So we all know what fatigue is right? But have you ever thought about how to make yourself RESISTANT to fatigue or what is Fatigue Resistance?
Truth is you probably haven’t because it’s no easy feat. First, let’s revisit the concept of fatigue.
Fatigue, fatigue limit, endurance limit, fatigue strength. There are many different names to describe the point at which our body fails, but if we follow the traditional definition of fatigue, it can be described as “lessened capacity for work and reduced efficiency of accomplishment, usually accompanied by a feeling of weariness and tiredness” (Oxford English Dictionary).
When we think of exercise and how we are training, it’s easy to understand the concept of muscles getting tired, our breathing getting heavier and our ability to perform repeated bouts of work reducing.
What we often do not think of, however, is our ability to tire through the requirements of everyday life.
If we take someone with a sedentary job such as office work, for example, the hip flexor muscles (iliopsoas, Rectus Femoris, Sartorius, Tensor Fasciae Latae, Pectineus, Adductor Longus, Adductor Brevis) are going to be working to keep your hip in flexion for an extended period of time.
If you are working at a computer, it’s also highly likely that you have some forward head tilt, which is causing the sternomastoid muscle to be under constant tension, possibly with some rounding of the shoulders. This causes consistent tension in the upper trapezius muscle.
Now, this lets ‘s think about this for a moment!…..
The average office worker sits for between 8-10 hours per day. Would you be able to squat consistently for 8-10 hours? How about holding a wall sit for a few hours?
There are very few people if any in the world that could hold a wall sit for that long. Why? Because the human body is not designed to be stationary, we are designed to be consistently moving in various positions and planes of motion.
So what is the result of this? Less than ideal posture, pain and an increased risk of injury.
Ever wondered why after a stressful day at work, or a long drive in the car you feel stiff, sore, tired and lethargic? Well, that is because your body is fatigued. Just like you can fatigue from exercise, you can also be fatigued from less than ideal posture, in fact sometimes even more so.
Now the good news is it’s not all bad; this can be alleviated with something called fatigue resistance training. It’s a simple concept really; the more resistant your muscles are to fatigue, the easier you will be able to maintain an ideal posture for longer, reduce pain and decrease the risk of injury.
Let’s look at the muscles for a second to understand the resistance to fatigue better. Some muscle fibers are more resistant than others. For example, slow twitch muscle fibers are more resistant to fatigue than fast twitch fibers. While some of your muscle fibers ability is determined by genetics, you can train its ability to resist fatigue.
One of the best ways to train against fatigue is to PROGRESSIVELY overload the muscle.
Type of Muscle Fibers
We have several types of muscle fibers, however, most fit into three categories:
- The Type I is the slow guys
- Type IIa is the fast guys
- Type IIb is the strong guys
The difference between muscle fibers are based on:
- How much stimulation they need for a contraction to occur
- What metabolic process they use (e.g., aerobic or with oxygen, or anaerobic/without oxygen)
- How many capillaries are supplying blood to the muscle fiber
- How many mitochondria (a part that produces energy) are in the fiber
The Slow Guys (Type I)
Type I fibers are the most fatigue resistant and are most commonly used for long duration muscular work. These are the fibers that are working to maintain your trunk while you are seated. So you don’t collapse forward, continue running past a few minutes or last until the end of a sporting match.
The Fast Guys (Type IIa)
Type IIa fibers are also highly fatigue resistant as they can produce force as well as maintain endurance during the presence of oxygen. These fibers allow you to intersperse quick bouts of the sprint to kick a soccer ball during a match, or score a try, or make a tackle and then continue running throughout a match. They also have a higher density of capillaries which is linked to the endurance capacity of the muscle.
The higher the endurance capacity =, the higher the resistance to fatigue. I.e., you will be able to perform for longer, without tiring or increasing the risk of injury.
The Strong Guys (Type IIb)
Type IIb fibers produce maximal strength force and power. They have a higher contribution of nerves that the other two muscle fibers types, and require very large stimulation in order to contract.
This means they require a very fast contraction (e.g. jump, leaping, bounding, skipping) or a heavy load (powerlifting). These fibers have a few low densities of capillaries and get their energy through anaerobic means ( no oxygen present) which means they fatigue very quickly.
So how do you create a program and train to become fatigue resistant?
Train through all three types of muscles fibers. To achieve optimal results, you need to be doing exercise, particularly resistance training with a combination of heavy, medium and light loads.
By heavy we mean lifting 85-100% of the maximum load you can lift (1-3 reps). You should only lift the weight up once with the correct technique before you begin to fail. A medium load comprises of typically 70-85%, and a light load of 50% of the maximum weight you can lift, or 10-20 repetitions.
Creating a program with a mixture of resistance training levels will help stimulate growth in the muscle fibers and increase their ability to withstand fatigue. This is particularly important for reducing injury, as fatigued muscles result in loading on vulnerable parts of the body.
To learn more about fatigue resistance you can listen to our podcast episode with Osteopathy Dr. Edward Clark here.
To learn more about the undulating training program, to have a custom-made program for you, click here to learn more about online training.