What Should You Do If You Miss A Workout?

Published about 1 month ago • 5 min read

Welcome to 3DMJ Thursdays 💪

Every other week we send out practical tips and strategies for bodybuilders, powerlifters, and serious lifters of all types.

Today we’re going to discuss 4 ways to handle missed workouts in your training program.

Since serious lifters are highly motivated individuals, we know skipped sessions can often be a point of stress for those who care so much about their progress.

And while some coaches or influencers say “YOU SHOULD NEVER, EVER MISS A WORKOUT”…we aren’t so naive to assume that’s a realistic or healthy way to go about it.

We know that you *WILL* miss a workout.

We know that because you’re a human with responsibilities who has emergencies, has relationships, gets sick, and doesn’t live in a bubble.

It’s nothing to be ashamed of, and it doesn’t make you a terrible person or bad athlete.

But when it does happen, we’d like to present you with some options on how to move through it without losing your progress or your sanity.


If you have to miss today’s session, simply do it tomorrow or on your next planned training day.

You’d then continue onward with your programmed training days in their usual order.

This is our favorite way to go about it for lifters who are in a position to do so.

This stretches your program out a little, which is not a big deal at all. If your 8-week program takes you 8.5 or 9 weeks to finish, it’s all good! Your muscles will stay intact. We promise they won’t fall off.

For 100% of non-competitive lifters who only miss workouts on rare occasions, this option typically plays out well without any negative consequences.

It’s also often a great choice for competitors during their off-season mode as well. If there’s no deadline, there’s no need for program modification.


For most off-season or non-competitive lifters, you can just skip the session and leave a hole in your program if needed without issue.

Let’s say you train 3 days a week in a 6 week program, which means a total of 18 sessions per cycle.

If you make 16 of those planned sessions and only have 2 random missed days without any data in your spreadsheet, that’s not a huge problem in the grand scheme of things.

However, if you’re someone who is prone to possibly missing the same workout too often, this might not be a good idea.

For example, if you have a 4-day training split and Day 2 falls on a day when you’re on-call for work and you have to miss this session about 25% of the time, this probably isn’t the best option for you.

That would leave one of your 4 weekly sessions constantly behind the rest, and may result in a lopsided program over time.

That would not be ideal.

In that case (and in most cases), the “Push Back” method from Option 1 would be best.

However, this “Skip It” method is ideal and preferred when you’re someone who only has access to certain gyms, certain equipment, or certain time blocks on very specific days of the week.

For example, let’s say you still have that 4-day training split, and Day 2 is the only day you drive an extra 20-minutes to the fancy gym that has the good hack squat that feels just right for your high-volume leg days.

Then life happens and something comes up and unfortunately can’t make it on Day 2 this particular week.

But you also don’t have the time in your schedule to drive to that fancy gym on any other days, so you genuinely can’t make the “Push Back” method from Option 1 work at all.

As long as this doesn’t happen very often, there’s no harm in simply calling it fluke and leaving a hole in your spreadsheet.

Your legs will simply be extra fresh next week when life is normal again.

No need to stress.


If you’re in tune with your body and have a good understanding of how exercises can affect one another, you can always take the missed day’s volume and spread it across the next few workouts.

For example, let’s say you missed an upper body workout that included 4 different exercises.

Could you just add one extra exercise to each of your next 4 workouts?

Or make up 2 of those missed exercises in your next 2 workouts?

Again, you’ll have to be mindful of how to make these modifications without over-fatiguing yourself or possibly affecting your other already-programmed exercises so much that your whole training week suffers.

But it’s definitely a good option if the missed session didn’t include any high effort compound movements – in which case it might be best to just use the “Push Back” or “Skip It” methods as discussed earlier.


This option makes a lot of sense for competitive athletes who are on a deadline and approaching their competition date within the next few weeks – especially powerlifters.

If something comes up that causes you to miss a regular session, you might want to add an extra training session to one of your normal rest days in order to account for it.

For example, say you usually go to the gym on Mon/Tue/Thu/Fri and you have to miss Friday for a family function.

It will likely benefit your overall meet prep and timeline to go to the gym on Saturday or Sunday to make up for that missed Friday session.

Just bear in mind that your Monday and Tuesday sessions might be affected by the lack of recovery that you usually get leading up to those workouts.

This is something that non-competitive athletes can do as well, but again, there’s really no reason to do it.

For most lifters who do not have a deadline, the “Push Back” method works just fine without risking any extra fatigue or stress.


So glad you asked!

We must never forget that the whole game of resistance training is finding the right balance between fitness and fatigue.

It’s incredibly common for eager lifters to assume that every training session matters so much that every bit of effort should always be made to always make up missed workouts.

But thinking about your physique development that way doesn’t take the full picture into account.

If you missed a workout, it was likely for a good reason.

You probably didn’t miss the session to just lie on the couch and relax.

You probably had to do something out of the ordinary, which can often carry its own kind of stress, whether physical or emotional.

These "non-workout events" can still impact your training, whether you’d like to admit it or not.

Here’s a great video on the topic from our Chief Science Officer, Eric Helms:

The Scientific Impact of Stress On Your Bodybuilding Training

(The Biopsychosocial Model)

video preview

***If you’d like to learn more about how to create flexibility and sustainability in your training programs, check out our “Personalizing Your Program” video course.

***And lastly, if you’d like to work with a coach who will create a customized training program for you, check out our
3DMJ Coaching info page.

Thanks for joining us for this 3DMJ Thursday!

We look forward to sending you the next one in just a couple of weeks.

With gains and gratitude,

- Team 3DMJ


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