The science of strength and conditioning is incredibly interesting. Well, at least it is to me. Early on in my lifting career, I realized that the majority of people do not share my fascination for lifting information. Most people simply want to look better, perform better, and/or feel better. They don't care about the processes occurring while they train, they just want to lift well and achieve their goals.
|The science of, well, this.|
One of the simplified explanations that I commonly provide has to do with the relationship between performance, fitness, and fatigue. Whenever I run into a lifter or an athlete who is struggling and seems a bit run down, this quick summary helps them to understand their situation.
Fitness, Fatigue, and Performance
Your ability to perform, whether you are in the gym or on the field of play, is determined by a host of factors. Two of the most important factors regarding your ability to perform are, put simply, fitness and fatigue.
Fitness encompasses the myriad of qualities (strength, speed, power, etc.) that make up an athlete's ability. Your fitness levels can be built up by implementing a well-designed and well-executed training program. Furthermore, the majority of fitness qualities are fairly easy to maintain and do not readily dissipate on short notice.
|Fitness, it's what you can do.|
As fatigue accumulates, your ability to display your fitness and perform well is hampered. Most people already understand this in the acute sense of fatigue; you might be strong enough to squat 315 pounds for a set of five, but fatigue prevents you from grinding out a sixth rep. Chronic fatigue, on the other hand, is not as widely understood and acknowledged. Chronic fatigue is fatigue that has built up over a period of time. It is fatigue that masks your current fitness levels as opposed to causing your ability to perform to deteriorate during a single session.
For example, let's say you can deadlift 405 pounds for a set of three. One day, you walk into the gym and start to work your way up towards a top set of three with 405 pounds. You get up to 365 pounds, and that weight feels strangely difficult. Then, you throw on 40 more pounds for your top set. You get set up and you try to lift the weight, but the bar doesn't budge. This frustrates you, because you lifted this weight for three reps just a week before, and you wonder why you got weaker in such a short period of time.
|"Ain't you supposed to get stronger when you lift heavy weights?"|
The takeaway from this summary is that you need to structure your training and manage your recovery intelligently if you want to perform well. High levels of fitness mean nothing if they are masked by high levels of fatigue. In the gym, you need to use your strength to build your strength, so being too tired to lift heavy leads to poor results. On the field, the best athletes may appear average if they are too tired to perform well. If performance deteriorates despite steady, well-executed training, then you may need to take a step back and get some rest to be at your best!
|Fatigue masks fitness, folks!|