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Q and A: Too Fatigued To Lift?

Posted Aug 21 2009 10:26am

Q: How do you know if you’re too fatigued to lift? I always tell myself that not going means I’m just weak minded, but lately I wonder if there isn’t some merit in learning when you’re truly too fatigued to lift or if you just don’t want to go.

A: Lets put it this way.  I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve missed a scheduled training session- and of those few times, you can bet it was for a good reason.  Either I literally felt like ass, or there was a slight possibility (we’re talking at least 2% here) that I was gonna get a piece of ass (HI HO!).  Count it!

Sure, there are days where I feel like someone blasted me over the head with a 2×4, and after spending eight hours training athletes/clients, the last place I want to be is facing the squat rack.  However, truth be told, some of my best training sessions have been on those days where I feel like complete garbage going in, only to feel like a completely different person once I’ve warmed-up and started to move some iron around.

More to the point, sometimes you just need to suck it up and get your reps in regardless- even if it means dropping the weight significantly.

This may come as a surprise to some people (note sarcasm), but you’re not going to set PR’s every……single……week.  Too often many trainees fall into this trap where they take on this defeatist attitude if they have to take some weight off the bar.  Trust me, it’s not the end of the world.  While I can appreciate the fact that you want to put more weight on the bar, you also need to be cognizant of the fact that your body is telling you something.  There’s a lot to be said about just going in to get some quality reps and calling it a day.

Conversely, sometimes you can do more harm than good.   I don’t want to come across as one of those “go hard, or go home” guys, because I think that’s just silly.  I’m a realist and recognize that life gets in the way.  Maybe you’re up all night with a sick kid, or your boss is hounding you about those TPS reports, or I don’t know, your girlfriend forced you to go see The Time Traveler’s Wife for the second time FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!!!!!!  It stands to reason that all of these can suck the testosterone out of you and the last thing on your mind is training.  But honestly, for most people, it just comes down to pure laziness and/or they have a sore vagina.  They’d rather go watch America’s Got Talent than go front squat for 45 minutes.  Coincidentally isn’t it weird how most people tend to skip leg days and not arm days?

That said, if this is something that’s been a on-going issue, a few things come to mind:

1.  Vitamin D Levels- research shows that chronic fatigue as well as things like Seasonal Affective Disorder can be attributed to low levels of vitamin D.  It may be a good idea to consult with your doctor to get some blood work done.

2. Overtraining- while I think this word gets thrown out a little too much amongst the general public (you really do have to go out of your way to overtrain), taking an objective look at your programming may be in order.  If you’re one of those people who squats once per week, deadlifts once per week, sprints twice, takes four spinning class, and it’s only Wednesday- you need to 1). stop taking so much caffeine and 2). step away from the squat rack.

3.  Are You Incorporating Deload Weeks?- similar to what I mentioned above in regards to overtraining, if you’re not incorporating deload or back-off weeks, you’re doing yourself a huge disservice.  Elite athletes will take deload weeks on a regular basis.  What makes you think you’re any different?

4.  Change it Up- it amazes me how people will do the same program over and over and over and over and over again.  As an example, I had a gentlman come in for an evaluation not too long ago who had been doing the same program for TWO years straight.  The same exercises done at the same set/rep scheme, done on the exact same days, week after week, month after month, for two……freakin……years.   It makes me cringe just thinking about it.  Despite what we’ve been lead to believe, there’s no golden rule that you have to bench on Mondays.  It’s true.  As well, did you know that you don’t have to perform three sets of ten on every exercise?  Weird, I know.  Also, see that bar that’s attached to the top of the squat rack?  That’s a pull-up bar.  Why don’t you try a few reps of that instead of using the lat pulldown machine.

5.  Have Markers- I was listening to Bill Hartman speak not too long ago, and he mentioned that he’ll have his athletes test their vertical when they show up to train on any given day.  If they crush their personal best, he knows that he’ll be able to load them that day.  If they suck, he knows he may have to back off a bit.   I thought what was a cool idea and something I think could have some merit for everyone.

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