T Nation

Lack of Recovery


Hello guys,
I am in a very stressful life situation right now, I spend most of my time working (in shifts, often on the weekends) and I study a lot next to work. So without annoying you with details, I spend most of my time working and studying. I try to still train as much as possible (mainly for psychological reasons). I recently ran into some problems that are absolutely not typical for my lifting.

My knees feel achy, my shoulders start hurting when benching (has never happened before) and I am not as focused as I used to be. Strength has not dropped too drastically (deadlift is moving up, bench is remaining or going down slowly and squat performance is dropping). Could this be related to a lack of recovery (high stress levels, poor sleep, suboptimal nutrition)?

Has anyone of you who has gone through similiar times any tips on how to still improve as much as possible while in a situation like this?

Thanks in advance for any input.


For me stress plays such a big part in my lifting, its well known the affects stress can have on the body through the production of cortisol and so forth. Its definitely a difficult phase to get through, especially when it seems to just compound with poor eating and sleeping. Best thing you could do is just look at your time management right now and see if you can just take some extra time off for yourself and let your mind relax. Or maybe change up some of the things you are doing in the gym to make it feel more refreshing and interesting.


x2 on changing your gym routine so that you're doing something that makes you excited about working out and still gives you a break from the other things in your life. Read some of the old Dan John articles on this site for some interesting challenges. I've been in a similar place a few times and these are the things I've done:

-beltless training
-slower rep workouts
-higher rep workouts
-new exercises
-more bodyweight/mobility challenges

And, take some time off. Deliberately skip a workout and take a nap.


x 3 on changing routine.

You could look at what you want out of the training you do: psychological benefits, in which case results won't matter as much, or load on the bar, in which case results matter much more.

If you haven't got the time, simply train less and pare it down to the essentials that you know will continue to drive progress and focus on recovering better.

TBH it just sounds like you aren't getting enough recovery, so unpleasant as it may be the best solution is just to back off for a bit.


Thanks for your suggestions. Letting my mind relax is a really big issue for me. I am diagnosed with depression and at times, especially when things go wrong, I get extremely down. I am in a learning process of getting my head right in this situations and I have already made drastic improvements. I don't tell this wo whine about how bad things are I just wanted to mention it because it makes the already difficult situation even worse. My training has always been a staple that helps me and that I can count on (that's what I meant with training for psychological reasons) but recently it is on the edge of becoming just another stress factor and it loses some of its psychological benefits.

So going from that I think your suggestion to change my routine/ habits might be just what I need. I have been thinking about prioritising my deadlift as I have never done that and maybe adding some olympic lifting and athletic training.

In terms of goals for me weight on the bar matters. Mostly in the powerlifts (I still have the goal to compete in powerlifting in the future). But I think I got too caught up in the numbers I put up.


Don't get too caught up in the numbers. Make it a goal to get stronger every training cycle and the numbers will take care of itself. It'll take some experience to get to the point that you know and trust the training is working as long as you work hard. Sometimes getting too caught up in measurables can be detrimental. Do what you can inside and outside the gym and expect to get better. I think goals are good to learn how to progress as a beginner but eventually you'll get to a point where you allow your body to progress at what it's capable of. Moving too fast will actually limit progress.


Just a thought but are you keeping track of your weight and food intake? Nothing kills bench and squat gains like losing weight! Also just from personal experience if I'm not eating enough I get more sore/doms etc. May well not be the problem at all but worth checking


Now there's a good idea! My love of the deadlift is no secret, I doubt you'd regret doing that. Besides, chances are if your DL goes up so will your squat.


Since you are such a fan of deadlifting do you have a program suggestion? I have looked into Ed Coan's 10 week program but it seems to be better suited for conventional pullers.


Weight has been going up by 1 or 2 kilos over the last month or so. So pretty much stagnant. I am weighing 220 lbs/ 100 kilos at 6'2"/ 1,87m. bodyfat is maybe at 25% (just a wild guess. I look like I lift but have no sixpack and definitely some extra fat). So I don't think that this is a problem.


Honestly, no. Sorry. I (perhaps unwisely) do all my own programming based on what I've learned mostly on here. Anything like 5/3/1 or the Texas Method will increase your DL, and the other lifts too.

If you really just want to hit your DL and maintain the other lifts, I'd suggest trying the Coan program (why do you think its more suited to conventional pullers?), since its all there set out for you.

Otherwise, look at running two or three week cycles where you work up to a really heavy DL day where all you hit are something like five or six heavy singles up to 95% in the first and increase every three weeks. Do that for three months while just maintaining your squat and bench. To make sure you bring up all your DL weak points incorporate variations: sumo and snatch grip are my favourites, but pick whichever ones work best for you. Sumo is good for me because it improves my conventional lockout, snatch grip because its basically a conventional pull but leaves my lower back out of it and lets mego lighter while still having to work hard.

It could look a bit like (training three (to four) days a week):

Week 1
Speed DL, DL assistance
Bench, volume DL (a bunch of triples at a weight that's work but not exhausting)
(Bench, squat/DL assistance)

Week 2
Volume DL, DL assistance
Bench, squat/DL assistance
(Squat, bench assistance)

Week 3
Heavy DL

That's a very rough idea - IMO its a great idea to bring your DL up, but of all the lifts its probably the least tolerant of volume at higher loads so incorporating a good amount of assistance as well as squat work (because of the crossover between the two) is key; as well as making sure that when you DL You're using different variations so you don't overtax your body with one.

I used to just pull conventional with a little snatch grip but once I started pulling over 440 lbs regularly in training I had to start dropping my conventional volume to only my heavy work and doing the other work with sumo or snatch grip to recover better.

Bottom line, I'd advise going with Coan program rather than bodging something together. That way all you need to worry about it doing the work.


I thought it might be better suited to conventional pullers because of two reasons: 1. The selection of assistance excersises and 2. it was written for a strongman. But thinking about it I might be wrong. I would like to atleast maintain my squat and I think I could be able to increase my bench. I had a suprising +15kg PR on the incline yesterday that was pretty close to what I thought my flat bench max is at the moment (to be fair I rarely press on the incline so +15kg sounds a lot better than it really is). In this routine you are asked to state your current max and youre goal max. Do you think a 15 kg (33lbs) increase is unrealistic?


Sorry for the late reply. It's a biggish increase but depending on the time taken and the lift it's reasonable enough. For instance, technical tweaks can make a huge difference alone. I put 15 kg on my max DL just by improving my set up in one session.

So, for DL, I'd say 15 kg over 10 weeks is absolutely achievable, especially if you haven't trained DL as much before. It's very reasonable. It'll be tough, but doable.

I know it works based on the desired max which means your percentages are high but that's kind of how I train my squat: I compete wrapped, but train mostly unwrapped. I use my wrapped max to calculate all my percentages, so when I'm doing, say, doing 5x2 at 60% in my sleeves, it's actually 60% of my wrapped squat so closer to 65-70% of my unwrapped squat.

Definitely doable.