T Nation

Bad Workouts


What usually causes them?

How do you handle them?

If your main lift is way off, do you go on to accessories?

Do you make extra recovery efforts afterwards to try to recoup?

I see a lot of threads about the subject and I found these to be the most important questions regarding the subject. Also, I had a terrible workout myself today. I've had 275 bench press easy late summer and today I couldn't even get it once without assistance despite making lots of progress on my other ME lifts and assistance.

I think it was caused by extremely high emotional stress couple with no sleep and very little food Tuesday night. I'm still tired and probably underfed.

I'm just going to eat and eat and get a couple really good nights of rest.

I just felt so flat on my ME movement I just went home b/c I thought it would be better to focus on recovering than lifting.


Answers to the questions?

Want to add to the Q and A list?


There's a thousand reasons, and the "why" determines what I do about it.

If I got no sleep, ate poorly, or feel otherwise burnt out, I leave early.

If I've just got a lot on my mind, I'll ratchet the weight down and make sure my form is spot on.

If I'm just being lazy, I do the entire workout twice (so far I've only resorted to THIS option about four times).


This is a good question. The most scientific way approach I've seen to it is Mike Tuchscherer's reactive system. He has software that measures a morning heart rate, CNS tap test, and another thing that is supposed to show your cumulative response to stress in 3 areas I believe than a sum total of how 'prepared' you are to train as usual. He has the details for it on his website. I haven't looked into it much, but it does have some feedback mechanism in there where you try to quantify and categorize your body's stress levels.

He also has a his 'RPE' program where you don't worry as much as bar weight, as how heavy it feels. One guy on here posted recently on how his bench took off when running this program.

Otherwise, it happens to me all the time. Mostly for me it is stress. I'll try to make it up with accessories or a big down set for AMRAP. Sometimes, I'll just leave or skip the workout although I think this is bullshit and I don't like when I do it.

If it is ME work, you took your max single and had a bad day. Like the Bulgarian stuff, it is a heavy single for the day and some bad days are to be expected.

If I had some programmed scheme where the workout was for example 3x3@85%, then I would just drop the weight until I could manage the reps required.


For me it is sleep or food or both. Usually sleep considering I have sleep apnea. So I will nap two or three times in a day. If I don't get my naps in, my training will usually suffer. Some days I can get by with drinking a couple of cups of black coffee back to back and then hit the gym but some days I just have to sack up and not be a little bitch.


I can get by with a full night of sleep and not enough food than plenty of food and not enough sleep. Sleep is the most important thing for me. Rarely does stress effect me negatively, but rather, the workout itself is the stress reliever. I follow 5/3/1, so on days when I ain't feelin' it I hit the main lift and then usually go home to eat and rest. Doing more will only necessitate more recovery time.


For me it's almost always sleep. I can eat a crap diet and still have a decent day in the gym, but if I don't get at least 7 hours of sleep I'm not worth a damn.

On those "not worth a damn days" I'll take it easy. Sometimes I'll make a deal with myself (got the idea from Jim Wendler) If I set a PR in my main lifts I'll just go home after that. So far I've done that once. I got a good nights sleep that night and came into the gym ready to go the next day.

If you push yourself too hard when you are fatigued it just causes you to take more time to recover. When you feel strong go all out when you are feeling weak back off a little. All good lifters learn to interpret their body's response to training and then make the appropriate changes. It takes time, and for me a lot of trial and error.


That's why it's called "max effort" not bet your PR's time and time again...

If you have a KICK ASS day in the gym do you call it Hypermax effort or supramax effort?

Like all the other guys said, just do what you can do..it's better than sitting on the couch lifting a remote like me...(i have a wicked cold...boo)


I see your point, but I felt so weak and exhausted from a hospital stay tuesday on a workout thursday night I had to call it quits after my ME set. Usually, if I don't set a record on my ME, my assistance seems to be really good excluding extraordinary circumstances.


Well there you go.."hospital stay"..hope all is well. Learn to accept those weak days, we all have them. Unless you are getting paid to lift, keep it fun. Think "long term". Are you stronger than you were 6 months ago? Probably so..that's all that matters. In a few weeks this will be a blip that you don't even care about dude


I guess sometimes I get so caught up on the destination I forget to have some fun along the way. I'm taking off till Monday off to regroup for my body and mind.


Eat and sleep... that's all ya can do.


For me it's lack of food almost 100% of the time. I had a bad weekend with a crazy sleep schedule and no exercise at all and too much alcohol so I figured todays training would suck. It ended up being a great training session and I hit a big PR on deadlifts. I attribute this to the fact that my bodyweight went up 2 lbs over the weekend, if I let it slip then mondays training will blow.

Also oddly enough I've had unusually good training days the day after getting very little sleep in a night. This only apples if its one night though, if I'm sleep deprived all week it takes its took by the time my friday workout comes around.


Had one last night. Got under the bar to warmup and 135 felt heavy. Did 10 and thought "well I'll get a few more to warm-up. My shoulder still feels a bit tight." Got under it. Setup my arch. Had to exhale on the first rep on the second set to get it up. Racked it. Laughed out loud and grabbed my towel and keys and left. No use even trying at that point.

I came home and slept for 13 hours.


for me it has a lot to do with the cycles of the moon when it is in retrograde.


It's either I'm dehydrated or not enough sleep for me.


Training is like life: Ups and downs.

The older and more experienced you become, the less you care about a bad workout. You always know there is another day. So you don't get worked up about it or let it put you down much.

Life is for most of us not only about training, we also have other obligations. Some of them can include a lot of stress, and this can affect the energy levels.

Planning is always a good thing, and the saying goes: Failing to plan is planning to fail.

So if you want something badly enough, you plan ahead, prepare meals, take them with you, check out which gyms are PL-lifter friendly when you travel etc.

It's all about priority. Given that rest and food is in order, and stress levels are low, and you still have a bad workout it might be that you're just training too much or too hard or both..

After all, I'd say not to worry so much about it. If you have a bad workout, you usually know why. The more experienced you become, the more you know about the reasons for your poor performance. You also stop it from ruining your entire day.

Keep going!


Definitely. Ive seen idiots get hurt by pushing themselves on a sluggish day