Fatigue in strength training is a fine line to walk. If you push too hard you risk injury, decreased performance, and your training is less sustainable over time. On the other hand, if you stay just below the line of overdoing it you will maximize your gains and keep up your performance in competition and in the gym.
If you don't believe that fatigue is a real factor in performance, perform max-effort Squats or Deadlifts a few times in one week and see how you feel. Chances are you will feel beat up, tired and slow. The key is to learn how to walk that fine line and stay just under it. Here are a few strategies to use in season or or when you're feeling particularly beat up during your training cycle.
1. Pause Reps
Pause reps are a great way to control the amount of weight you can use on an exercise. For example, a Back Squat with a 3-second pause at the bottom will be much lighter than a regular Back Squat with no pause. The pause requires you to maintain good position and decreases the "springy" effects of the muscle when you quickly reverse the motion. Pause reps can be used on many different lifts like Squats, Presses and even Deadlifts.
2. Concentric Lifts Only
The concentric portion of the lift is when the actual contraction of muscle fibers happens—for example, the "up" portion of the Squat. The eccentric portion is the opposite; it's the active, lengthening of the muscle fibers as in the "down" portion of the Squat.
Resisted eccentric contractions are a great way to build size and strength, but they also cause the most muscle soreness. If you are feeling particularly beat up or are an in-season athlete, concentric-only lifts can be a great way to control the amount of fatigue and soreness you experience from a lift. An example of a concentric-only exercise is to perform a Deadlift and drop the bar from the top.
3. Unilateral Exercises versus Bilateral Exercises
Unilateral exercises are movements that are performed on only one side of the body at a time—for example, a Rear Foot-Elevated Squat or Bulgarian Split Squat. These are unilateral exercises because one leg is doing the majority of the work. These movements can lower the amount of overall fatigue and wear and tear on the body, because less weight is required to initiate a training effect. Generally, this applies to lower-body exercises but not upper-body lifts.
4. Avoid Brand New Exercises
Remember the feeling the day after you lifted for the first time? You were probably incredibly sore. Whenever you do a new movement pattern with a significant load, you will probably experience this. If you are in season or you're feeling beat up, it's best to avoid new exercises and stick with the ones you have been doing. This will help fight the dreaded next-day soreness.
Try these tips and check out the video above for examples to help minimize fatigue and improve your performance on the field and in the gym. For daily tips and content, head over to my Instagram or YouTube channel.
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