Are you sore, tired and/or unmotivated to train far too often? Well, today is your lucky day because this article is solely focused on fatigue and how to manage it. Many of you who are reading this are probably competitive Powerlifters or thinking about doing your first meet. I’m also assuming that most of you have full-time jobs and/or other responsibilities that can really affect your ability to train and recover properly due to stress and fatigue.
It's important to look at stress and fatigue as one big picture, rather than divide training stress and life stress into two separate categories thinking your body doesn't know the difference between the stress of a high volume Squat workout and being dumped by your significant other- stress is stress. Since Powerlifting is not a high-paid, professional sport we must learn to balance training, life and the ability to recover so that we can all progress consistently. In the following article, I will be talking about fatigue and ways to manage it through programming to get the most out of your training and continually smash PRs. Enjoy!
Managing fatigue is done through programming, adherence to all aspects of recovery, as well as external factors (such as non-training related stress). One variable that can absolutely make or break your training progress is fatigue and how well you manage it.
Fatigue is a great thing and it contributes to adaptation, as well as progression (stress and fatigue accumulation leads to adaptation through "Supercompensation" that occurs after a Deload). But at the same time, it can be a detriment to your training and a killer of progress. In this article, you will learn the different ways to manage fatigue in both the short term, as well as the long term so you are able to progress at a consistent pace and work to prevent serious injury.
The idea of a Planned Deload Week is often overlooked by the same crew that believes "#NoDaysOff" is a logical approach to long term progression and injury prevention. If you ask any of the high-level coaches or athletes in Powerlifting today they will all say this; Deloads are essential and they must be planned out accordingly.
A well thought out strength program will have a Planned Deload Week every 4-6 weeks- depending on the age, gender and phase in which the athlete is currently in. With that being said the general rule of thumb for female lifters is 4-5 weeks of hard, overload training followed by 1 Planned Deload Week.
In an attempt to keep this article as short and 'exciting' as possible, I have linked an article by Dr. Mike Israetel on fatigue. The article contains both similar and differing viewpoints on fatigue, as well as how to manage it. Here is an excerpt from the article:
"Of course no article on fatigue would be complete without a list of common myths with brief refutations, so here we go:
Myth 1: “I don’t need to deload.”
Refutation: If you never need to deload, YOU’RE NOT TRAINING HARD ENOUGH. Do 2 days a week of 10 sets of 5, heavy in the squat and let me know how not deloading works out for you. (The author of this article is not responsible for hospital visits and gym-related dismemberment.)"
"Fatigue Explained" by Dr. Mike Israetel
EXTENDED PERIODS OF LOW TRAINING STRESS
This is an idea that I first heard from Dr. Mike Israetel of Renaissance Periodization and then again from Greg Nuckols of Stronger by Science. It's a simple, yet effective way to dissipate fatigue from prolonged periods of training, repair any "bumps and bruises" accumulated from the yearly training plan and also to alleviate the mental stress of constant overload training.
The philosophy behind it is this; a hard 16-20 week training cycle should be followed by an extended period of low training stress with the purpose of recovering from hard training, re-sensitizing to volume, as well as "recharging" mentally. By taking 1-2 weeks off from training after a meet prep or long training cycle it allows you to refocus and become "hungry" again for hard, overload based training. The idea of going training cycle to training cycle, meet to meet without an extended period of rest or low-stress training afterward is incredibly ineffective and potentially detrimental to the long term plan for progression.
If you want to implement extended periods of low training stress into your yearly plan, this is how it may look:
20-Week Meet Prep Cycle
Weeks 1-10: Hypertrophy
Weeks 11-15: General Strength
Weeks 16-20: Peak, Taper, Meet
Weeks 21-22: Low Training Stress; no more than 2 workouts per week.
There are plenty of different ways to program and organize training, so don't feel like this is how you MUST do it. This is just an example of how I personally organize my own athletes training throughout the year. The big takeaway point is this; long periods of hard training should be followed up by a period of low training stress and it would be especially beneficial to plan this immediately following a meet.
Lastly, Rest Days are the easiest, yet one of the more effective ways to manage fatigue during a training cycle. By simply implementing 1-3 rest days per week (depending upon phase, gender, age, experience, etc) you are able to avoid unplanned overreaching and fatigue-induced injuries that can put a total halt to progress during a training cycle or meet prep.
Training and program structure varies from coach to coach, but in my own personal opinion, the best times for a planned rest day are; 1. Before a Squat Day, 2. After a Deadlift Day. This is because the Squat and Deadlift are the most taxing on the body, especially if you're doing higher volume work such as a Hypertrophy Block or a General Strength Block. When I train and program for my athletes this the typical weekly layout that they follow:
Although the weekly structure may change depending upon the specific lifter or phase of training, this is the layout that is used 95% of the time. This allows the lifter to be "fresh" before every Squat Day, as well as dissipate a bit of fatigue after every Deadlift Day, while allowing for "mental breaks" throughout the course of a training week- which is an under-appreciated aspect of rest days.
If you're interested in learning more about recovery, fatigue management and organizing training click the link below to an article titled, "Everything You Need to Know About Recovering". The article touches on points that I didn't cover, while also going more in-depth into different aspects of recovery and the science behind it.
"Everything You Need To Know About Recovering" by Dr. Mike Israetel
As always if you have any questions or comments leave them in the comments section on Facebook. In this particular article, it would be great to hear from individuals about their personal weight cutting experience, both good and bad. Cutting weight is the more misunderstood aspect of the sport and it's important to show the newer lifters the proper ways to do it.
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