How to manage fatigue

Home / Blog / How to manage fatigue

I don’t really have a lot to say about my last week of training as last week was my last week of my training block and so was a deload week. I used less weight than I normally would and did less total sets in order to let my body recover as I go into my final 4 weeks of training leading up to Junior Nationals. My weight loss is also going well and I am down to 85.7kg so about half a kilogram off where I need to be in 3 weeks time and so I have added some extra calories to my diet in order to recover better from my sessions and make sure I do not lose more weight than I need to.

Because of my previous week of training was a deload week, I thought it would be relevant to speak on the topic of fatigue management and discuss why you need to take light sessions if you want to train at your best. I will first discuss how you should structure your training blocks; considerations to be made when organising hard training and deload weeks and what your deload week should look like. I should also say, before I start, that these concepts are aimed at those doing hard resistance training but the same principles can be applied to other types of training.

In order to make progress in the gym, whether it be in strength, muscle size or cardiovascular fitness, you must train hard. There is unfortunately no way around it. As you train hard, however, you inevitably accumulate fatigue which will eventually lead to a decrease in performance and the inability to progress. This is why deload weeks must be included when looking to design the best training programme for you. You should look to deload every 3-7 weeks. Any time period shorter than this and you are probably not doing enough hard training to make any real progress or your training is too difficult and you should look to decrease the volume of work you are doing so you can train hard for longer. If you get to 7 weeks and you feel like you do not need to deload then your training is probably not hard enough and you should look to increase your volume of work. If you want maximum results, then you should be training around your Maximum Recoverable Volume (MRV). Mike Israetel popularised this concept and defines it as “the most training that an athlete can effectively recover from”. By recover we mean by the next session we should be able to perform at the same strength level as the previous one. For some people, they will be able to train for 3 weeks at just below their MRV and for others they may be able to last 7 weeks but if you are training for 12 weeks straight without any sort of deload then you are almost certainly not training anywhere near your MRV and should therefore work harder if you want the best results, it is as simple as that.

As I mentioned earlier, there are numerous factors affecting how frequently you will need to deload as well as how long you will need to deload for. The size of an athlete will have a large effect. Larger athletes will accumulate more fatigue than smaller athletes and so will need more frequent deloads and longer deloads compared to smaller lifters. The same goes for more experienced lifters. They will need to deload more frequently and for longer. Muscle fibre type will also play a role. If you are more fast twitch dominant or you are more of a powerful athlete then you will need more frequent, longer deloads when compared to a more slow twitch dominant, endurance athlete. When looking at weight training, the biggest factor will be the total weight lifted. Stronger lifters will need more frequent and longer deloads compared to weaker lifters. To give some examples; a 50kg female who has very little experience in weight training may be able to train hard for 7 weeks at a time as they will not be accumulating much fatigue and may only need 3-4 days to dissipate this fatigue. A 120kg male who is an elite level powerlifter, however, may only be able to train hard for 3 weeks before taking a deload and the deload would likely last a whole week. Deload frequency is highly individualised and is something you will need to experiment with over time to find what works best for you but if your deloads are less frequent than once every 7 weeks or more frequent than once every 3 weeks then you need to adjust your training.

Now that I have explained why and when to implement deloads, I will explain how to implement them and the specifics. Your training frequency should not be affected. This means that if you are training your legs twice per week then you should do the same during your deload. Your intensity, meaning the weight that you are lifting, should remain high to avoid a drastic loss in fitness or skill. A 10% to 20% reduction in intensity is usually about right depending on the exercise and strength level of the athlete. Training volume is the largest contributor to fatigue and therefore needs the largest reduction. A 30% to 40% reduction works well for most people but a reduction of up to 70% could be implemented in certain cases. This can be done by either reducing the number of sets per session or reps per set of a mixture of the two. For example, if you would normally do 5 sets of 10 reps on squats then some options could be to do 3 sets of 10, 5 sets of 6 or 4 sets of 8.

To give a brief overview, if you want maximum results then you must train hard but with this comes fatigue. To dissipate this fatigue and get back to hard training then deloads of 3-7 days should be implemented every 3-7 weeks. During this time, frequency should remain the same, intensity should be reduced by 10-20% and volume reduced by 30-40%.

Related Posts

Leave a Comment