Fatigue vs. Volume We have to differentiate between fatigue and volume. They’re highly correlated, but they’re not synonymous. The higher the level of volume tolerance an individual possesses, the less fatigue a given amount of volume is going to cause. Because “fatigue” is the far better proxy for the size of the dose of stress we’ve given the body, we’re more interested in how much fatigue a workout has caused rather than how much volume it contains. We need to begin to think of volume as the tool that we use to create fatigue rather than thinking of it as what literally drives progress. Optimal Volume is Day to Day Readiness is also largely important when it comes to fatigue considerations. That is, even for the exact same individual, different levels of volume will cause different levels of fatigue on certain days. Let’s say that, hypothetically, you only got two hours of sleep last night, you had to fight traffic for two hours on the way home from work, and, when you finally get home, you find that your dog got sick and threw up all over the living room. Do you think that you’re going to be able to handle the same amount of volume as usual? Even if you can, do you think it will cause the same amount of fatigue? No, of course it won’t. Stress is cumulative. Identify the Problem, Then Fix It Because of these problems, preplanned, prewritten programs based on percentages are highly flawed. What we truly need is a way to regulate our weights and volume on any given training session to ensure they both address individual differences and match a particular individual’slevel of readiness that day. Let’s take a look at how we can do that.
RPE: Rate of Perceived Exertion Introducing RPE While RPE was first mentioned in a lifting context in Supertraining, it was really Mike Tuchscherer’s Reactive Training Systems that first popularized the concept amongst powerlifters. RPE stands for rate of perceived exertion. RPE is a subjective indicator that gives us a way to communicate the difficulty of a set. Reactive Training Systems RPE Chart: Photo: Autoregulating Intensity with RPE What is the significance of RPE you ask? RPE allows us to ensure that we are working in the proper intensity zone during any given workout. Rather than prescribe someone a fixed percentage, that may or may not correlate to their readiness that day, we can prescribe reps and RPE.
Just for example, we know that a five rep max is about 85%. Instead of telling the lifter to do 85% of their theoretical one rep max, we just tell them to “work up” to [email protected] Depending on their readiness that day, the weight is going to be different. This is autoregulation; your weight selection is determined by how you’re doing on THAT particular day. Instead of you fitting to the program, the program fits to you.