"I'm going to bust my ass [and] come back strong," the frontrunner tells PEOPLE

By Dahvi Shira
Updated November 01, 2011 01:00 PM
Credit: Allen Berezovsky/FilmMagic

Despite J.R. Martinez’s consistent charm and fancy footwork on Dancing with the Stars, on Monday even the show’s frontrunner had an off night.

“We’re all going to have a bad week,” he told PEOPLE backstage after Monday night’s show. “If America pulls us through, I’m going to bust my ass this coming week and I’m going to come back strong.”

Coming off on the top half of the leader board despite a “substandard” performance according to judge Len Goodman, Martinez, 28, understands that not every week is going to win him glowing critical praise.

“It’s week seven,” he says. “I think every season when you get to this timeframe, you see everyone’s injuries and you start to see other things, but [these are the weeks] where champions are made, so let’s see who steps up and see who is able to enter the mental and physical pain and make it through.”

Instead of being discouraged by the criticism, Martinez says he’s only going to learn from his mistakes.

“It did kind of hurt in a way because of how much work you put in,” he said. “But, at the same time, it motivates me.”