The 3 “Feelings” Of Training
If you read through some of my stories yesterday, or have watched in particular my YouTube video on deloads, I’ve alluded to the general feelings of fatigue and preparation that lifters should be cognizant of. These 3 general feelings (for lack of a better term) I would classify as “lagging”, “prepared”, or “fatigued”, and I’ll get into more below on exactly what each one of those means. But first, I must clarify the precedent to how we determine these and can use them to help guide training.
First, we have to understand that the feeling of fatigue isn’t always bad. We’ve all had those sessions where we feel terrible, but strength ends up amazing. For the feeling of lagging or fatigue, strength progression takes precedent. If week to week we are seeing an upward trend in performance, this concept does not apply in the same manner, but is more so for those times where we are feeling stagnant or are seeing performance downturns. The fact is on certain days the layout of your weekly structure may purposefully have days where you will feel lagging or fatigued. This is important to note as well, but the goal isn’t to feel great every day, but rather have a specific day on each lift throughout the week and block that you use as your primary day for progression.
Second, using these feelings to guide programming decisions should be separate from inconsistent recovery variables. If you come into the gym after sleeping 3 hours, not eating sufficient calories, and dehydrated, of course you aren’t going to feel the best. If this is a consistent issue, programming considerations need to be made to account for that. And if you aren’t putting the proper emphasis into your recovery and being consistent with that, tracking other trends to optimize your program is going to be extremely difficult.
So getting into these 3 “feelings”, let me clarify that I am simplifying this concept. But in reality we could look at this as a spectrum, as typically we aren’t going to be perfectly defined by one of these.
1.) Lagging: This feeling is usually defined by a lifter as feeling like they aren’t as explosive, as well as the one most people reading probably least understand and are aware of. They feel recovered, but the bar just feels heavy, they don’t feel like they have the same pop, and all of this kind of can be summed up by saying they feel detrained. Many times you may have even expected a good session due to feeling recovered, but once you got under the bar you just didn’t feel like the strength was there. This feeling would classify you as actually being overly recovered. I talk about this in my YouTube video on deloading, as if you deload too much, many times you will come back the following week and see a noticeable downturn in strength due to just feeling detrained. This can also happen within regular training though. Maybe the secondary squat day is programmed to allow adequate recovery, but you find that it is actually too much. And then when you come back around to the primary day you feel like you are “lagging”, hence being under-stimulated by that secondary day to continue to carry the adaptations over into the next session.
2.) Prepared: This is what we aim for. You feel good, you are strong, and the session goes great. It doesn’t mean you don’t carry any fatigue or that maybe you didn’t have a little extra recovery. It just means within the spectrum, you’ve been appropriately dosed to stimulate adaptations, allow adequate recover, and see strength progression. This is probably the easiest one to notice, but also maybe the hardest one to maintain. Our goal is to formulate a training structure that can elicit this feeling in a predictable and consistent manner. And as I alluded to, usually that’s on 1 given day within the training week on each lift. We have a primary day that everything else is programmed around to optimize performance on that given day each week, and then most likely even peak that day on a given week within the training block.
3.) Fatigued: Most lifters understand the concept and feeling of fatigue, but the issue is the misconception of why they are fatigued. In a perfect world, we could eat, sleep, and train, and therefore any fatigue we feel we can immediately adjust based on programming considerations. But probably no one reading this is a professional powerlifter, so therefore fatigue is this multi-variable spectrum of so many different aspects of our life feeding into this one bucket. Since perfection will be about impossible, our goal is to find consistency to the best of our ability. Within that, we can then account for a consistent level of recovery and then understand how fatigue from training is playing its role. In reality, even optimal training will elicit fatigue that eventually builds up past our recovery ability. Which is why fatigue isn’t always bad. The main issue is when we see high levels of fatigue correlating with performance downturns. If we see a continued increase week after week in fatigue, with no day of the week feeling particularly strong and performance either maintaining or diminishing, and recovery is consistent, we can presume an athlete is doing more than they can tolerate. Much like lagging is being under-stimulated, fatigued is an over-stimulation past our tolerable limits.