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Avoiding Burnout

Updated: Mar 18, 2023

There will be times in your training career when you lose the psychological drive to exert yourself, especially when you are doing a lot of the same exercises over many months. A lot of exercises I consider staples of a well-designed program can get stale: squats, deadlifts, overhead pressing, bench pressing, chin-ups, and hip thrusts. For example, barbell back squats are a great exercise, even essential, but after a while, you may not feel like squatting anymore. Your workouts become half-hearted because the passion and excitement just isn’t there anymore. Here are some ways to deal with it.

  1. CONSIDER TAKING A FEW DAYS OFF. That’s right. If you’re the type of person who will push until it’s no longer productive and burn out, this may be the best move. It’s not just your body that needs to recover. Your mind does, too.

  2. DELOAD. Try going through the motions with less load; something that feels manageable and is unlikely to hurt you if you’re not able to fully apply yourself or be completely present on any particular day. This will allow for physical recovery, make you dread the exercise less, and keeps the movement pattern fresh. Big compound movements, particularly squats, are acquired skills that need to be maintained through practice. It’s not a good idea to omit them altogether, but deloading may help.

  1. FOCUS ON TECHNIQUE RATHER THAN LOAD OR VOLUME: If all you focus on is how much weight you are using and how much you can do per session, you will get frustrated. When you are stagnating, it helps to slow things down, use a lighter weight, and hone in on technique. You may find that you have nagging form errors that are stalling your progress. Now you have something interesting to work on and address, and you’ll be better off having taken the time to address it.

  2. CONSIDER USING A DIFFERENT VARIATION OF THE SAME MOVEMENT: If you are burnt out on barbell back squats, try switching to front-loaded or split squats for a while and progressing on those. The novelty and challenge of a different variation can reinvigorate your training, and the slightly different adaptations acquired may carry over to improved performance on barbell back squats.

  3. VARY YOUR CONDITIONING AND ISOLATION EXERCISES: Depending on your goals, bodybuilding may not be your main priority. If that’s the case, feel free to mess around with different techniques and training implements to make your isolation exercises more interesting. While you’ll lose some of the benefits in picking one or two exercises that work well for you and sticking with those, if you’re in no rush, that may be fine. There are also a myriad of opti

ons available for conditioning, including rowers, assault bikes, ropes, sleds, and medicine ball slams. However, choose your conditioning modality carefully so it doesn’t interfere with your strength training. If your legs are toast, use battle ropes. If your arms are toast, use a bike. However, remember that more high-impact conditioning modalities, like box jumps or sprints, are much more likely to interfere with strength acquisition. That doesn’t mean don’t do them. It just means recognizing that there are tradeoffs.

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