Let’s talk about fatigue management
written by Philip Stefanov | MAY 30, 2023
Whether you're an experienced lifter or just starting your training journey, you've probably felt a wave of exhaustion, that "I'm all out of energy" feeling, or just plain old tiredness that hits you in the middle of a workout or right after.
Now, a bit of fatigue is normal. We've all been there. But if you're feeling wiped out all the time or the tiredness doesn't seem to go away, it could mess up your training and long-term progress.
Enter: Fatigue Management
Here's the deal: fatigue management is about balancing how hard you train and how well you recover. It's the secret sauce for pushing your body to the edge without toppling.
Think about two buddies, Alex and Ben. Both are gym rats, but they have different approaches. Alex is dedicated, never missing a single day and pushing himself to the limits every time. Ben, though, is a bit more thoughtful about his training. He goes hard, sure, but he also mixes in lighter sessions and rest days.
Alex is always sore and his performance is going downhill. Ben, meanwhile, is making steady gains, barely gets sore, and feels great throughout the day. The secret sauce? You guessed it: fatigue management.
Alex has fallen into the trap of overtraining. He's pushing his body beyond its limits without giving it the necessary recovery time. Ben, the smart one, understands the importance of managing fatigue. He recognizes that recovery is just as crucial as the workouts. His body has the chance to repair and strengthen between sessions, leading to consistent gains.
So, think about Alex and Ben the next time you're mapping out your workout plan. Sure, push hard, but be smart – that's the essence of fatigue management.
4 Ways to Manage Your Fatigue For Long-Term Gains
1. Embrace Deload Weeks
First up, deload weeks. I hear you asking, "What on earth is a deload week?" Well, my friend, it's a week where you purposefully dial back on the intensity or volume of your workouts.
Consider it as hitting the 'pause' button on your typical gym hustle. Instead of hoisting your usual heavy weights, you might go lighter, do fewer sets, or mix things up with different exercises. The goal here is to give your body a much-needed break.
If Alex had been savvy enough to sprinkle in deload weeks, he might've avoided pushing himself to the edge and getting hurt. I bet Ben, being the careful planner he is, already schedules his deload weeks to keep his fatigue in check.
Let me tell you, taking a step back isn't a sign of weakness. In fact, it's a brilliant strategy that can propel you to bigger and better gains in the future. So, don't hesitate to schedule those deload weeks. Your body will thank you.
2. Manage Your Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE)
Our second fatigue management technique is controlling your RPE (rate of perceived exertion). This is basically how tough you think you're working during a workout. It's a personal, subjective measure, not a number spat out by a treadmill.
RPE is about being in tune with your body. Imagine you're lifting weights. On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is a walk in the park, and 10 is max effort, where do you think you're at? That's your RPE.
Let's say you're busting out squats. If you're aiming for an RPE of 7, you stop the set when you feel you could squeeze out three more reps. This strategy helps you push hard but not to the point of collapse.
Integrating RPE into your training routine can help you avoid overdoing it. It's about understanding when to push and when to ease off. By heeding your body's signals and adjusting your effort accordingly, you can continue to train hard while giving your body the rest it deserves.
3. Choose Your Exercises Wisely
Next up, be savvy about your exercise selection. Not all moves are created equal when it comes to fatigue.
Compound lifts, those moves that work multiple muscle groups at once, are fantastic for strength and muscle gains. But they're also energy-demanding and can leave you feeling exhausted.
On the other hand, isolation exercises (think bicep curls and tricep extensions) target just one muscle group, and assistance exercises (like goblet squats and leg presses) boost your performance on compound lifts and are less taxing on the body.
Now, how to use this in your training? It's all about finding balance. If you feel wiped out, switch out some heavy compound lifts for lighter isolation or assistance exercises.
For example, instead of the punishing barbell squats, you might opt for goblet squats or leg presses. You're still giving your muscles a workout, but without overtaxing your body.
4. Autoregulate Your Training Volume
Lastly, let's talk about autoregulating your training volume. In layman's terms, this means adjusting the number of sets and exercises you do based on how you're feeling on a particular day.
Feel like you could take on the world? Excellent. Maybe you can push a bit harder and add a few extra sets. Having one of those days where everything is just a bit off? No sweat. On those days, go a bit easy and focus more on proper form and muscle activation.
The reality is, our bodies aren't machines, and our daily readiness fluctuates. It's like riding a wave, with ups and downs. Your task is to navigate these fluctuations wisely.
Autoregulating your training volume allows you to work in harmony with your body. On great days, you can push a bit harder. On not-so-great days, you can prioritize recovery while still getting in a workout. It's all about that sweet spot between pushing yourself and honoring your body's need for rest.
The Bottom Line on Fatigue Management
Managing fatigue isn't rocket science but requires some thought.
Don't forget to incorporate deload weeks, listen to your body to manage your RPE, choose your exercises strategically, and be open to autoregulating your training volume.
I've been through this and take it from me: these strategies can make a monumental difference. The key is to train hard but also smart. The gym isn't going anywhere, so let's ensure we show up tomorrow in great shape. Stay strong, and keep pushing for those gains.
Thanks for sticking around. I'll catch you next week!
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