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Muscle for life

So, You’re Having a Shitty Workout…

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So, You’re Having a Shitty Workout…

You’re having a shitty workout.

You don’t want to be in the gym. Everything feels god-awfully heavy. You’re just going through the motions, counting down the sets until you can leave.

It happens.

I have shitty workouts too, sometimes every week. Sometimes twice. Every once in a while, I have to slog through a whole run of bad workouts, like I’ve got some kind of low-grade kryptonite poisoning and every session is just sweaty grunting without aim or purpose.

Again, it happens.

Problem is, these days, these fucking days, I tell you — they really can be suffocating, can’t they? Suck the life right out of you.

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Want to listen to more stuff like this? Check out my podcast!

Well, here’s the first thing that you need to know:

Bad workouts, like bad days at work, home, or the proctologist, are normal. They’re just part of the game, the warp and woof of what we do.

In fact, working out is supposed to be hard. That’s the point. Easy things are boring things, like shaving our genitals or thumb wrestling. Those are perfectly fine things to do, but they’re not going to amount to much. Porno nuts have never helped anyone summit Maslow’s pyramid.

Working out — and building your best body ever — isn’t manscaping. It’s not bagging groceries, even though it can feel that way sometimes.

Consider: the act of transforming your body composition is so much more than merely building muscle or losing fat — it’s you SACRIFICING WHO YOU ARE FOR WHO YOU WANT TO BE and then using iron and steel to beat your new form into being. Forging a new you is heat and fire, hammer and anvil, lightning and thunder, not changing your underwear or cutting your nails. It’s a mystical, mystifying, and mythological act.

So yeah, sometimes it’s hard. Hard as hell. Sometimes you have to leave some blood on the altar.

As it should be. As it must be.

Woe is he who believes that things that don’t come naturally and easily aren’t worth doing or aren’t meant to be done at all. We see this all the time. Person tries something new, person flounders, and person immediately brands himself a failure and quits. Back to fondling himself and arguing with strangers on Twitter he goes because he doesn’t get it. He doesn’t get that nothing meaningful happens automagically — that everything takes way more time, effort, and grit than we want to believe at the outset.

Alice in Wonderland had it right: we have to run as fast as we can just to stay in place, and twice as fast as that to go anywhere. This is just how it goes.

The fact that it’s hard isn’t a sign that it’s probably not worth it.

The struggle is the point. The struggle is how it signals its worth.

The fact that it’s hard isn’t a sign that you don’t belong in the arena.

The struggle is how you prove you’re worthy.

Everybody playing the transformation game struggles, too. It’s hard for me just as it’s hard for you and has been hard for everyone that has ever lived.

It takes work. Unconscionable amounts of unholy, and sometimes unbearable, work.

Building the body of your dreams isn’t hard in the same way other work is hard, though. Nobody’s gunning for you. You’re not wrestling alligators or jacking off horses. When you look at it that way, it’s actually pretty easy. But it’s also hard, and that’s okay. We shouldn’t discount what it takes and what it means. It takes resilience. It takes sacrifice. It takes the courage to stop giving so many fucks about things that aren’t fuckworthy. And it teaches an invaluable lesson: if you have the power to change your body, then you have the power to change your life.

Remember all of that when you’re having a bad day in the gym, a harder-than-hell workout.

Remember too that sometimes the hardest work moves the needle the most. Sometimes it’s on these days that you break through, physiologically or even psychologically. You never know. So don’t let that stop you. Just put your head down and charge back into the breach.

And remember that no obstacles in your journey are too towering or thorny unless you say they are. There’s nothing that can’t be overcome with enough perseverance.

So, when you’re having a hard day of training, train anyway.

Do it because it’s hard.

Don’t let one bad day rob you of the days that will follow. Days that might be hard, too. Harder, even. Who knows. Who cares. It’s supposed to be difficult. You’re smithing a new body, a new mindset, a new identity. Why should that be easy?

It is what it is. It is what it must be.

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I'm Mike and I'm the creator of Muscle for Life and Legion Athletics, and I believe that EVERYONE can achieve the body of their dreams.

If you like what I have to say, sign up for my free newsletter and every week I'll send you awesome, science-based health and fitness tips, delicious "diet-friendly" recipes, motivational musings, and more.

THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE HAVE USED MY BOOKS TO BUILD THEIR BEST BODIES EVER. WILL YOU BE NEXT?

If you want a "paint-by-numbers," step-by-step blueprint for building a muscular, lean, strong body...faster than you ever thought possible...then you want to check out my bestselling books.

Here's a little sneak peek of what you'll learn inside...

