I step under the bar, I have a 5/6 rep max loaded up. I’m doing 5×5 on high bar squats. The setup is tight and correct as always. Unrack the bar, step back, big breath and descend………
“Have I overloaded the bar?!”
I haven’t, but the weight feels like a 1 rep max today! What’s going on? I’ve warmed up more than adequately.
The DREADED ‘bad workout’
Step 1: Identification – sometimes we just have to accept the reality of certain issues. It’s the nature of the beast, the more you do something, the more the law of averages comes into play. The rough makes itself known and the smooth takes somewhat of a backseat.
Sometimes it really is just a ‘bad day’
Or could there be something else wrong? Possibly, if you find yourself having one of these discouraging days, here are a few questions you must ask your yourself:
- How was my sleep?
- How has my nutrition been?
- How was last workout’s performance(s)?
Nutritionally, have you been eating sufficient overall calories? Has your pre-workout meal/ritual been consistent? Your body cannot produce stellar results without adequate fuel.
If these two foundational aspects are in check, it tends to cause quite a bit of head-scratching and confusion. However, an answer can often be found in casting your mind back to your last workout.
Was it a ‘PR fest’ or a slump?
We are usually so quick to associate a bad session with negative explanations. ‘What is wrong?’ but as I’ve come to realise, sometimes a seemingly bad session can be the result of a previous record-breaking session. I’ve detected an eerily similar pattern – anytime I enter uncharted territory in terms of performance, more often than not the next workout will bring me back down to earth in style!
But let’s think about it logically for a second…………….
More exertion in the last session = more RECOVERY required than usual.
Sometimes a bad session is little more than you demanding more recovery out of your body without realising it. So please don’t get so depressed over a bad session, always bear this in mind. And when I say ‘great performance’ – I’m referencing stretching your boundaries only slightly more than you ever have.
An extra rep here or there, a few seconds off your personal best sprint time, maybe a few pounds extra on the bar. Not bettering your numbers by 200% or something insane like that. The longer you’ve been training, the smaller the increments of improvement and progress become.
To conclude, maybe you have had numerous sub-par sessions in succession. If that’s the case, it’s often a sign that your overall work volume is too high (providing your lifestyle habits, i.e. diet, sleep etc. are in place). In fact consecutive bad workouts can often result from workouts of excess duration – over an hour.
“If you’re in the gym longer than an hour, you’re making friends not gains!”
So if you detect repetitive dwindling performances, take a moment for some re-evaluation. Keep an eye on your workout length and frequency. Maybe scale it back a touch, often when we think ‘we’re taking steps back’ we’re actually taking greater steps in the right direction.
In summary: One bad workout? Don’t threat it. Was last time around a blinder? Yes? Awesome. You’ve just sparked the super-compensation effect! (This is the secret of progress)
Multiple bad workouts? Get the magnifying glass out, scour over your journals (yes you should have one!) and see where you may have been needlessly overdoing things.
Training in check? Sensible amount of volume and frequency? Take a look at your diet and sleep and tighten these areas up; consistent bedtimes, concrete macronutrient ratios that are adhered to.
These scenarios should explain 99.9% of bad workouts cropping up. Most importantly, NEVER let a bad workout cause you to question or lose faith in your routine.
Have faith in the law of repeated efforts: It’s not one tremendous workout session that transforms you. It’s repeated consistent efforts that shape the body and life you wish to create.