Intensity – Auto-regulation and Fatigue management

Within the Athletic Development Program at Integrated Bodies once our members have progressed passed the primary levels of the program through bodyweight mastery, we then externally load our exercises. It is this external load, the resistance or the weight chosen for the given exercise that most commonly defines the intensity of the exercise prescription. Within the world of strength training, the prescription of intensity can come in different forms, and there are some overruling principles and philosophies we have hold close and use within the ADP.

Potentially the most common way to prescribe the weight used in strength training is the percent repetition maximum (%RM) method. This strategy requires the coach to understand the maximum amount of weight the individual athlete can lift for the specific given exercise, commonly referred to as the individuals 1RM. This is a great tool to use with very experienced lifters, and athletes who compete solely at lifting like powerlifters and Olympic weightlifters. For the populations that fall outside these realms, particularly youth athletes, this method may not be ideal. Some reasons for this is that our true 1RM could change day to day, or even hourly as our bodies balance stress, recovery, and adaptation impacting on the reliability of this prescriptions. This method also leads us to plan for loading and de-loading intensity periods in strength programs; something that can lead to missed opportunities and overloading fatigue within the individuals. In instances where %RM is planned, an athlete who is being told to go heavy because that is what his program says, who is already neutrally stressed will drive his body deeper into this negative state – in the same instance a player who is ready to rumble is told to go light because this is what is in his program, misses an opportunity to show us what they’ve really got!

To make our intensity prescriptions the most ideal for the athletic population and help educate our members on how to select the right weight for each exercise we stand by one simple rule, and that is to ‘leave two reps left in the tank’. We instruct our members and athletes to work up to a weight on their final set that they believe would only allow for two more reps to be performed. This is our athletes working up to a subjective +/- 80% of intensity. In this way the human body can self-manage or autoregulate the intensity of the exercise. If for what ever reason the body is fatigued the weight/intensity of the exercise within our session will be reduced, an option lead by the athlete to help recover from this stress. Where as if the body is recovered, fresh, and adapted the intensity and weight of the exercise will be increased to provide a new stimulus for strength development, and maybe a new personal best! This strategy allows our coaches to better physically manage our athletes no matter where the individual is up to in their sporting season, and pay respects to the idea that athletic development is here to compliment their sporting performances and aspirations, not take centre stage.