T Nation

How Much Neurological Fatigue to Accept in a Strength-Building Program?

I’m new to trying to build strength and am wondering how much neurological fatigue to accept in a program. If it helps, I’m a 2B with 1RMs in the low- to mid-intermdiate range.

I’ve been ramping up to my 3RM and 5RM in the Big 4 on a three-day a week program (ABC, DAB, CDA, BCD) and then taking a deload week. By the fourth week, what was my 5RM in week one is now my 3RM. After the deload week, though, I can demonstrate more strength than the previous cycle. So, all good there.

Here are my questions. In terms of neurological profiling and non-competitive lifting, when is it better to focus on demonstrating strength vs. building strength? Or is it just a matter of rotating between both types of training over the long run?

Thanks for any help.

Type 2B can’t do alot of neurological work and heavy strenght work ! so if your able to progress with this approach 3x a week and enought of rest day i suggest you to continue like that !

Thanks, bigmax. Yeah, I knew 2Bs can’t handle the heavy stuff for long, which is why I thought sticking to a 5RM would stave off the worst of the fatigue. Guess I was wrong!

I just don’t know whether the amount of fatigue I’m experiencing is an expected and acceptable cost of lifting heavy or whether it’s detrimental in the long run.

I especially want to know because I’ve been surprised how much I’ve enjoyed the (relatively) low rep work and want to keep going with it.

I would say that if you keep progressing well then… But there are ways to enjoy low heavy rep that can be less draining like for instance strength skill (8 x 3 at a lower weight)

That’s kind of what I was thinking, too, aldebaran. I’m happy to have some low quality workouts if it’s just a part of the process. Just want to know whether it has to happen in order to increase strength or if it actually limits increases. This is new territory for me since I’ve always done higher rep stuff.

And using strength-skill is a good point. And, actually, the program I’m using (this one) ramps with one lift (eg. squats) and then has strength-skill with a different lift (eg. bench). Really like it.

Wrote this in another thread, might be relevent.

Not every workout need to (or should) be all-out. Everytime you goup to your limit (especially with low reps) ona big compound lift the stress on the nervous system is signficiant. This can lead to several issues, it can get really complex really fast but I’ll try to make it simple:

  1. The more force you have to produce the more you “amp up” the nervous system.
  2. Amping up the nervous system (called excitation) is done mostly by dopamine and adrenaline (glutamate can also contribute).
  3. Going to the limit also increases nervous system excitation.
  4. The more complex a lift is, the more it amps the nervous system up.

From these first 4 points it is easy to see that going heavy, to your limit, on big lifts will cause a HUGE nervous system excitation.

Let’s move on…

  1. When you finish your workout, your nervous system stays excited for a while. How long depends on the content of the workout (how heavy, how intense, the lifts used, volume, emotional arousal, etc.)
  2. when excitation is maintained it means you keep producing adrenaline or that adrenaline stays connected to the adrenergic receptors.
  3. Adrenaline is made from dopamine. The more adrenaline your produce, the more you risk depleting dopamine.
  4. The adrenergic receptors are like the NOS in a car: they are not meant to stay activated for long. If they stay activated for too long they very easily get desensitized and respond less and less to adrenaline.

9 Symptoms of dopamine depletion: lack fo motivation/drive, lethargy, negative mindset, harder time getting in the zone, anhedonia (lack of pleasure), loss of competitiveness, decrease in libido, drop in discipline.

  1. Symptoms of adrenergic desensitization: lack of motivation, lower self-esteem, feeling weaker, depressive state, mood swings, laziness, procrastination, softer muscle tone, hard time getting in the zone, decrease in force production.

As you can seeif you reach a point where either your dopamine is depleted (or low) or your adrenergic receptors become desensitized, your performance and well-being will suffer greatly.

  1. If your nervous system stays amped up for a long time after the workout you drastically increase therisk of either desensitization or dopamine depletion occuring. Those who have the brain chemistry to easily calm their nervous system down after an intense session will be able to lift very heavy daily without any problem. Those who have lower levels of Gaba and/or serotonine will have a harder time calming the brain down, meaning that if they lift heavy/all-out it will take a lot more out of them.
  2. When we talk about “burning the CNS” what we really reffer to is either dopamine depletion or adrenergic receptor desensitization. Normally with the former you will have the desire to eat “crap/pleasure food” and in the later you will actually have a drop in appetite.
  3. The more stress you have in your life, the more your nervous system will be impacted by those grueling sessions because you already keep your nervous system amped up throughout the day to face the stress.
  4. Another issue is that when you keep your nervous system “excited”, what we call the “sympathetic system”, your body keeps pumping out cortisol. Of course cortisol can have a negative impact on recovery (by reducing glycogen storage and making it harder to be in a positive nitrogen balance), muscle growth (by increasing muscle breakdown, increasing myostatin levels and decreasing nutrients uptake by the muscles) and, if it is chronic it can make it harder to lose fat (by reducing the conversion of T4 into T3, decreasing metabolic rate).

Not everybody can ramp uo to a 1,2, 3 or 5RM every day… some can’t do it more than once a week. Some shouldn’t do it at all. Strength-skill work(submaximal lifting with a weight that still provides maximum fiber recruitment, like 5 x 3 @ 85%) can be a good approach to keep working on improving strength. Maybe you will only be able to have 1 "max effort’ session a week but 2-3 strength-skill workouts and 1 “minor/bodybuilding” sessions. But that would still provide better long term results than constantly playing with fire when it comes to nervous system readiness.

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Thanks, CT. Yes, that’s helpful. Looks like getting so fatigued isn’t necessary.

If strength is the primary goal on three days a week, would you recommend something like your Hepburn Layers system? Or something hitting each lift each workout using a daily undulating periodization model?

At three days a week, that would be more like it. Or do it the way I train athletes:

DAY 1 -Whole body eccentric emphasis
DAY 2 - Whole body isometric emphasis
DAY 3 - Whole body concentric emphasis

(this is detailed in my book Theory and Application of Modern Strength and Power Methods)

That’s great, CT. That really helps. I’ll track down a copy of your book to learn about the method you laid out.

For the undulating periodization model, does this look reasonable:

Heavy: 1x3, 5x1 @ 87.5% OR 1x5, 3x3 @ 82.5% (squat)
Mod: 8-10x3 for speed @ 60-70% (bench press)
Light: 3-4x8-12 @ 70-75% (deadlift or RDL)
Pump work for back, biceps, triceps (2x15-20)