Adam Piggott

Gentleman adventurer

Sunday lifting thread – Good sessions and bad sessions.

As lifters we’ve all heard a phrase that goes something alone the lines of, “The only bad gym day is the one you miss.” This is true but it’s also not exclusive because the fact is that you can have very bad days indeed at the gym. Particularly if you lift heavy, and if you’re not lifting heavy then what’s your miserable excuse for being such a pussy?

On Monday I had a bad day at the gym. A bad day is not a day when lifting hurts. If you’re lifting heavy then every day at the gym hurts. I squat three times a week and every single time it hurts really bad. The squat reduces me to a miserable piece of flotsam trailing in the wake of an energized Bismark on its way to sink the HMS Hood. Every single time I take a huge breath, push out my knees, and go down in a squat I do not know if I’m going to have the strength to make it back up again.

And if I do manage to make it up it hurts. My head spins after 5 squat reps. My breathing is as heavy as if I’ve just sprinted between a set of goal posts. I usually lean against a wall and focus on something in the middle distance to regain my bearings, usually a nice set of tits that are jiggling up and down on the only piece of cardio equipment in the entire gym.

No, pain and hurt do not a bad day in the gym make. Pain and hurt is every gym day.

A bad day is when your lifts do not come together. When you fail to push out your 5 reps. When every approach to the bar fills you with a sense of your own powerlessness in front of the iron. When you struggle with your warmup lifts, let alone the main ones. When you really have to do your very best to get through the session and not quit early. And even when you do manage to achieve this feat you feel no sense of accomplishment but instead you trudge to the change room a broken man.

That is a bad day at the gym.

But here is the thing; you need the bad days. In fact I would argue that the bad days are more important than the good days. For it is on the bad days that you do the real hard work that is needed to have a good day. The bad day sets you up for the good day. The good day is not because you’re good on that day but because you ground it out on the bad day. You can’t only have good days at the gym; life does not work that way.

My Monday session was so bad that I skipped Wednesday; I just didn’t have it in me. It’s my first skip in a month but I felt that my body was screaming for a respite. On Friday I showed up and I smashed it. Squats, press, and deadlift all had their respective weight barriers broken. It wasn’t easy, it never is, but I made every lift and then some. I still had fuel in the tank when I left which is why I walked out of there fast before I did something stupid like do some barbell curls and not leave myself anything in the tank for the next session.

Every time you’re having a bad session remember that those are the important ones. And how you handle the bad sessions will directly reflect on how you progress. Anyone can manage a good session but the difference between those that progress and those that don’t is how they managed the inevitable bad sessions.

The bad is the difference between the winners and the losers, and there are far more of the latter than there are of the former. I see new guys at the gym on a regular basis. There was one the other week who was struggling badly with just 25kg on the press. There’s nothing wrong with that, although his form was terrible due to the weight being too much for him, (lifting his feet off the ground in an effort to get the bar up).

We had a little conversation and he was a nice guy, a nice guy trying to better himself. Good on you, dude.

Of course, we’ll never see him down there in the gym again. I have no doubt that it was all just too much for him. He was too nice, not enough killer instinct and not enough capacity to absorb pain. I could see him looking around at some of the other lifters in envy, but what he didn’t understand or appreciate is that in that moment they were all going through pain as well, just as much as him if not more so. But all he saw was that they were making huge lifts and making it look easy.

You never arrive. The pain never goes away. The lifts never get easier. The bad sessions are always your very next one.

Kinda like life when you think about it.



Friday hawt chicks & links – The no leaders edition.


Grifters and shysters.


  1. And then there’s the herniated disc which keeps you from lifting for a couple months and requires surgery right before Christmas. Going to be an interesting recovery. I’ll be interested to see if the constant minor back tweaks resulted from a weak disc and if that doesn’t happen as much after recovery. I know I’m good on form as the lifting coach at the gym has given me positive comments a couple times so I’m thinking just lower weights, maybe more reps (once the PT is over). I’ve been following Rippetoe’s regimen of 5×5 and I like it but may have to scale back my max to keep the back healthy.

    • Adam

      Rippetoe’s is 3×5 not 5×5. The 5×5 is the Strong lifts program. I switched from it to the 3×5 about a year ago.

  2. PS I remember lifting weights seriously for the first time when I was in the Navy. I’d lifted a bit at high school but only because they made us in gym class. A friend at the navy school I was at had lifted competitively in high school so enlisted me to go to the base gym with him. I was so sore after the first day that I couldn’t lift my arms above my shoulders (and that height estimate is charitable, it was probably lower). Within three weeks though I was feeling good and within six months had bulked up significantly in the chest and shoulders, size that I have never lost in the intervening 35 years. If you see that guy again, give him some good words.

  3. purge187

    Squatting three times a week sounds like overtraining, Adam. How about training legs once a week instead?

    • didact117

      Depends on how heavy you’re squatting and how many reps you do. If you train like I do, then yeah, squatting 3x per week is way too much. But initially, at least, the SL5x5 program is excellent.

  4. earl

    Yeah I started to wise up in the gym when I realized it’s not how much the other guys are lifting…it’s how much I’m lifting. If the weight is challenging that’s the number you have to go through. Some guys can lift more, some can lift less…but whatever number that challenges you is a good number.

    The second part that really helped was during my prayer time I started reading the Psalms…I like to pray this one before heavy sets in the gym. Strength does come from Heaven after all. The thing I noticed is while it doesn’t get rid of the pain it actually does reduce the pain.

  5. Allen

    So true. The most important lesson I ever learned was from myself. I was doing some military time and I was 19 at the time. I had signed on for a special unit that had a horrendous acceptance regimen which weeded out most of the applicants.

    My oh my, the instructors were dogging me, trying to get me to quit. I finally said to myself, “screw it, they can kill me or throw me out, but they can’t make me quit.” Best damn thing I ever learned. That’s what facing pain can teach you.

  6. The Phantom

    I’m dating myself here, but one of my favorite movie scenes is from “Flight of the Intruder” when they go to bomb Hanoi and, after getting pounded by flak and SAMs, the bombs don’t drop. Willem Dafoe turns to Brad Johnson and says “They’d never expect us to come back. Nobody would go through that again.” Brad Johnson turns to him and says “I tell you what, I came here to bomb.”

    When I’m at the gym and thinking about quitting halfway through a session, I tell myself: “I tell you what, I came here to lift.”

    As a bonus – start at about 4 minutes in and watch until about 5 minutes in:

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