What I should really be writing about today is what to do when your strength and max effort lifts find themselves in the crapper since that is where mine are.  Last Sunday was a sort of re-awakening as I tested my maxes to jumpstart my strength training phase before my next meet in December.

I’m not going to give you numbers since that is not the important part but I will tell you that I knocked about 80lbs of both the deadlift and squat and about 30lbs on my bench.  I’m not overreacting when I say it was like a boot in the nads from Patriots legend Adam Vinatieri.  Ouch.

Although I can attribute such a great loss of strength to dropping a weightclass (a.k.a. looking good for the summer), taking a month off from heavy lifting, and just returning from vacation filled with dark and stormies and Cuban cigars.  It was all worth it.  Wasn’t it?

Needless to say, I’m on a mission now to get back to ground zero and then finally conquer a 500lb deadlift or destroy the back of my pants trying.  It’s going to happen.

That means that I have to put in work when I am busy, tired, stressed, and sometimes just don’t feel like it.  Luckily, I have been training long enough to know how to recognize a shitty workout before it happens and fix it rather than skipping it all together.

1. Do Whats Important

Everything else being equal, my main goal for the next 6 months is strength plain and simple.  More specifically, strength in the big 3 (deadlift, bench, squat).  If I only have a small window to train for the day and it is at a time I’m not used to since I am bogged down with work you sure as shit better believe I will not be doing bicep or “core” work.

I will get in my warm-up followed by either a bench, deadlift or squat.

I don’t care who you are, if you only have to get your ass to the gym to complete one exercise you should have no problem making it awesome.  Just because life has you overwhelmed doesn’t mean that your training has to.

Trainer’s Note: A “big” lift will a) build the most muscle and b) burn the most amount of calories in the shortest amount of time.  win/win!

So, unless you are an endurance athlete maybe today isn’t just a good day to get on the treadmill.

2. Set Goals as You Go

If you can make it through the warm-up and your first (and most important) lift and are able to continue on then plan the rest of your training from there.  

If you finish your squats and you have 5 sets of lunges up next followed by glute-ham raises and some core stuff and you don’t have the drive to get it all in reset your plan.  Tell yourself that if you can complete 3 sets of lunges than you will skip the hammies and only do one set of the core stuffs.  Easy right?

If you find yourself feeling better, than keep going with the plan and get it done!  Keep telling yourself you can finish and turn your crappy day around.  Yo Adrian!!!

One thing I have learned from RKC Brett Jones is that no matter where you are in the workout, you can do one more set.  With proper programming, exercise selection, and rest you can go for days.  If you can’t you should probably check yourself in to the morgue.

3. Lighten the Load

You couldn’t sleep, your under a lot of stress from work or your dog crapped in your shoes.  Whatever is stressing you out, it all adds up and your strength and energy will suffer.  The simple fix here is to decrease the weight you use for the day or regress the exercises.

Take a bench press for example.  Your supposed to lift 200lbs for 3 reps today and feel like that weight would bury you before you got one rep.  Drop it down 30ish pounds and hit the same numbers.  If you don’t have a big bench and/or don’t think your technique will be anything but stellar for the day get on the floor and bang out some pushups.  There is no shame in either.

Note: We all have those days.  Everyone.  Even you.  Yes, you. K?

4. Go Home

Kidding.  Bahahahahahaha, you thought I was serious?

5. Do something Fun!

I recommend this when the reason your not looking forward to training is because your bored with your training.  This may be in combination with other life stress but if your not competing in a sport and your just in the gym to look good nekkid then why not do something fun?

If your still new to lifting, learn a new lift.  There are plenty of them but please stick to big lift variations and avoid things like dumbbell curls and BOSU ball squats.  Trust me on this one.

Test something.  Scrap your whole workout for the day and test things to see what you can improve and give you motivation to train.  How high can you box jump?  How many pullups can you do?  It might not be the best time to do a max attempt but if you are feeling strong and have a good spotter than go for it.   

Do a kettlebell or strength circuit.  The possibilities are endless but when I don’t like thinking for myself I just take the ideas of others.  Luckily, my friend Marianne Kane posts tons of her own kettlebell workouts on her site at www.myomytv.com and they are always pretty awesome!  

By now I hope you realize that unless there is global apocalypse you should not bail on your training if it can be avoided.  If it can’t be avoided then re-plan and reschedule instead of feeling like you have to wait a whole week. Get it done.


Written by Steve