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Tired Workouts: Suck It Up, Or Go With The Flow? Neither- Pump Up The VOLUME.

Today I woke up with a cough. Nothing major, but a little bit of a nuisance. The cough, however, was followed by some pervasive fatigue that I hoped my warm up would push me through. Alas, no such luck. So, what to do: carry on and risk injuring myself, or cut bait and wait till I'm feeling closer to 80% capacity?

Many new lifters are often derailed by illness, burnout, injury, or a combination of all three. If you want to succeed, of course, giving up is not an option.

"So how do you cope with temporary setbacks- in my case a less than optimal energy level? Actually it's really simple: Pump Up The VOLUME- but leave one in the tank..."

Let me tell you about my workout, then we'll talk about how I used this strategy to succeed today:

Warm up:
10 minutes of top rock, ladder drills, and dynamic stretching [No ladder? Just use a line on the ground and a little imagination- oh, and shun the nay-sayers; they can keep the stair-master all to themselves]


  1. Dumbell bench press [15° incline] - warm up set of 8, then 4x8 cascading up
  2. Wide grip dead hang pull ups - 12, 8, 4 all focused on quality contraction
  3. Dumbbell chest pullover combo - 3x12
  4. Lawnmowers - warm up set of 12, then 4x10 cascading up


Vertical Bench press machine - warm up set, then 4x8 cascading up + 4 RM as a finisher
Cable Lat pull throughs - warm up set, then 4x8 cascading up + 6 RM as a finisher

So how exactly did I "leave one in the tank"?

  1. By never pushing to failure, and 
  2. Giving myself a little longer rest than the usual 60-90 seconds. God is in the details, friends, and even 20 seconds more rest will help you recruit more phosphocreatine and glycogen from your muscles than if you were to plow ahead in a hurry. 
  3. Also, I moved slowly from a complete warm up set into a long progressive cascade for as many exercises as possible: meaning that I still pushed a lot of weight- 8 reps at a time, in 5 sets, instead of my usual 12-15 reps for 3 sets. 
I'm still in a hypertrophy [muscle growth] phase of training [basically I'm training like a bodybuilder who also does functional lifts like kettlebell swings and other exotic movements for kicks/cross-conditioning]. And bodybuilding is about doing a high volume of work, not tearing through 3 sets of 3 at your max to impress girls/other guys who aren't even your friends.

So do the math however you need to, but DO THE WORK IN HIGH VOLUME. For your 'down' days, just do the math differently, so that you can stay anabolic [8-12 reps per set], but leave one or two reps in the tank [add more sets if needed, and rest up].

So that's how I coped with fatigue today. What do you do when you feel gassed at the gym?

Shout out to Dave Tate for seeding this post with his miniseries "Iron Evolution - Reflections" on T-Nation.

Stay Strong, Friends.

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