T Nation

Does Strength Ever Mysteriously Go Down?

Does strength ever mysteriously go down?

Let’s include also speed and endurance there.

Keyword, “mysteriously”. As in literally everything in your life outside of the gym is just fine, and then when it’s time to workout, for some bizarre reason your fitness level is just… Diminished. And there you are wondering what the heck you did wrong.

I remember reading an article by sir Thibaudeau where he mentioned that progress is never steady, instead it comes in random SPURTS. Now, these past several months, for the first time in my life, I’ve taken my cardiovascular fitness seriously, and I can tell you for a fact that that was never the case with me… Until I added strength work into the mix. Dude, I swear, I’m still in the phase of my program where I’m not even close to squatting at my full capacity, and yet the “interference effect” is ALREADY rearing it’s ugly head. And I literally have been squatting for only THREE WEEKS so far. There was a time when I couldn’t do ten minutes in the machine when I regularly have been pumping more than 14 minutes in it three days a week for two weeks, just because I had a super mild squat workout beforehand. And then after that, literally when my gout calmed down with a MISSED cardio session, I had a personal record of 16 minutes unplanned (going from 15 minutes and 20 seconds).

I’m sorry, friends, if I’m overthinking this. I just feel like I should ask. Does our fitness capacity mysteriously hop around WITHOUT obvious causes, or there’s always something we did wrong that we haven’t figured out yet? That’s my question.

For what it’s worth, my chosen cardio apparatus is the stairmaster.

1 Like

I recall back to last year around November/December where I got strong as fuck out of nowhere. I wasn’t breaking PRs, but I was hitting weights close to PRs, and doing them often, while feeling really, really good (like I had so much more in me).

I still can’t cite as to why this occurred. I wasn’t doing any concerted peaking. I’m beginning to think it’s an alignment of many variables (granted training is somewhat diligent and responsible), that create a good outcome for strength.

Mental health, body health, motivation to lift, with diet, and good sleep=perfect storm to just be strong.

I am currently missing some of these things, though I am super motivated and being astute with my training regime, it may not be enough. We will see.

Total “stuff I believe with no scientific basis” alert, but I think that people have a vestigial rutting response that occurs at the end of fall/beginning of winter, because I’ve gotten this same effect at the same time, year after year for my entire adult life.

1 Like

Coaches into VBT like those at Kabuki and Mash Elite Performance regularly cite a study which showed up to 18% fluctuation in maximal strength session-to-session. That’s huge

1 Like

So, you added something onto your existing workload, performance went down, you had a forced rest, and then performance went up. I think this checks out moreso than it raises an question marks.

All. The. Time.

Never for long. But I walked into gym feeling strong and struggling to get complete a warm up.

1 Like

Haha, I like it. Anything to validate my vague annual strength spurts! Bwah!

Everyone has experienced a time where you get to your working set and the weight flys up or you are nearly through your run and barely broken a sweat.

On the other side of the coin, your second warm up can feel like death or your gasping for air after 800m.

Sometimes both happens, warm up feels like it’s going to crush you and your dominate your working sets.

Not unusual at all.


Strength does not, without some sort of catalyst, go down. Strength mysteriously goes up, when we have our big days that come out of nowhere. The trick is to not base your perception of your every-day strength on those outliers.

What I’m reading is adding squats made the stair master harder. Your legs are just fatigued.


I’ve always maintained that there are so many “intangibles” that aren’t gym related that can affect your performance or strength levels. Sleep, stress from work, dietary issues, allergies, honestly, you can go on and on. IMO unless you’re actively working to peak for a PLing meet, try to take it all in stride. As a bodybuilder, I always care more about effort and intensity than actual weights used, so as long as I know I did what I was capable of on that given day, I don’t sweat the dips here and there.


1 Like

It depends.

If you are fully self aware and meticulously tracking everything that contributes to acute performance, then no, strength doesn’t ‘mysteriously’ go down.

However there are so many of the afformentioned variables affecting strength that strength can ‘appear’ to go down, but its because one of the variables you aren’t consciously monitoring has changed. You slept worse, you walked more steps than usual, you ate less calories in the preceeding few days, your macros changed, your stress level went up etc etc.

But as @TrainForPain and @Voxel said, you added work for a particular muscle group and that muscle group struggled more with other work. You answered your own question.