A very, very common situation for me is this - I work out, I rest, I come back weaker. A number of books/people have given reasons for this:

  1. Not enough sleep.
  2. Not enough protein.
  3. Frequency too high.

Etc. Can we get a comprehensive list of the factors (both behavioral and genetic)? Also, I would like to know what happens when a muscle can't repair itself over the short term. What happens in the long term?

Edit: I am really interested in the question overall, specifically in terms of what genetic potential is. Btw, I have read Supertraining (years ago), so I am familiar with the graph in the comments.

Anyway, my particular situation looks like this:

*7-8 hours of sleep weekdays, work ALL day in front of computer - 10-12 hrs
*Workouts look like AxxBxxA
*I walk a couple of miles on off-days and do hollow body holds / hip flexor stretches and some grip work, but it's light

A: 3 mile run @ 9min/mile
3 x 17 push ups (full ROM/control)
3 x 17 hanging leg raises
5 x 5 bench @ 185 lbs
5 x 5 row @ 135 lbs
3 x 20 bw squats

B 3 mile run @ 9min/mile
Bunch of core stuff - supermans, planks, etc
Calf raises, reverse calf raises (3 x 40 bw)
Quad/Ham machine 3x8 @ light weight
OHP 5 x 5 @ 125
PU 5 x 7 @ bw (200 lbs)

I have been working out for far over decade (in my mid 20s). I have been lifting seriously for maybe 2 years. My bench was 5 x 5 at 225 lbs earlier this year. I didn't stop, I didn't change anything, I just keep getting weaker. I eat adequately.

Edit 2: Reading my own post I would be tempted to reply "Check if you are sick" - but the bench number is the only one that's dropping. OHP went up in the past few months, for example. This is also not the first time this happened. I have had a few more experiences like this with things like deadlift, where I progress, progress, and then suddenly numbers start dropping with no apparent cause (Happened around 5x5 @ 3.5 plate on DL). Btw, squat and DL aren't in the program due to muscle imbalance that I am fixing atm.

  • 1
    A comprehensive list is a bit broad. Maybe narrow this down by specifying your situation? What lifts, what sets and reps and weights, what days of the week, with what diet, and a description of your sleep and stresses. Aug 31, 2015 at 17:34
  • related (but not a duplicate): fitness.stackexchange.com/a/19322/7091
    – Eric
    Aug 31, 2015 at 17:46
  • I am interested in the topic overall, but posted my details.
    – VSO
    Aug 31, 2015 at 18:07
  • What were your push-ups like six months ago? Were they 3x17 then too? Sep 1, 2015 at 10:43
  • 3x15 or something along those lines (I only record numbers for main lifts). I do them before bench and don't place emphasis on them except being sure I don't lose them. I can maybe do 3x20 with good form.
    – VSO
    Sep 1, 2015 at 12:13

2 Answers 2


There is a string of possibilities here. They include:(please forgive the informally written list)

  • The cardio is killing your gains in muscle
  • You have a fast metabolism and have to eat even more
  • You just aren't eating enough, even if you think you are and even if you don't have a fast metabolism
  • You have a medical problem or injury you should address with your doctor
  • You are doing too much lightweight, bodyweight, and aerobic exercise instead of doing heavier weights
  • You are suffering from severe stress
  • You think you are getting weaker, but it is all in your head
  • You are denying your legs and arms and are only working your chest, back, shoulders, and abs instead of working the limbs we need to use to help build those parts. Weak triceps=Low bench press
  • You were shooting steroids, but stopped
  • You lost weight making the bench press harder
  • You are not training often enough
  • You were using improper form, but changed it to proper form
  • 1
    This is just throwing spaghetti at the wall. There is no reasoning behind this other than personal guessing.
    – JohnP
    Sep 1, 2015 at 16:33
  • @John P I don't know what else you expect(not to be rude), judging by the fact he leaves out important details and puts in ones that don't even really matter. What is he eating? When is he eating? Where is he sleeping? When is he sleeping? If you insist on a more general answer, he is most likely either having some problem in his diet and/or sleeping habits. I also forgot to mention, maybe he is eating a lot of junk? I guess that my answer doesn't pinpoint anything exactly, but when a question isn't detailed enough, the asker can't be expecting lobster for dinner. Sep 1, 2015 at 17:37
  • 1
    I expect that if he leaves out details and includes ones that don't matter, that you use the comment system as it is intended, and ask that he clarify. I don't expect that you just start guessing random crap and throwing it up as an answer. If you feel the question is too poor to salvage, downvote and vote to close.
    – JohnP
    Sep 1, 2015 at 17:43
  • My amount of sleep is and was in the post. I said I eat well, in terms of both protein and nutrition overall. I would have mentioned if I did roids. My form is always strict. I didn't lose weight. I am already eating a surprlus for my bw. If I eat more I just get fat and it doesn't change anything strength wise. Also, this board is funny. But I guess it goes without saying since there aren't even good books on the subject. Back to guessing.
    – VSO
    Sep 1, 2015 at 19:29
  • @VSO Are you eating at night? Are you working out before you eat? And how come if you're "getting weaker" you're not losing weight? If none of these sound familiar, you either have a sleeping problem or a health problem, if what you're describing is true. Sep 1, 2015 at 21:00


When somebody will provide You so called "comprehensive list of ..." (especially both behavioral and genetic) - how You will check if it's true?