  • The 7 biggest muscle building myths & mistakes that keep guys small, weak, and frustrated. (These BS lies are pushed by all the big magazines and even by many trainers.)
  • How to build meal plans that allow you to build muscle, lose fat, and get healthy with ease…eating foods you love (yes, including those deemed “unclean” by certain “gurus”)…and never feeling starved, deprived, or like you’re “on a diet.”
  • The 5 biggest fat loss myths & mistakes that keep women overweight, disappointed, and confused. (These BS lies are pushed by all the big magazines and even by many trainers.)
  • An all-in-one training system that delivers MAXIMUM results for your efforts…spending no more than 3 to 6 hours in the gym every week…doing workouts that energize you, not wipe you out.
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The bottom line is you CAN achieve that “Hollywood body" without having your life revolve around it. No long hours in the gym, no starving yourself, and no grueling cardio that turns your stomach.

My book will show you how. Get it today and let’s build a body you can be proud of.

Bigger Leaner Stronger

Bigger Leaner Stronger

Thinner Leaner Stronger

Thinner Leaner Stronger

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  • Andres

    Short, straight, uplifting and to the point. Really needed. Been having some bad days; but i’m still pushing through.

  • Zeppelin

    I feel like your experimenting with a new writing style lately. Personally, I prefer the older style which struck me as more intellectual, pragmatic, and yet still motivational without the need for profanity or frat humor. I can’t help but wonder if some of these articles don’t alienate some of your female fanbase/readers. It’s your website and by all means do your thing; I’m just saying I find myself wondering if you’ve got a new ghost writer with a goatee, a tribal arm tattoo, and an unhealthy N.O.-Xplode habit.

    • LOL thanks for the feedback. It’s still me, but yes I’m trying some different styles of articles.

    • Noah

      Yea, I agree with this. I really have liked Mikes work. However, the podcasts and articles have have gotten more like this lately. I find myself looking elsewhere now.

      • Thanks for the feedback. I’ve been trying some new things, but I’m still doing my usual types of articles and interview podcasts, too 🙂

  • Paul Mead

    I was having one of these issues today doing 25minutes worth of box jumps, 20sec jumping/40sec rest. By the fifth minute, I was ready was pretty beat up already having played hockey the night before. Then I reminded myself that time is finite, and if I want to continue building my body stronger, I better fucking complete this. So what’s another 20minutes of box jumps?

  • Doug

    Mike- I have to agree with Zeppelin regarding the profanity. I have a great deal of respect for what you have done. Your program has completely changed my outlook on diet how I spend my time in the gym. I’m a veteran, so I’m no stranger to profanity-but it has its place. I just wanted to give you some feedback about this particular issue. I think you’re better than that. Cursing too much and too often may erode your credibility with some of your patrons, both male and female.

    • Thanks so much Doug. I really appreciate the support and feedback regarding the swearing. Noted!

  • Jerome McCuin

    The article was just what I needed, and I came here from one of your emails. However I must cast one more vote for very careful use of the F word, if you must use it. As I read the article, I figured you must have a team of people writing for you. If so, there is nothing wrong with that. Growth is good on many levels. But at the end I noticed that the call to action was to buy your books.

    I felt one step ahead because I already have bought one. What got me reading Bigger Leaner Stronger in the first place was your genuine, friendly, intellectual approach in Chapter 1. I started with the audiobook and before long I was buying the ebook to go along with it. And once it started working, I told my friends: Church’s friends, lady friends, people from all walks of life. I do stand up comedy. I love a little swearing here and there, but it has to be at the right time and place with the right audience. Use it like hot sauce.

    • Thanks for the feedback and support Jerome! I definitely agree and will keep that in mind going forward.

  • Casey

    Mike, I’m laughed out loud as I read your article. “Porno nuts” and “jacking off horses” it had me rolling man. I’m military and have over the last month moved to a new location so the workouts have been exhausting because of everything else that I have going on but I go to the gym anyway. I’ve seriously listened to BLS about 7 times! I’ve gotten down to about 7% body fat according to the calipers that you recommended and have pictures to prove it. Now I am on a bulk and trying my best to do it right. Love everything you’ve written, keep up the good work! Thanks for keeping me inspired, I can honestly say that your books and Legion supplements have changed my life. I will write a review one of these days with all my comments on the various things I have used associated with your brand because I feel like I owe it to you man.

    Anyway all that to say, this post was exactly what I needed. Thanks again brother.

    • Thanks so much for all the support Casey! I really do appreciate it. Definitely keep me posted on you progress. I’d love to feature you on the site when you reach your goals!

  • Matt

    Awesome article Mike! Will look to this advice next time I’m struggling in a workout, it’s never a fun feeling for sure.

    I have a question and confession to make as well….I have been running BLS without deadlifts and instead running the back day on the 4 day split as follows: Weighted Chins, Barbell Rows, Weighted Neutral Grip Chins or Weighted Pull Ups. I’ll be honest, I just fucking HATE conventional deadlifts. Not because they are “hard” per say (try 6 sets of weighted chins with over 100 lbs attached in a workout, that shit is exhausting), but because I was tired of fucking up my hands and I had a few minor back tweaks from them in the past.

