Skip It Or Make It Up?

In an ideal world, you’d never miss any of your workouts. Ever.

But that’s not realistic. We all miss workouts at some point.

Life, work, family, school, holidays, trips, and all kinds of other stuff gets in the way and we get too busy to get 100% of our workouts done.

The question is, what should you do when you miss a workout?

Try it make it up the next day? Just skip it and forget about it? Some other, better option?

The answer to this question depends on the specific workout split you’re using, how flexible your schedule is, and how often you’re missing workouts.

But in most cases, you have 4 options…

1. Work Out On A “Rest Day” Instead

For example, let’s say you’re using a 4-day upper/lower split like The Muscle Building Workout Routine. It looks like this…

  1. Monday: Upper Body A
  2. Tuesday: Lower Body A
  3. Wednesday: off
  4. Thursday: Upper Body B
  5. Friday: Lower Body B
  6. Saturday: off
  7. Sunday: off

Now let’s say you miss the Lower Body B workout on Friday.

In this case, the best option would be to do it on Saturday instead. Now you’ll end up with…

  1. Monday: Upper Body A
  2. Tuesday: Lower Body A
  3. Wednesday: off
  4. Thursday: Upper Body B
  5. Friday: missed
  6. Saturday: Lower Body B
  7. Sunday: off

This is perfect. The missed workout gets done without creating any problems with recovery, overlap, or anything similar.

Of course, that was the easiest of the 4 workouts to miss and make up.

What if one of the other workouts were missed instead?

If Upper Body B was missed…

  1. Monday: Upper Body A
  2. Tuesday: Lower Body A
  3. Wednesday: off
  4. Thursday: missed
  5. Friday: Upper Body B
  6. Saturday: Lower Body B
  7. Sunday: off

If Lower Body A was missed…

  1. Monday: Upper Body A
  2. Tuesday: missed
  3. Wednesday: Lower Body A
  4. Thursday: off
  5. Friday: Upper Body B
  6. Saturday: Lower Body B
  7. Sunday: off

If Upper Body A was missed…

  1. Monday: missed
  2. Tuesday: Upper Body A
  3. Wednesday: Lower Body A
  4. Thursday: off
  5. Friday: Upper Body B
  6. Saturday: Lower Body B
  7. Sunday: off

As long as your life/schedule is flexible enough to occasionally move workouts around like this and train on one or two of your rest days, this is usually the best first option to try when a workout is missed.

This is also the first option I use with my 1-on-1 coaching clients. It’s actually something I give clients the ability to do themselves right inside my coaching app.

What happens is, I design a client’s workout program for them and schedule those workouts into the app on the days of the week I know are most convenient for their daily life.

(Want me to do this for you too? Check out my 1-on-1 coaching.)

But, if a client knows in advance they have to miss a workout, or if something came up that day and they just didn’t have time for it, they can easily reschedule that workout just like in the examples above.

It works quite well.

Now, what if your schedule isn’t flexible enough for moving workouts around like this?

Or, what if the workout split you’re using has issues with recovery and/or overlap when you make up missed workouts this way?

In that case, one of the next options may suit you better…

2. Make It Up On Your Next Scheduled Workout Day

Let’s stick with the same 4-day upper/lower split example from before…

  1. Monday: Upper Body A
  2. Tuesday: Lower Body A
  3. Wednesday: off
  4. Thursday: Upper Body B
  5. Friday: Lower Body B
  6. Saturday: off
  7. Sunday: off

Now let’s say you miss Upper Body A.

With this option, you’d do it on Tuesday, and then shift every other workout over one spot. So you’d now end up with this…

  1. Monday: missed
  2. Tuesday: Upper Body A
  3. Wednesday: off
  4. Thursday: Lower Body A
  5. Friday: Upper Body B
  6. Saturday: off
  7. Sunday: off

Next week…

  1. Monday: Lower Body B
  2. Tuesday: Upper Body A
  3. Wednesday: off
  4. Thursday: Lower Body A
  5. Friday: Upper Body B
  6. Saturday: off
  7. Sunday: off

And the next weeks remain like that.

With this option, you avoid running into any issues with recovery/overlap, and the missed workout gets done without having to work out on any of the rest days you don’t typically work out on.

But wait, what’s that you say?

Doesn’t this change the original split to something different?

In some ways, yes. But not by much.

It’s still a 4-day upper/lower split. It’s still the same number of workouts per week and the same number of rest days per week. The days you work out on and the days you don’t are also still exactly the same.

It’s mostly just that the order of your workouts, while still the same as it always was, starts at a slightly different point in the week than it originally did.

Of course, the next time you miss a workout, everything would shift over by one spot again.

So if option #1 wasn’t doable for you, this second option may very well be.

Then again, it’s possible you may run into some recovery/overlap issues when using this option with certain other splits.

In that case, consider option #1, or maybe option #3 below…

3. Just Miss It And Move On With Your Life

If you’re someone who rarely misses a workout, nothing bad is going to happen if you occasionally miss one.

So if option #1 and #2 don’t work for you, you can allow yourself to just miss the workout and then move on with your life.

As long as you get back on track with your next scheduled workout, you’ll be fine.

That is, as long as this doesn’t happen too often.

Then there’s a problem.

When using this option with my coaching clients, I take into account their consistency over the weeks/months/years I’ve been working with them, and whether I think they’re missing workouts too often and hurting their results.

Most of the time, this isn’t the case.

It’s just one rare missed workout, so if option #1 or #2 doesn’t work for them (or you), I let them know it’s okay to just miss that workout.

I also like to remind them that it’s only one workout, so there’s no need to worry about losing muscle or gaining fat. There’s also no need to feel guilty or beat themselves up or consider it a “fail” (it’s not). 

And then I make sure they’re back on track with their next scheduled workout and remain consistent after that. That’s the key.

4. Fix The Underlying Cause Of The Missed Workouts

Now what if it’s not just one occasional workout being missed?

What if workouts are being missed too often?

That changes everything.

Because now it’s no longer a question of “what should I do when I miss a workout?” or “how do I make up a missed workout?”

Now it’s a question of “why am I missing workouts, and what can I adjust to fix this?”

For example, when someone I’m working with starts missing workouts, and their reasons are the usual ones (busy with work, family, school, life), the most common adjustment is making their workout schedule more convenient for them.

This might mean changing a 5-day workout to a 4-day workout. Or a 4-day workout to a 3-day workout. Or sometimes even a 3-day workout to a 2-day workout.

Other times it could mean changing the days themselves. Maybe working out on the weekend was ideal initially, but not anymore. Or maybe weekdays were the best option at one point, but now weekends would suit them better.

In these cases, I adjust their workout program to be more convenient for them without sacrificing the effectiveness. 

In fact, it usually ends up being more effective now, because they’re no longer missing workouts.

So if you find yourself in the position of missing workouts often, no amount of trying to make them up is going to help you. You’ll always be behind.

You need to figure out the underlying reason for why you’re missing them and make adjustments to solve that instead.

(Need help with that? Check out my 1-on-1 coaching and I’ll take care of this for you.)

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