….That lift didn’t go as planned.”

I can guarantee every weightlifting athlete has thought of this phrase. The truth of lifting is: You will miss a lift

I’m here to tell you; it’s ok. Unless your name is Tatiana Kashirina, you’re going to miss a lift, maybe even in training, especially in training. Really… it’s ok. More importantly, it’s expected. Further I guarantee that you will have some ugly lifts in training. The hard part isn’t that a lift went badly, it’s how you respond to it that makes the difference.

 As a coach, there have been many times that an athlete I’m working with will get caught up on making every single one of their lifts in training, and making them perfect. Further that a bad lift is an indicator on the quality of the effort that an athlete is inputting.

I’m the problem because clearly, there’s nothing wrong with the program, right?”

I can tell you unequivocally that this is not true. Bad lifts happen. For some, it happens a lot. Heck in my earlier days of lifting, my coach would tell me at the end that he wouldn’t expect me to even make all of my training lifts in a given workout (if you’ve ever done heavy sets of waves, you know what I’m talking about). The truth of the matter is not whether or not all your lifts are perfect, but rather how you respond to them that matter.

For this, it’s all about seeing the forest from the trees. Whenever I go for a hike, I usually would give myself goals at different stages of the path. “Gotta get past that tree, take a break after that crest, try not to slip too much here, just have to make it to that boulder…” On the longer hikes, these short little goals were just about all I could think about and often I’d slip in some mud, or have to choose another path because of a downed tree. Inevitably, I’d get to the summit and see the wide range of mountain that I have climbed. There, I could put all my small goals in context. The slips and struggles I had making it to the top of the winding path were just a small part of the overall journey, but I did make it. To make it to the top then, was really just a function of will to keep going.


The same is true in weightlifting. The difference is the small goals of hiking are slightly harder to see in lifting. The daily and weekly weights set up by the training cycle are your small goals. They are just there to give you reference for how an organism will behave in ideal circumstances. The slips, struggles, and down trees from the bike ride become other things. They become events such as neh-sleep, the previous week’s training-load, and major life events which may block the shorter path. These programs are never designed to account for life occurrences be they small or large. The key then to dealing with the small goals is to be honest about where a workout falls in context of one’s day-to-day life.

If experience is any guide, NO ONE has ever suffered from one bad lift. NO ONE has ever suffered from one bad week. If truth be told even further, few have ever suffered from one bad training cycle. It is also true that, EVERYONE has a bad day, EVERYONE has a bad week, and EVERYONE has a bad training cycle. Most importantly, these things do not make a career. Some of the most famous lifters, Dmitry Klokov, Ilya Ilyin, Pyrros Dimas, and Niam Süleymanoğlu for instance, have even taken an entire year off!!

Why does this matter? Simple, the more seasoned the athlete, the the greater their ability to put their training in context. Just like climbing a mountain, the summit of a career in lifting is the result of the volume of work done over a lifetime.

The more in context a lift becomes the the more consistent training becomes. A bad day, as well as a good day, is just a dip or crest on the path up the mountain. Above all else, Weightlifting is a mental game where consistency and time under tension is King. Being able to set attainable expectations will allow for an athlete to train longer. Remember it’s volume of reps, not intensity of reps that win over the course of a career.

So next time you miss a lift in training and want to get all grumpy-pants on yourself, instead ask:

  1. Are you improving on the areas you’re trying to improve on? Or Are you just overreaching on expectations?
  2. What’s going on in your personal life?
  3. What has the rest of the week’s training looked like? Where are you in the cycle?
  4. How’s your sleep?
  5. How’s your diet?
  6. Are your goals actually realistic? Be honest now.
  7. Is it just one of those days?

Given your answers, the real question becomes:

If I was someone else, what would I tell me?


Bad lifts happen. How well you respond to it so as to get back into training is what is important, NOT the lift.


About the Author:

With his first contest in 2002, Tony “Tuba” Blanksteen has been an active member of the weightlifting community for fourteen years.  Tuba has worked with coaches such as Mark Cannella, Mark Cameron, Vasily Polovnikov, and other national and international coaches.  Tony has experience that range from a national level lifter, to coach and club builder.