    I just find them risky, don’t like them, won’t do them and my back still looks pretty damn good from building up to 100 lb chins for 6 at 175 lbs along with heavy rowing. I recently purchased Beyond BLS to see if I’m at a point where I can run that, and my only question is…what do I do on the back days for power sets? Reading through it you seem to indicate rows and deadlift are the best two choices for the 2-3 rep sets, so I’m assuming you will tell me rows are a better choice than chins for that, my only issue is do standard rows (I prefer that over pendlay) become a bit too prone to cheating at this rep range possibly? Thoughts on weighted chins in power sets?

    • Hey Matt, I’m glad you liked it! I’d recommend Pendlay rows for the power sets in your case. I prefer it over the standard row, but you could also try T-Bar rows. I wouldn’t do chins in the 2-3 rep range. Have you tried the trap bar deadlift? That could be a decent option, as well.

  • Gabe

    These articles your putting out suck! You better get quality back up. Not even a bold sentence to read. Just a bunch of dumb text. Come on man get your stuff together.

    • Thanks for the feedback, Gabe. Sorry you’re not liking them.

  • Jake Johnson

    Hey, Mike! I’ll try to keep this as short-and-sweet as possible, as I know it must get exhausting trying to fix everyone’s fitness roadblocks. So I’ve been following the BLS system for several years now, and bought your e-books back when they were under a buck on Amazon. I can’t quite say I’ve followed it religiously, as there have been a number of times I’ve hit a plateau and lost motivation for several-month periods. The reasons behind losing motivation for me tend to be the same: getting to a weight range where I need a spotter consistently to continue progressing (and it sucks having to be that guy who always needs a spotter); shoulder bursitis rearing its ugly head again; some family issue occurring that forces the gym lower on the list of priorities. It happens, and I let it be an excuse for far longer than I should, but I always eventually get back to the gym because it makes me feel good physically and psychologically.

    Okay, so already failing to keep my word about this being short-and-sweet. Currently, I’m back on track with the BLS workout routine, and have over the past few weeks felt like I’m getting to that wall again. I’ve made so much progress and want to make this round the one whose discouragements I persevere through; the round where I surpass all of my previous peaks.

    Problem #1 is that I want to continue building muscle mass. I’ve not yet found an easy method for keeping track of macronutrient intake, so I try to consume as much as I can while bulking, which leads to:

    Problem #2. I’ve never had a successful cutting cycle. I’ve tried your fat-burning supplements and doing fasted training, but to no avail. I don’t know anyone personally who understands the methodology of cutting; maybe I just lost motivation too early because I wasn’t sure if I was making progress or if I was doing it all wrong. The limiting of calories during this phase is also hard to maintain when you have a lifelong history of eating until you can’t eat anymore.

    All that said, I’m not too far from having my ideal physique: I’m more built than the average guy but want more, and I have a bit of a spare tire around my belly that I’ve never been able to get rid of. What do I do? Solve my problems, Mike!

    • Rosco

      there are many phone apps (some free) that you can track macros with, I find this is ESSENTIAL for cutting/bulking or else you are most likely eating too much and underestimating intake causing 1) a cut to not be successful and 2) excess fat gain in bulk

      • Jake Johnson

        What are some apps you’d recommend to track macros?

        • Rosco

          My Macros + is my go to, have not tried any others but this one is great

    • Hey Jake, give this article a read: https://legionathletics.com/diet-meal-plans/

      You can use an app like MyFitnessPal to track your calories and macros. That article includes a calculator to figure out how many calories you need to bulk or cut. You’ll need to be in a calorie deficit to lose fat, and tracking your calories and macros will help quite a bit. When you bulk, it’s much better to be precise and gain weight slowly, rather than eating as much as you can, which will likely put on more fat than necessary. Let me know if you need any more help!

  • Anthony M

    I’ve been having a bad workout week 🤒 I’m probably overtraining honestly as I thought I’d give Arnold’s beginner program a try in his enclyopedia and I’m no Schwarzenegger so I’m not recovering fast enough. It’s like this:

    Monday:chest/back
    Tuesday:shoulders/arms
    Wednesday:legs/lowerback
    Thursday:chest/back
    Friday:shoulders/arms
    Saturday:legs/lowerback
    Sunday:rest

    Now I’m doing less volume per workout session in his program than I would if I isolate 5 groups into 5 days, which you say is your favorite split. The first week on this schedule I broke two Pr’s, but after doing that I’ve felt much weaker and I’m only doing 55% of the weight I normally do on bb curls because my arms are still sore/painful and what used to be light is now painful to do (arms every 3 days lol). Should I go back to a five day split with isolation until I gain more weight and have to up my routine intensity/complexity, or do you stand by the five day five group split all the way to, say, genetic potential. Arnold started very young and gained most his mass before he was 20 so he had remarkable recovery/genetics and what works for him may not work for everyone. I might also take the rest of the week as a deload week before moving back to a simpler program although I did love his in the beginning when it was easier. Any feedback is very appreciated.

    It should also be noted I’m eating ~3600 cals to gain weight at 167lbs, any lower and I maintain or don’t gain weight. I’m probably 14% bodyfat as a recent dexa scan said I was 13% mid-bulk and ive gained weight since then.

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