Everyone has a bad session every now and then, it’s the nature of the beast. Even if they are rare they still suck, and if you’re like me you’re still pissed off about it when you step into the gym the next day. This is good and using it as fuel is the best way to turn shit into a positive, usually making the following day the best lift you’ve had in a long time (try to be that angry every time you’re in the gym!).
Letting a bad lift get to you is the worst thing you can do. Some days you just don’t have it in you. It is not time to panic or overhaul anything. If you’ve been progressing pretty well and hit a wall one day, it is not grounds for changing your form, structure or routine. I’ve known dudes who switch up routines the moment they have a bad day, like it’s all their routine’s fault. Or they use a bad day to rationalize moving away from a newer, more challenging routine back to their easy, shitty program (You see this a lot with dudes who finally convince themselves to start doing squats). If the bad days continue for awhile, then maybe you do but that’s a discussion for another time.
What a bad day offers you is the chance to remind yourself of the basics you may be forgetting. A good kick in the ass to get shit back on track. Sometimes you know exactly what you did wrong (you only slept 2 hours), and other times you’re going through the past 24 hours detailing trying to pinpoint possible causes (you probably should have stayed more hydrated). Unless it’s something stupid obvious, it can also be a combination of little things that added up to fuck you over, i.e. you got mediocre sleep, which is usual, but today you barely ate in addition to that.
Common work out killers include-
- Shitty sleep
- Terrible eating choices/Not eating (disregard it you lift fasted). You should know what your ideal intake is everyday so stick to that.
- Inadequate hydration. Not a huge factor on its own (unless you literally drank coffee and beer all day), but will amplify other killers.
- Jerking off/Having sex < 3 hours before training. Or am I alone on this one? This one kills me every time I think I can get away with it.
- Bad/skipped warm up. Take the time to bust out the foam roller before getting under the barbell, and do a few warm up sets at 45-55% of 1RM to get the muscles up to speed and the neural pathways humming.
- Mindset. Get pumped up next time. Or quit lifting if you can’t handle it.
- True sickness. Take a day or two off, you’ll only delay recovery and won’t make gains anyway. I recently, stubbornly, had to make peace with this fact for a whole week. This does not include head colds.
- Overreaching. You got too aggressive upping your weights and shitted all over the rest of your session. I commend your determination, but you can’t make a habit out of trying for maxes or making outlandish jumps in your programming. Every few months is fine, though, I totally understand.
- Form breakdown. You had some weird elbow flare thing on bench, your hips shot straight up on deadlift, you were back-extending the bar during squats, etc. Mark that down in your notebook and don’t do a “for real” set on that lift until you got that fixed.
I’m sure I’ve over looked some, feel free to add some of your common “lift killers” in the comments.
So now that you have recognized stuff you might be fucking up on, fix it and move on. This is an opportunity to deal with small things before they become big things as well as address some complacency you might be having.
However, you don’t want to get all neurotic about all this, and you know what? Sometimes a bad lift is just a bad lift. Be mindful and shred out tomorrow.