Why You Need Free Time in the Gym (Athlete Journal 4)

Having a day to blow off some steam and do things you don’t always do in the gym can have profound effects on your training and performance. Try it.

Another great week of training is in the books. I have been so fickle with my deadlifting throughout this program, but I finally settled. Squatting four times per week definitely did its number on my lower back, so I wasn’t planning on pulling too heavy when I first jumped into this new six-week training cycle.

Since I have been on a week-to-week basis as far as listening to my body and deadlifting goes, I’m going to solely work on technique and bar speed with my deadlifts, and keep the loads below eighty percent of my training max. I’ll be doing one to two training sessions including deadlifts (two being ideal) each week, and this week I was feeling good enough for both.

Since I was feeling so good this week, I was also able to fit some free time in the gym into my schedule. Free time is one of my favorite days in the gym. I’ll throw a free day in every few weeks if my body’s feeling up for it, and if it won’t have any adverse effects on my training.

What Is Free Time?

Free time is performing whatever exercises you want, for however long you want. For me it’s going into the gym, locating some weights, and moving them. Rep schemes and percentages are a thing of the past during free time, and nothing’s set in stone.

When you’re into powerlifting, sometimes you get so caught up in your numbers – whether it be competition maxes, intensity, or volume – and how much you are progressing, that you lose sight of the whole reason you started: exercise is fun. I love exercising, which is why I love powerlifting (that and it helps me carry all of my groceries from the car to my apartment in one trip). For this reason, whenever I get a chance I have a day of free time in the gym.

Fast forward to Friday at 5:00pm. I was off work, the weekend was right around the corner, and I was still feeling refreshed and rejuvenated (sometimes I feel like a bag of bones after the work week). I am always itching to go to the gym, but I wasn’t planning on going this particular day. Squatting, benching, and deadlifting would live to see another day, as I still had one last session to get in for the week. What was I going to do?

Boom! It hit me. I can just go to the gym and exercise for the hell of it. I drove to the gym and decided to work out for however long I felt like it. I jumped on machines I never use, played with a lot of dumbbells, and even incorporated some shoulders into the mix (gasp!). I made everything up on the spot and had a great time doing it.

Add Flavor to Your Training

I go into the gym every day, pumped up with pre-workouts and carrying a bag full of training accessories. In my bag is my training log, which has all of my workouts for my current lifting day laid out, down to the rep. I crush my lifts, high-five myself in the mirror, and say, “Ya did good, kid,” before exiting the gym. Not a whole lot of flavor, if you ask me.

Throwing a free day in of exercise not only spices things up, but it also keeps me sane and reminds me of my entire fitness journey. It’s almost like a slap in the face, but boy does it feel good. Having free time reignites the fire and makes me hungry to get into the gym the next day and destroy my lifts. Sometimes the competition lifts feel lackluster, or it feels like “just another day of training,” but having a gym day of blowing off some steam and performing different exercises can have profound effects on your training and performance, both mentally and physically. Try it!

Meat. Potatoes. Go.


Squat (Heavy)

Bar x 10 (2 sets)

135 x 5

185 x 3

245 x 3 (5 working sets @ 85%)

260 x 1 (training max for the day)

Bench (Maintenance)

Bar x 10

95 x 5

135 x 5

175 x 2 (5 working sets @ 80%)

200 x 1 (training max for the day)

Deadlifts (Technique/Speed)

135 x 5 (2 warm-up sets)

205 x 1 (10 sets, 20 second rest intervals @ 60%)


Bench (3-second pause on chest)

Bar x 10

95 x 5

135 x 5

160 x 4 (5 working sets @ 75%)

Overload/Static Hold 235 x 10 seconds (3 sets @ 110%)

Squat (2-second pause in the hole)

Bar x 10 (2 sets)

135 x 5

170 x 5 (3 working sets @ 60%)

190 x 1 (training max for the day)

Seated Row

80 x 5

120 x 5

150 x 2

175 x 5 (5 working sets @ 5 lb increase from last week)




Deadlift (Heavy)

135 x 5 (2 warm-up sets)

240 x 1 (6 working sets @ 70%)

Bench (Floor Press)

Bar x 10

95 x 5

135 x 5

160 x 4 (4 working sets @ 75%)

195 x 1 (training max for the day)

Squat (Reps)

Bar x 10 (2 sets)

135 x 5

185 x 3

210x 8 (3 working sets @ 5 lb increase from last week)

Overload/Static Hold 315 x 10 seconds (3 sets @ 110%)

Friday – Free Time

  • Leg Curls
  • Jerks
  • Flies
  • Skullcrushers
  • Hanging Leg Raises
  • Calf Raises
  • Ab crunches


Bench (Pin Press)

Bar x 10

95 x 5

135 x 5

170 x 1 (6 working sets @ 80%)

195 x 1 (training max for the day)

Squat (Goblet Squats)

35 x 10 (2 sets)

55 x 5

80×10 (3 working sets @ 5 lb increase from last week)

95 x 1 (training max for the day)

Bent-over Row

95 x 5

135 x 5

185 x 3 (5 working sets @ 5 lb increase from last week)

205 x 1 (training max for the day)



I didn’t include my reps or weights on Friday because the whole point was to just have fun. However, I did do some supersets, triple drop sets, and sets of fifty. If I tried to replicate this workout on a different free day and increase the weights, then I would just be straying away from the purpose of free time.

If you’re training for something, or just tired of the monotony of performing predetermined lifts week after week, have a free day. You’ll love and appreciate it. Stay active!

Ryan Seaver is a novice powerlifter who found his love for the sport after six years of going to the gym religiously. Follow Ryan’s journals to learn how to get started as a competitive lifter.

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