiness is not what it used to be. Left unchecked, your training might become inconsistent, with everything feeling heavy and rough. Even worst, left far too long and you may begin to experience dissatisfaction, poor mental and physical health, burnout and the desire to quit. Powerlifting begins to be a chore, rather than something that use to enhance your life.  

Leaving this imbalance unchecked creates conflict between sport and life. When everything is in balance, not only do you experience better workouts, but your level of satisfaction, productivity and quality of life increases.

At the end of the day, competitive powerlifting is a hobby for all of us. There are very little long-term career opportunities and next to no money in the sport. So as a powerlifter, how can you find balance? How can you train hard, be competitive, yet still find time for others, your studies, your careers and yourself?

Well as coaches, the team at PPS have manged to juggle full-time studies, full and/or part time work and long-term relationships, while still being regarding as competitive lifters in our own rights.

Below are just three ways in which we believe balance can be better achieved.

  1. Plan ahead

If you know when your assignments, exams, deadlines or important holiday events are approaching, plan training accordingly.

There is always going to be time throughout the training year in which active rest or low volume training blocks can be used strategically to reduce the amount of mental and physical fatigue your body may have accumulated.

For example- If you know that you are going to be time constrained at the end of each semester, plan for those 2-4 weeks to be your “recovery blocks”. Instead of training 5 x per week over that period, you may reduce it to 3 x per week.  Reduce high volume competition lift days to once a week or take time off doing them completely. Perhaps try something different or new, do a few group fitness classes or take up walking or running.

Not only will doing this free up time and energy for your studies, but it will allow for some much-needed recovery from the stress that compound lifts such as the squat, bench and deadlift cause. It will also help prevent staleness and make you even more motivated than before to train hard when you get back into it.

  1. Combined or alter days

However, often there are times when you can’t plan. For example, if you are going away over the upcoming weekend or if you are doing shift work. During these times, it is best to combine or alter your training days.

If your training split usually consists of 5 days, with two of those days being Friday & Saturday, however you are going away Friday through Sunday, you can do one of two things. Firstly, you can strategically combined training days that will compliment, rather than conflict with one another. Secondly, you can alter your training days so that everything will fit throughout your shortened training week. 

 Below provides an example of how this can be achieved via both methods.

Combining days

Normal training split Altered training split
Monday Squats- 3 x 3 @ 85%

Bench Press – 5 x 5 @ 80%

Monday Squats- 3 x 3 @ 85%

Deadlifts – 4 x 6 @ 70%

Bench Press – 5 x 5 @ 75%

Tuesday Off Tuesday Off
Wednesday Deadlifts – 4 x 6 @ 75% Wednesday Bench Press – 5 x 3 @ 80%
Thursday Bench Press – 5 x 3 @ 85% Thursday Deadlifts – 3 x 3 @ 80%

Squats – 4 x 8 @ 65%

Friday Squats – 4 x 8 @ 70% Friday Off
Saturday Deadlifts  – 3 x 3 @ 85% Saturday Off
Sunday Off Sunday Off


Altering days

Normal training split Altered training split
Monday Squats- 3 x 3 @ 85%

Bench Press – 5 x 5 @ 80%

Monday Squats- 3 x 3 @ 85%

Bench Press – 5 x 5 @ 80%

Tuesday Off Tuesday Deadlifts – 4 x 6 @ 70%
Wednesday Deadlifts – 4 x 6 @ 75% Wednesday Bench Press – 5 x 3 @ 80%
Thursday Bench Press – 5 x 3 @ 85% Thursday Squats – 4 x 8 @ 65%

Deadlifts – 3 x 3 @ 80%

Friday Squats – 4 x 8 @ 70% Friday Off
Saturday Deadlifts  – 3 x 3 @ 85% Saturday Off
Sunday Off Sunday Off


As you can see, for both examples there has been a reduction in the planned loads used for each given day. This is to take in to account the reduced recovery time between session, therefore preventing any chances of over-training. Additionally, you will notice the exercises that require the most CNS involvement, are positioned first on every given training day. It is always essential to start with the exercise that is commitment toward “strength” first, to prevent any potential loss in force production as the result of higher rep sets. 

  1. Prioritize comp lifts

The third method of improving better balance between demands, while still increasing your strength, is to prioritise your competition lift.

The further we get into our powerlifting careers, the less beneficial results you will receive through accessory lifts, such as bent over rows, lunges, db presses etc. Therefore, if you begin to be strapped for time, the most essential thing to do is to prioritize the time and energy you have toward completing the required sets and reps for the squat, bench and deadlift.

There are little benefits that will be gained from staying an extra 2 hours a day in the gym to complete accessory lifts, especially if you have several other demands such as study, work, friends or family to commit to.

Therefore, on days that you are feeling overwhelmed with everything going on in your life, feel free to skip your accessory lifts. Feel content knowing that the most important work to get to done is your competition lifts, as those exercises are the ones in which will be more beneficial for your increased strength in the long-term. Don’t let this become a frequent habit, but once or twice a fortnight is acceptable.

Closing remarks

Overall finding balance between training and life’s demands can be very tricky, stressful and tiresome at times. The most essential things to remember is that a content, happy and fulfilled life is one in which all areas of our lives are meet. That no matter how hard we train, the medals that we win or the international experience that we gain, powerlifting is only one area of our lives.

Don’t let powerlifting completely consume your entire life, because one day you will have to put the soft suit down and look back on what you have achieved. Doing this is far more rewarding with friends, family, loved ones and colleges. So, if you can’t always make it into training, don’t beat yourself up, if you have to alter things around, do so, let powerlifting enhance, rather than control your life.

6 thoughts on “Powerlifting, studying & a social life. How do you balance it all?

  1. Choong Reply

    Feels bad when you got to use this article to plan around life around gym coz gym is life :p

  2. Lee McLeod Reply

    Had an exam Monday, Tuesday just now and another one this Thursday. Wasn’t originally going to train (Saturday-Wednesday off) but decided I’ll combine my squat and bench work today so I’ve only missed 1 day. Nice article 👍

    • PPS Post authorReply

      Cheers mate! Always best to get something done, rather than nothing. Good luck with your Exams :).

    • PPS Post authorReply

      What’re you talking about? Im pretty sure scoialise with your coach Sumner every 6 hours.

      • Ahmad Hariz Reply

        Nah most of the time i socialize with myself every 6 hours innit

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