If You really interested in the question You should look in special sources (start with manuals for the basics, then - research periodics to be on wave of the state of the art) and make (and update!!!) that list Yourself, because sports medicine & physiology is constantly evolving field.

Regarding You question answer IMHO should be not general but specific - EXPERIMENT! For example for 1-2 week try to add 1 additional rest day /or/ make less approaches.

By the way - You tagged Your question as 'strength-training', but IMHO 3x5 & 5x17 regime is for endurance, not for strength.

PART 2 (links with removed http)

first: sorry for my English - is not my native, so I'd like to explain my point of view below

second: my knowledge on fitness is based on my experience as application for martial arts (...and long time ago when I was young and pretty) but I had no with this general scheme or speedendurance.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/strength-muscle-mass-and-endurance_thumb.jpg - but it's just GENERALISATION of knowledge on reps...
unfortunately, man's (and muscle - as part of) life (and ) is very complex - for that reason complex (systematic) approad must be applied scienceofsportsperformance.wordpress.com/2013/01/18/etsu-coches-sports-science-college-part-3/

As a consequence I agree with Joe Wider principles bodybuilding.com/fun/remembering-joe-weider-the-science-of-the-weider-principle.html - You need

so... if in general You are not satisfied with situation, IMHO that means broken adaptation pponline.co.uk/encyc/img/270afig2.png for more see fitness.stackexchange.com/questions/19321/how-long-does-it-take-for-muscles-to-recover/19322#19322

first - what is Your task? where you want to be? speedendurance.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/strengthendurance-continuum-SEC.jpg what is your score realfitscore.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/score-comparisons-v1.png

do you wanna be (kidding) as Hulk/gorilla muscleandfitness.com/sites/muscleandfitness.com/files/styles/full_node_image_1090x614/public/media/bodybuilder-brazil.jpg muscleandfitness.com/incredible-hulk-program or SWAT OPERATOR / 24/7-fit tactical athlete cms.bbcomcdn.com/fun/images/2015/8-weeks-to-tactical-fitness-graphics-1.jpg bodybuilding.com/fun/8-weeks-to-tactical-fitness.html

do You have strategy in terms of periodization? img.breakingmuscle.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/full_width/images/bydate/201411/periodization-table.jpg for more see scienceofsportsperformance.wordpress.com/2014/03/06/periodization-and-programming-for-strength-power-sports/

what aproach or theory You use scienceofsportsperformance.wordpress.com/2014/01/22/periodization-theory-and-methodology-of-training/

and how You do testing and planning mmatrainingbible.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/testing-assigning-training-loads-reps-fig-18-2.jpg

how you mix (or don't mix at all) cardio- and resistance training wikiliikkuja.com/2014/09/02/does-simultaneous-cardio-and-resistance-training-compromise-training-adaptations/

You should check more factors to diagnose OTS irunfar.com/2013/09/overtraining-syndrome-part-one.html and do early health check/assesment (with all classic/basic tests and measures)

to really understand wha'ts is going on woith You braoder information must be collected and observe (kind of cpsinmotion.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Example_Periodisation_20142015.jpg.png more on that strengtheory.com/complete-strength-training-guide/

  • Body composition
  • Aerobic conditioning
  • Nutrition / Bodybuilding nutrition consultant Jim Juge says nutrition determines your success or failure, plain and simple. "The diet is 65% of what you need to get in shape," he says. muscleandfitness.com/nutrition/meal-plans/28-days-lean-meal-plan
  • Lifestyle factors. ...
  • 2
    3x5 is for endurance? How do you figure?
    – Alec
    Sep 1, 2015 at 6:08
  • @Alec he is simply incorrect, 3x5 is for strength, besides, notice that he only has one reputation Sep 1, 2015 at 15:44
  • @RobSterach - Simply because a user is low rep, doesn't mean that they are ignorant. He may be incorrect here, but that isn't because he "only has 1 rep".
    – JohnP
    Sep 1, 2015 at 16:29
  • @RobSterach - So did you at one point. But that didn't mean what you said was incorrect. I'd rather encourage him to explain, than just dismiss everything outright, if it contradicts my current understanding. Ease up.
    – Alec
    Sep 1, 2015 at 17:37
  • @Alec: He is just wrong if we go by any published material. Not much else to say. Sure, some will advocate sets of 3 reps for pure strength, but that's rather extreme.
    – VSO
    Sep 1, 2015 at 19:31

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