How to deal with bad workouts

How to deal with “bad workouts”

Dealing with “bad workouts” is part of bodybuilding. Handle them wrong and you get demoralized and might lose interest in fitness altogether.  Handle them properly and every workout puts you one notch closer to your goal.

First, why did I put “bad workout” in quotes? Because in my book, the only bad workout is one when you get injured.  Getting injured is the worst thing that can happen to a bodybuilder because you can lose months or years of progress and just one careless lift can cause it.  If you get injured, thats a *really* bad workout.

Most people call any workout where they don’t move up in weight or reps a “bad workout” which is a very negative and defeatist way to look at it in my view. Not every workout can be super but that doesn’t mean that non-super workouts are “bad”. Success in bodybuilding takes consistency and persistence, you gotta work out every day. The problem with thinking of these non-super workouts as “bad” is that it can lead to skipping workouts if you are feeling a bit off, the fear of avoiding a workout if you don’t think it will be fantastic. 70% of you grade is fitness is attendance!  Of course, I’m not saying to repeatedly bang your head against the wall either.  If you go a whole month without moving up in weight or reps then its time to change your workout!

In my lats workout today, I only was able to hold half the weight between my legs on pullups that I normally do and it was still a struggle, but I stuck it out and did the best I could.  I then went for a bike ride and similarly found myself not only slow but worn out after 45min when I normally go 1-2 hrs.  Was it a “bad workout”?  Certainly not! It was infinitely better than no workout!!  Besides that, it leaves plenty of room in my next workout :) Today I got an “A” for attendance!

27 thoughts on “How to deal with bad workouts”

  1. This is why you’re the only Bodybuilder on youtube I take seriously Scoob, your advice doesnt suck.
    I won’t point any fingers, but certain Bodybuilders are almost depressing just to be around because their goals are shallow and their advice is in the ballpark of “move up in weight or reps each week or you’ve failed”

  2. Hello Scooby,

    It is optimism and common sense like this that made me come back to scan for some more workouts.
    @ Baseman: I have had to have wrist surgery twice after a training injury (And I was the instructor, how about that!) And had to do a serious career change. It is a year ago this month that I had the last surgery and in the beginning (last March) I started to do fitness with a 2Kg (About 4 Lbs) and it hurt like *beep*!
    I am now doing exercises (Arnolds ?) with 20Kg so I am focussing on the long term trend, as wgf says.
    Sometimes training hurts too much and I stop. Sometimes I am doing fine. Sometimes the PTI’s have serious plans and my own training suffers. Sometimes they just have us do a run and I can hit the iron in the evening. There are too many factors to consider. So the spot on the horizon is to get as close to where I was when I got injured. And thats a long term goal :-)

  3. I think progression (weight or reps) can’t be driven by your emotions or it will be counterproductive. Let’s say I’m feeling super great today and add 20 pounds to my bench press xD. Nice, but the next workout I probably won’t be feeling that great and I can be over trained due to the last workout. In my view it’s easier to progress with a reasonable loading plan. When you reach a plateau you just have to adjust your workout parameters (considering you’re eating and sleeping properly) because you know it’s not your mind makeup. This way you won’t get frustrated or feeling guilty and won’t skip workouts. That’s the way I’ve found to be most effective for me.

  4. I agree! There are days when you feel not as strong as usual. Rather then trying to force something on the body that it is not capable of doing in this moment, it is important to understand what your body’s potential is today and then work with that potential. That means lowering the weight so that you can do your reps with perfect form.
    Thanks scooby! You are the man!

  5. I find the idea of comparing one workout to another rather futile. Comparing one week to another with so many variables is pointless.

    From one week to another how can you confirm

    a. you have had the exact same amount of rest as last week
    b. you have had the exact same amount of hydration as last week
    c. you have had the exact same level of nutrition to prepare as last week

    Pointless. If I can’t lift as many reps as last week I simply assume I
    a. had less rest
    b. have less water in my system
    c. have had less quality nutrition than last week

    One of those is far more likely and easily resolvable for the following week. Why agonize over what appears to be a bad week? You were more likely just less prepared than the previous week. Just work through the week to prepare for a better workout next time.

    Scooby made the same point recently about body fat measurements. They are not going to be precise. Take many many many measurements and look for the trend. Don’t compare just one measurement with another. Focus on increasing trend.

    The only bad workout, in my opinion, is a no show. (Unless you are unfortunate enough to get injured lifting lol). That’s probably the worst work out.

    So.. if you can’t lift safely, don’t bother showing up.

