When You're Feeling Beat Up

If you’ve been training for a while, you’ve surely had those days, maybe even weeks, where your joints are crankier than usual, your shoulders and back are sore, and you get out of bed to realize gravity turned it up a notch.

When you load the bar up with 70% as you work up you get confused because it’s heavier than it should be. Did you miscalculate? Is it the wrong bar? Wrong plates? Are you using 70% of your deadlift max for your single-arm bottoms-up kettlebell floor press?

When you rule out all other factors, you may come to the conclusion that you’re probably just beat up from the training you’ve accumulated. This is especially true if you’re an athlete. It’s important to train hard at practice and train hard in the weight room, but you also have to remember to take note of how your body is reacting to all of it. Here are some tips for those dark times when your body is beaten and walking up the stairs feels like max effort step-ups.


I don’t believe that everyone needs to schedule a strictly consistent deload in their programming (e.g. every 4th week) but they certainly have their place. I see more benefit in scheduling a deload with specific regards to competition. However, sometimes an unscheduled deload is necessary if you feel super banged up. Rather than stay at home drag yourself to the gym and hit a few movements with lighter weight, for a FEW sets of a FEW reps (50%-75% for 3-5 sets of 3-5). You don’t have to hit 10x10 just because you’re going light. Deload weight AND volume.

Cut Back on Assistance Work

Does your training log tell you to do 4x8 Bulgarian split squats after your back squats? Cut it to 2x8. Or 2x5. Or 0x0. Rest assured, your beloved assistance work isn’t going anywhere, so cut back on it for a session or two and hammer it hard when you come back fresh.



Epsom Salt Bath/Contrast Shower

Try some new recovery techniques! The idea behind an Epsom salt bath (basically soaking in a tub of magnesium sulfate) is that magnesium will soak into your body through the skin, restoring a huge list of body cell functions in the muscles, nerves, and other soft tissues. Magnesium is also inhibitory to the muscle cells, which will help you relax.

Contrast showers are (in my opinion) not as relaxing. I think they are actually pretty brutal. Enjoy a few minutes of a nice warm shower, then quickly slam the dial from H to C and suffer through 30 seconds to a minute of an ice-cold blast. Repeat several times. It takes some discipline, but you will be rewarded with increased blood flow and recovery throughout your whole body.

Soft Tissue Work Whip out the foam rollers, PVC pipes, lacrosse balls, and go to town. Or pamper yourself with a visit to a reputable ART practitioner. Or do what I do and go to Brookstone to sit in one of those super massage chairs until somebody kicks you out.

With Spring sports starting up, all you athletes know what you're in for: Months of hard training, tough competition, lots of fun, and your body taking a pounding!  Just keep a handful of strategies to help you dust off your shoulders and get back in the game when you get beat down.   Those of you with try-outs this week, best of luck!