Sunday, August 14, 2022

Fatigue And Laziness - What’s The Difference? - By Jim Duggan

     This was the title of an article in the July 1981 issue of Strength and Health magazine.  The author of the article is the imitable John Grimek.  Any time I look through an old York publication and see the name “John Grimek” I immediately take a look.  I figure that you can’t go wrong learning from one of the all-time legends of the Iron Game.

     Fatigue and laziness are usually not words that come to mind when we think of building muscle and strength, but it’s important to learn to differentiate between the two, as much as we may not want to discuss these subjects.  But before I get into the discussion of laziness, I’d like to bring up a quote from the article attributed to Bob Hoffman.  “You should never miss a workout.  Every workout that you miss makes it that much easier for you to miss others.  If you want to make progress, you should always do some kind of training if you expect to get good results.”

     At first glance, this seems like sound advice.  But is it actually a good idea to never miss a workout?  What if you did heavy squats and deadlifts earlier in the week, and on the day of your next scheduled training session, your back, hips, and legs have not sufficiently recovered?  It probably would not be a good idea to “suck it up” and proceed to train just for the sake of not missing a workout.  It would probably be a better, wiser idea to allow yourself an extra day of rest before lifting heavy again.

     It has been stated by many diverse authorities that one must listen to his/her body.  You must be alert to subtle clues that your body might be sending you.  This means that you must also be alert to the signs of overtraining.  But more importantly, if you are exhibiting signs of overtraining, you must be smart enough to “live to fight another day.”  This can sometimes be difficult, especially considering the fact that we all LOVE to hoist the steel.  But as difficult as it may sometimes be, it is very important, especially for drug-free lifters.

     How many times over the years have you walked into the gym with the best of intentions, seemingly full of energy, and ready to “sling the iron” only to find out within a few sets that you just don’t seem to have it?  I know it has happened to me more times than I care to remember.  What’s the reason for this? Why does it happen? 

     If there were easy answers for those questions people would be lining up for the solution, and no lifter ever again would have a bad workout.  There are, of course, solutions to the phenomenon of having little or no energy during a training session.  For instance, if your plan was to train heavy, and the weights feel like a ton, then you can simply switch to a session of lighter poundages.  You may find that you gain a surge of energy while using light weights.  Another strategy would be to utilize substitute exercises.  Instead of several heavy sets of deadlifts, try one all-out set with lighter weights, or skip the deadlifts and do power cleans, pulls, or another movement.  Or, if you had planned on doing heavy overhead presses and the bar feels like it weighs a ton, try doing dumbbell presses for higher reps. This is another case of your being limited only by your imagination.  

     If you’re able to salvage a workout via the use of alternate exercises or different rep schemes, then perhaps you are not overtrained or “burnt out,” or fatigued.  Perhaps the real culprit is, indeed, laziness.  Let’s face it, we’re all humans, and subject to the foibles that befall all lifters.  And laziness is one of the worst things that a lifter can experience.  

    If you are indeed suffering from a case of laziness, the a few sets of light weights or different exercises will rejuvenate you, and you will have a productive workout.  However, if you truly are physically fatigued, no alternative training strategy will help.  You may find yourself getting progressively more tired and fatigued.  It is at this point that Mr. Grimek says that you should cancel the workout and “save yourself” for another day.

     Getting back to what Bob Hoffman said about missing workouts, this leaves us with an interesting question:  Who should we listen to, the “Father of World Weightlifting” and not miss a workout, or the “Monarch of Muscledom” and save yourself for another workout?

     The answer to that question, is that you should listen to YOU.  Only you know how you are truly feeling.  If you have been lifting for any appreciable length of time, you will know your body and how it responds to fatigue, lethargy, lack of energy, and loss of enthusiasm.  It is important to remember that if you miss more than one workout, then it definitely will become easier to skip others.  Hall of Fame football coach Vince Lombardi once said that “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”  He was not the first person to utter those words.  General George Patton wrote those words to his troops during the second World War.  

     Sometimes all you need to get yourself going is to remind yourself of the gains that you’ve made already.  If you’ve been lifting for a while, then you have definitely experienced gains in strength, size, and development.  You can look back and be proud of the work it took to get to your current state of physical conditioning.  Allow yourself to reflect on the positive effects and invigorating feeling after a successful workout.  

     Thinking about Bob Hoffman’s words of wisdom should help get you through a training session when you feel like throwing in the towel.  But if you’re feeling lazy, then it is definitely not the time to attempt a limit lift.  Heed the advice of John Grimek, “ Begin lightly, do more reps, and inhale deeply.  After a few exercises, you should regain your energy and enthusiasm.”

     None of us like to think about negative feelings like fatigue, laziness and bad workouts.  But they are a part of life when it comes to lifting and getting stronger.  How you adapt to those days when you don’t seem to have it will determine how successful you will be in the long run.


Does modern bodybuilding make you sick? You should write for Natural Strength! I always need good articles about drug-free weight training. It only has to be at least a page and nothing fancy. Just write it strong and truthful with passion! Send your articles directly to me: bobwhelan@naturalstrength.com
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