  6. Baseman, injuries will happen to all of us if we train for a long enough period of time and you need a good philosophy to deal with it. One way to look at it is did you have an injury last year that affected how you look right now? Probably not and this one won’t matter in the grand scheme of things either. As far as right now this can be a tremendous learning experience! I know every time I hurt myself I learned either another more effective exercise for the hurt bodypart or learned what NOT to do again! Also I can’t prove it but if you can work the injured area with higher reps without hurting it, you’ll speed up the whole healing process. Finally try a similar exercise, even with less weight and more reps if you have to. I think you’ll find you can do it with no pain. A month from now I predict you’ll be better off than if you had just continued on as you had been even without the injury!

  7. Last
    week I had problems doing my squads like normal. Like I was tired or so. I did
    make my work out anyway and felt great.

    I restarted
    body building 4 years ago after a long time of revalidation and know exactly
    about good and good ;) workouts. You can’t be every day at the same top, and
    accepting that fact brings you to yours goals

  8. Wow.. I was just having this same experience 2 days ago.. I started running again in the morning (now that my work life has balanced) .. first day back I ran/walked about 2 miles which I was very happy with, then 2 days later I did a different path and only did 1.35 miles (though I ran more and walked less).

    I was beating myself up for a few hours because I didn’t increase or maintain the distance.. but I talked to a few people and realized how foolish I was being… beats the crap out of not doing it!

    1. Your nutrition was probably off, or you had less rest the night before, or you were less hudrated. There is no way to be 100% sure you are just as prepared one day to the next. Just assume you weren’t as prepared. Once you realize one day you were more prepared than another you have to acknowledge you are comparing apples to oranges.

      If I run 10 K after sleeping for 8 hours, and the next night I sleep two hours and an only run 1K is there any point in comparing those two runs? Of course not. The inputs aren’t the same, so I can’t reasonably expect the same output.

      Comparing one workout to another is pointless unless you can say with 100% certainty you are equally prepared for both workouts going into them. And measuring precise nutrition and hydration levels is next to impossible.

  9. I agree that it is a matter of expectations. My own goals are not to ‘get ‘uge’ but I’m not twenty-something either. My goal is one more day of being a little bit more fit. The simple exercises I do are borrowed from bodybuilding (apparently) but more are about fitness for me. I’ve had heart surgery (just like Arnold’s) and I have been able to get back to working out with weights in a way that doesn’t scare me or my cardiologist. And the barbell exercises with light-ish weights along with the body exercises (push-ups, etc.) work for me. I can see the difference and that FEELS good. But if a bad work out bothered me, every workout would be bad. I could not do a single chin-up when I started.If I wnated to run a 10K I’d get some 10K program and just double the time right away. I don’t want frustration getting in the way of continuing.

  10. i thought my leg workout was bad yesterday cuz the stupid hamstring curl machine was faulty so i ended up having 5 minutes rest between my 4th set of leg press and first set of (some kind of hamstring exercise) looking for alternatives, so in the end i just did 4 sets of deadlifts instead. then on calf raises i used bad form on first 2 sets cuz i went too heavy, but i didn’t “re-do” those sets, i just carried on as normal, 3rd and 4th set using less weight, then the seated calf machine went great, at the end i was burning good, and today i’m sore. im happy with that leg workout yesterday, it turned out to be a good workout.

  11. Although a good point was made this hasn’t told me how to deal with a bad workout, it’s simply defined what it is. I’m currently suffering with a shoulder injury and would have benefitted from hearing how to deal with it.

    1. I think dealing with injuries was outside the scope of this post. It is more about motivation, and hanging in there when the mood is bad, when energy is low and the head is somewhere else. Should injuries suck, so sorry to hear you have one. Rest, medical attention, and focusing on other body parts (abs, legs, for example) might help you keep the spirits up, the fitness levels high, and kill the time until you are properly healed. I do agree with Aaron below though. Most of my (quite negligible, but still) injuries occurred either when moving bloody furniture or when working out on a bad day and still trying to push it :(

    2. You’re right in that he didn’t explicitly state how to deal with a bad workout. He did, however, mention that, “success in bodybuilding takes consistency and persistence; you gotta work out every day.”

      No one is going to spoon feed you knowledge, nor are they going to able to answer your specific question in a general blog post. For that, you have to join the forum or do your own research.

      By the way, Scooby has had to deal with a shoulder injury, for which reason he has made several videos in which he describes his road to recovery.


    3. I can sympathize with your injury. I had major surgery on my shoulder 3 1/2 years ago…recover was more than a year…almost 2. Shoulder problems don’t usually heal on their own. PLEASE see your doctor ASAP. continuing to work your shoulder with certain injuries will only make it worse…I know this first hand. Little injuries can add up to major ones over time without you realizing it. I wasn’t able to really start working it out and recovering my strength until about a year ago. Believe me, those 2 years were not fun.
      Shoulder injuries, and any other injury, should be discussed at LENGTH with a doctor, preferably a specialist. Injuries will set you back more than you might expect.

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