Bad Workout Save

Have you ever had this happen to you: Your workout is going badly. Your squats are crushing and feel heavy even though you are nowhere near your max. You are usually about to do five pull ups and dips with ease and now your third rep has you shaking so hard, other people in the gym run for cover and think an earthquake is occurring. Your hundred meter dash time is so slow a disposal camera could catch you in high definition with no blur. Your Olympic lifts look like they're being performed by one of those wacky, arm flailing blow up balloons that get put outside car dealerships to attract attention. Do any of these sound familiar? During those moments, you're probably thinking "WHAT HAPPENED?"


Before we go into saving workouts, we have to figure out what makes them go bad in the first place? Many times, it's fatigue. You haven't fully recovered from your other workouts, movements, or life stresses. This fatigue builds up and keeps you from reaching your peak performance. Sadly for us, even after rest days, it can still be there. It doesn't leave just because you took a " rest day" aka you only did a half workout day. It's something that you need to manage to get the best out of your sessions.


There are two main types of fatigue we are going to look at here. Those are local fatigue and global fatigue.


Local fatigue is when a specific part of your body is fatigued. This can be like after you did ten sets of ten squats followed by running a few miles. Your legs are now more sore than a one legged man in a butt-kicking contest. All that work means your legs have built up a lot of damage and are in need of repair. This is very dependent on the volume of work you do. Doing one set of squats won't make you totally sore unless you're a beginner. But 12 sets might be a different story. It is also different based on how much eccentric stress is involved. Swimming probably won't make you as sore as running because running has you landing with multiple times your bodyweight on each leg over and over again.


Local fatigue can also be a particular movement. You just did 10x10 squats and you're tired of those but you might be clear to deadlift! In that case, one movement might be tired but a similar movement for the same body part my be fine.


Global fatigue is different. This is where everything is tired, especially your central nervous system, and you probably feel more similar to a zombie than a human. This can happen from working with a high intensity such as at a competition. After a hard competition, do you feel like training? Or sleeping an extra hour or two? The competition and high intensity require more of your CNS than a normal workout. This can also happen when training such as going for one rep maxes too often.


Knowing these things, how do we apply them?

Well let's say we are training and we start noticing our lifts aren't going well. Are we doing squats and they feel heavy? Did we warm up properly? Of course we did because we read this post on warming up correctly. Are we fatigued still? Perhaps! Now we have to figure out if it's local or global.


We can do that by moving on to the next exercise. If I am doing squats and they are going badly, I'll switch to my assistance work which might be Romanian Deadlifts. If my RDLs go well, then I'll focus on those for today's session. Doing this does several things. One, it provides a deload. Instead of having to do squats AND RDLs, now I just have RDLs. Reducing the workload means I'll have less fatigue than normal after the session and can recover better from it due to getting a small "break" from the usual amount of work. The other thing this does is allows you to REALLY hammer your weaknesses. After doing your main work, you probably don't have as much energy or drive for your assistance work, do you? Well on one of these days, this is a great time to really work on your assistance work and bring up those body parts that may be holding back your main movements. You might find yourself going back to your main movement next workout and feeling better with it than ever. So rather than continuing to try to do the same exercise and have it not go well, skip it and move onto the next part. This will let you recover and let you focus on the assistance you need to bring up your weaknesses.


Now what if we move onto the assistance work and THAT goes badly too. Well then you know you probably have some global fatigue. In this case, I prefer to skip the whole session entirely. That doesn't mean you're off the hook today for your body. It doesn't mean today becomes a rest day. It means today becomes "restoration" day. On these days, you still want to stay active. The goal is to get moving without getting stressed and wired. That means go for a walk to get the blood flowing, go play with the kids and have some mindless fun, or even go spend some special time with that special someone. Stay active without getting ramped up the same way you do in a workout. If you can, find time for a nap and in some cases, eating some extra calories can help you recover a bit more. These strategies are better than chilling in front of the TV and watching Netflix all day. These have you taking an ACTIVE role in your recovery rather than just letting it happen. Taking an active role in your recovery will help you avoid fatigue in the first place.


Use these tips and you will likely be able to prevent these bad workouts and save them when they come along! If you like them and see a fatigued bro in the gym, send them this and help them stop grinding away. Work around the fatigue and improve your move!