Bottom line up front: measuring fatigue helps you make useful training choices, but will not help you to decide whether to go for a PR or not.

Fatigue isn’t linked tightly to performance. I believe this is the point that people are trying to make when they say, “how you feel is a lie” — which I’ve talked against before.

How you feel may not be a lie, but how you feel (fatigue in some sense) is not predictive of performance either. This is the oft cited example of feeling like crap but still having a PR session. Even so, monitoring your fatigue levels is still extremely useful.

You improve your results not by shoving in more and more training work but by recovering from that work. That’s why you are weaker at the end of a workout but then get stronger after you rest. It’s not the training workload that matters but the workload that you can recover from. In other words, it’s the training throughput.

You may have some days where you are fatigued and you still perform well. Everybody does because unless you are extremely fatigued, fatigue isn’t the main predictor of your performance.

Where this becomes more difficult to see at first is with things like TRAC or HRV. Those systems will measure fatigue. You may show up as being fatigued, but still perform well. That doesn’t mean they read you wrong – they were measuring something different. If the gas gauge in your car reads empty, but you still have a PR day, you don’t get mad at the gas gauge. It’s not trying to measure PR performances.

But in the case of TRAC or HRV, we are measuring fatigue. We know that we need to recover from training to improve. We also know that recovery can be variable, which is why we want to measure it. Most things after that are a coaching judgment call. Should you reduce season volume? Take a deload week? Add recovery modalities? Those are decisions you might make after you learned that you weren’t recovering as well as you could. Similarly, if you are recovering great, but not progressing well, you know that increasing your workload is an option for you. At the same time, you may decide not to change anything and let things run their course for a while. The point is those are judgment calls you can make if you are monitoring fatigue and they are extremely useful in dialing in the training workload to the recovery ability of the athlete.

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About the Author:

About the Author
Mike Tuchscherer is the owner and head coach at RTS. He has been powerlifting since 2001 and since has traveled all over the world for competitions. In 2009, he was the first man from USA powerlifting to win a gold medal at the World Games – the highest possible achievement in powerlifting. He has coached over a dozen competitors at the world championships, a score of national champions, and multiple world record holders.