The reality of it

If you lift, you have had some bad workouts.

If you believe what you read on social networks (like 95% of the people out there) you will read shit like, “fight through it”, and people quoting Sun Tzu’s “Art of War” even though Sun Tzu never even lifted, not even once…. perspective, its lifting, not war.

Let’s be real about this, sometimes you want to look at the barbell and walk away for the day, and that is not always a bad thing.

What? Someone calls you a quitter? Nope… quitting is giving it up entirely, not knowing when to listen to your body and take a day off, even if its a mental day.

Now if you never return to the gym again, you are a quitter… if you call it a day after shit feels off, you are just taking a rest day. Unplanned rest day, yes, but still a rest day.

Let’s analyze this for a minute.

Let’s give a nice, easy fake name… Bob.

Bob has been lifting for 7 years. Bob goes to the gym today and is ready to attack weights. Bob starts warming up, he thinks he feels good and he starts to lift.

Bob realizes rather quickly that he is about to have a bad workout. Any seasoned trainee knows what that feels like.

  • Warmup weights feel slow with no “pop”
  • Form sucks
  • Minor aches in areas that usually don’t ache

Bob decides to push it and as the weights get higher, nothing changes.

Bob now has three options:

  1. Keep going and try to push through it and hope for a rebound
  2. Go light for the day
  3. Go home, rest, eat and come back the next day ready to avenge that shit workout

The answer to that depends on where you are at in your training cycle.

If you are in meet prep, you may not want to take a day off when you have little time to peak. Going light may be a better option because trying to push through a workout when you are severely off may cause some issues; whether mental or physical. In a sport where its a mindfuck to get under some heavy ass weight, you can’t afford to fail at weights. Not only is failing NOT getting you stronger, you may now equate that particular weight with a failed attempt.

If you aren’t in meet prep, there really isn’t any right answer to a bad workout, that depends on your mindset at the moment, how you really feel and if you feel you are up to even looking at a damn weight after they are causing you temporary grief.

I’ve done all three.

  1. I went to the gym some months ago, before I even got ready to lift I was tired, irritable, sore and was ready to leave before I even got ready. It was 1RM rack push press day and I actually packed up my shit and started walking out. As I was leaving I said “fuck it, I am lifting”. Warmups felt like hell but I was determined to push through it. It ended up being a day when I PR’ed in that lift with 315.
  2. Another time I was squatting. Now my lower body has taken a beating over the years from various sports and strongman, so there are days when squatting feels like hell. On this particular day that was no exception. It was also a heavy day and I knew that by pushing the weight I would be royally pissed off at myself for falling short of my goal, so I just lightened the load and did 405×2 on top of the minute for 12 minutes. Made it into a nice little density set.
  3. Then there was today. Squatting felt bad, nothing had any pop to it at all. I did my squats with a light load, did some hamstring curls and was debating whether to finish the rest of the workout before I just mentally screwed myself enough to leave the gym for the night.

In all three instances they were the right choice at the right time for me. You may be different, which is fine. You may opt to always push through it and then you will have days when you fall well short of your goal. You may opt to always go light or you may opt to always walk away. If you are the type to always walk away, why the hell are you reading this blog anyway?

I think Kenny Rogers said it best:

You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.

For as much as I hate country music, the fact that I can quote Kenny Rogers in a strength-related blog is pretty damn impressive, wouldn’t you agree?


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