#197 – SRA Revisited: Exploring the Fitness Fatigue Model


Coach Matt and Scott explore the fitness fatigue model on today’s show. They have discussed the SRA model at length on the show — go check out episode #144: Rethinking SRA and Post-Novice Programming — and one thing is clear: to continue getting stronger, stress has to go up. We’ve got plenty of templates and models to organize programming in such a way to make this happen for the intermediate lifter, but as the lifter advances there is a practical hurdle to overcome, the management of fatigue.


In 1995 former Soviet Vladimir Zatsiorsky published Science and Practice of Strength Training, in which he outlined the “two-factor” theory now known as the fitness fatigue model. The idea is that fitness improves following a stressful workout — in SRA terms, a workout sufficiently stressful to disrupt homeostasis — but it also produces fatigue, which transiently reduces performance. Therefore, it may not appear that a lifter is getting stronger, as fatigue builds up from workout to workout. Yet we know that the strength athlete is getting stronger, because we observe a “peaking” effect when we reduce the stressfulness of the workouts and allow the lifter to realize the fitness (strength) he has accumulated to that point. This is commonly done in preparation for powerlifting meets, and anyone who has peaked for a meet has experienced that even one to two weeks out from the meet, you feel tired and beat up. By the day of the meet, however, you are as strong as you’ve ever been during that training cycle. At least, that’s the goal!


The SRA model fits pretty cleanly into this model during the early novice phase of training. There is a clear stressor workout, recovery from and adaptation to the workout within 48-72 hrs, then another overload event occurs. And so on. As the lifter advances, and the SRA cycle gets stretched out over a longer period of time, things get a little blurry. Over longer cycles of training, fatigue accumulates from workout to workout, and if not carefully managed, can hinder the lifter’s ability to complete the workouts toward the end of the cycle, which are necessary to produce the desired strength adaptations. That’s why advanced training programs incorporate periodic deload weeks, to give the lifter a break from the fatigue.


At the end of the day, the fitness fatigue model doesn’t solve any mysteries, but it is a handy model for thinking about intermediate and advanced programming. The more advanced a lifter becomes, the more he walks a knife’s edge of stress, recovery, fatigue, adaptation and fitness.


Got a question for Matt and Scott? Email us at questions@barbell-logic.com and we’ll answer your question on an upcoming Saturday Q&A!



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