Powerlifting: Managing Fitness and Fatigue

In powerlifting the objective is to complete 9 heavy singles in Squat bench and deadlift. The heaviest one of each counts. Add those together and you get your total score.

“Fitness” in powerlifting can be thought of as your ability to perform those 9 lifts at your best on the day of competition. If you took a beginner with no experience lifting, they would not have the level of “fitness” for the sport. The perfectly programmed and compliant athlete will have a high level of “fitness” for the competition.

If you took an intermediate lifter with poor programming or compliance that went into the meet sore, tired, and overworked, they wouldn’t have great “fitness” because they would be too fatigued.

Somewhere in preparing to lift heavy weights, you’ll have to practice lifting heavy weights. To be as specific as possible for training you’d think you’d practice many 1 rep maxes frequently so you can get good at them. But the problem with that is, you can’t recover from that from that stress and your performance drastically declines.

The goal in programming with an athlete then is maintaining as much fitness as we can, preparedness for a competition, without letting the fatigue from training greatly impact their performance.

That’s why I say the the coach and client and the training is a “call and response” process. We execute the program, note our recovery and performance. A good program will have some degree of flexibility based on the response to training. The goal may be to slowly add stress to get someone stronger, but not so much that they get too fatigued.

That level of fatigue will absolutely happen, even in a smart program. That’s why it’s the client’s job to inform the coach how they are feeling, and the coaches job to notice the fatigue has accumulated and a new approach will be needed, at least temporarily to get them through the recovery.

If we time this right heading into a meet, it will lead to a recovered athlete, who had dumped off the fatigue and still maintains a high level of fitness. This moment is called “supercompensation” and when you are at your strongest.

In the graph below you can see if you just jump into a competition during the middle of a block you won’t be at your best. If you jump into a meet when you are still in the recovery stage with fatigue, you won’t perform as well.

  • Fatigue accumulates over time, and is not necessarily what you are doing the day it shows up
  • If the recovery time between workouts is getting longer, or you’re feeling more beat up more often it might be time to ease off, but keep training in ways that are easier to recover from (change the exercises, sets, reps, or weight)
  • Life stressors are hugely significant to your fatigue and recovery and working on those may be the biggest thing you can do to recover faster (career, relationships, sleep, nutrition, family)
  • If you know that fatigue is normal, and that the other side of recovery may just mean you’re going to PR, it doesn’t have to be a negative. Rather a part of the process of getting stronger.

    If you’re looking for a powerlifting coach in Eagan, Mn or virtually training, reach out to Mark today.
    We have a registered team Resistance Powerlifting with 12 active members and we’re looking for more!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s