Okay boys and girls, it’s time for the 3rd installment of nerdy lifter talk! Today’s topic is all about fatigue management, which everyone seems to think they’re too tough for today. Just as an aside, the fitness industry tends to swing between the two extremes of recovery, which means that most people are either over recovered or under recovered all most all of the time. For example, take a squat everyday program vs. an HIT program. The squat everyday program, if followed to a T, requires a max on squats every day followed by whatever accessory work your poor CNS can handle. An HIT program in its truest form is one working set per exercise with maximal intensity for very few workouts. Both of these programs yield solid results in the short term, but neither are great for long term gains because of under recovery or over recovery. Right now we are swinging towards the overreaching side of things, which is why okay if it’s purposeful and for short periods of time.
Okay so what is fatigue in relation to training? Fatigue is a, “Disruption of homeostasis from overload, which disrupts fuel stores, the nervous system, chemical messengers and tissue structure.” Okay great, we have a super vague description that describes exactly jack shit. Let’s dive into what each of these systems are.
- Fuel stores: You have three primary systems of fuel stores in your body, phosphagens, glucose/glycogen and fat. Anything below ten reps comes from your ATP stores via phosphagen and glycolysis. Rather than go into a deep explanation about why glycolysis is the limiting factor, just believe me when I say it recovers slower and adds up over multiple sessions. It takes a couple days to recover your fuel stores.
- Nervous System: Once again I’m going to skip over the top of this because its not important enough to describe the minor details that CNS and PNS fatigue. Just know that training induces neural fatigue through the use of volume and intensity. If you want to recover from training you need to reduce these two variables through something like a deload week. It takes a couple days to a week for CNS recovery.
- Chemical Messengers (hormones): A basic breakdown of this topic goes something like this. A certain amount of volume allows for anabolic reactions within the body (build muscle and recovery), and too much volume causes catabolic reactions (muscle loss and fatigue). This is why running a marathon is shitty for muscle… The main anabolic switch is called mTOR and the catabolic switch is called AMPk, all you need to know is that you do not, repeat do not want to fuck up your hormonal system. Don’t be an idiot because if you manage to overtrain hormonal systems expect weeks to months in recovery time. I warned you, so don’t bitch when you mess it up. On a side note this is pretty hard to do.
- Tissue Structure: As you train your bones, joints and ligaments take a beating and get minor tears, which aren’t noticeable. However, if you don’t deload over months or years there is a chance that some of these tears/breaks connect and create a cluster fuck of problems. In other words take some time off from the iron every now and then.
How can we intelligently manage fatigue you ask? Patience, my young meat head, patience.
- MRV- Find your MRV and you will be a happy camper. There are different MRVs for different training blocks though, so your volume for hypertrophy will be higher than peaking, duh. Let’s use our brains here and also understand that deloading will not be near your MRV.
- Training variables that alter fatigue:
- Lift type- barbells cause more damage than DB or machines.
- Proximity to career peak- if you’re elite 80% will tire you out more than if you’re new.
- Body size- the bigger you are the longer recovery takes.
- Strength- I think you understand this one.
- Fiber type- this will be an indicator of you MRV. The more fast twitch fibers you have the less volume you need, the more slow twitch the higher volume you need.
- Gender- Females recover faster than men for many reasons listed above. They tend to be smaller, weaker and have a very evenly distributed fiber type. This means that your girl will be able to do more reps at 80% than you, sorry bro, she’s cooler than you are🤗.
- Technique-if your technique blows then you won’t recover.
3. How to combat fatigue:
- Rest days
- Light sessions (form work, think dynamic effort)
- Deloading- one week at lower volume and intensity.
- Active rest- two weeks off. Normally after a competition, volume and intensity is very low
4. Should you autoregulate? I’ll be brief and say be smart but not lazy. If you feel like ass then don’t train, if you’re being a wimp then go train. Okay enough said.
Okay sports fans, that’s all I have on recovery. If you have questions about programming or recovery shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to say hi that’s fine too!
Until Next Time,
Adopt the way of the sloth
Israetel, M., & Smith, C. (n.d.). Scientific Principles of Strength Training.