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Compound Lift Workouts: Effects of Fatigue on Performance

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  • Compound Lift Workouts: Effects of Fatigue on Performance

    After performing heavy (near-max) sets of squats, benchpresses, and deadlifts, I move on to unweighted chins, some dumbbell work, and cleans with very light weight to practice form.

    During the chinup sets I've noticed that my heart rate is skyrocketing by the 7th or eighth rep, and I am forced to stop the set due to feeling generally fatigued; no gas in the tank, slightly nauseous. I can perform at least 14-16 reps if I do chin-ups on their own w/o prior lifting.

    Is this fatigue a symptom of glycogen deficiency? Or are there other mechanisms of action - it feels like my heart rate is skrocketing way too fast for the amount of work I'm doing. With chin-ups I generally stop due to muscle failure along with burning pain in the arms...not exhaustion.

    This happens the lightweight cleans and isolation exercises as well -not just chins - after the powerlifts.

    I'd like to understand the exact mechanism of action this type of fatigue occurs through - why my heartrate skyrockets and I become less functionally efficient later in the workout.

    Links, science-based answers appreciated.

  • #2
    The non-science based answer is; you are tired.

    A lot of people do squats, bench, deadlift and then call it a day (see Starting Strength & StrongLifts programs which advise doing nothing after these workouts). If you are doing near-max compounds you should be spent, it means you are doing it right.

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    • #3
      Last night I did one set of pushups (29 to momentary muscle failure; what can I say, I'm still building). Then one set of pullups, assisted, 12 reps to failure. Then one set of squats, 30 pounds each hand dumbell, 26 reps to failure. It took five minutes for heart rate to come down! Finally plank on elbows for about 1:15, side planks for maybe 3040 seconds, and I was totally spent.

      Since I'm going for muscle failure, I sort of like the dumbell squats; seems a lot safer than barbell. Perhaps a Smith machine would be a good alternative. Any comments?

      Somewhere in the forum is a great article about doing weights to momentary muscle failure once or twice a week. Try here:
      http://www.marksdailyapple.com/forum/thread79428.html

      I'm not trying to bodybuild, just build strength and bones up. So far I'm liking the program although my wife complained about all the grunting as I approached muscle failure! It is really not very comfortable.

      I don't think it is surprising in the least that you are wasted by the workout you are doing. You have burned a lot of energy and have to circulate a lot of blood to clear out lactate, feed those muscles. I don't think it is glycogen depletion, because glycogen is stored locally in muscles and cannot be released into circulation. I've read that weightlifting has good cardiovascular stimulation and suspect this is general fatigue.

      Also I wonder if you might consider doing your form work BEFORE fatiguing yourself. A lot of form work is neural, and if your muscles are really tired it is hard to do form work precisely. Your brain remembers what you did and if you did it wrong due to being tired, it remembers it...wrong!
      10/2/12: 169 lbs, 37"waist
      Now: low 150's, 33" waist
      Blog: http://paleopathologist.com/

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      • #4
        Originally posted by goneprimal View Post
        After performing heavy (near-max) sets of squats, benchpresses, and deadlifts, I move on to unweighted chins, some dumbbell work, and cleans with very light weight to practice form.

        During the chinup sets I've noticed that my heart rate is skyrocketing by the 7th or eighth rep, and I am forced to stop the set due to feeling generally fatigued; no gas in the tank, slightly nauseous. I can perform at least 14-16 reps if I do chin-ups on their own w/o prior lifting.

        Is this fatigue a symptom of glycogen deficiency? Or are there other mechanisms of action - it feels like my heart rate is skrocketing way too fast for the amount of work I'm doing. With chin-ups I generally stop due to muscle failure along with burning pain in the arms...not exhaustion.

        This happens the lightweight cleans and isolation exercises as well -not just chins - after the powerlifts.

        I'd like to understand the exact mechanism of action this type of fatigue occurs through - why my heartrate skyrockets and I become less functionally efficient later in the workout.

        Links, science-based answers appreciated.
        Yeah, sounds like glycogen depletion/lactic acid build up. Not sure about the heart rate stuff, but somebody might have an idea. Are you measuring it, or does it just seem like it's more elevated than it should be?

        Here's some sciencey looking words for you: Lactate, Glycogen and Fatigue - Metabolomics by In Vivo NMR - Shulman - Wiley Online Library
        The Champagne of Beards

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        • #5
          I will sometimes do my sprints at lunch after lifting heavy in the hours before work. I can do fine on my sprints if I wait that long. The other day I did my sprints right after my lifting. This time around I did 3 sets of 25 with lower weights on my squats rather than the heavy weight kind. I could only get 6 sprints in and the last one was so slow it was barely more than a jog.

          For the person who asked about Smith machine, don't use the Smith machine. If you have safety bars on the squat, you can fail gracefully. Just make sure they are high enough you can crawl out from under the barbell. I've gotten rather embarrassingly stuck a few times.
          Female, 5'3", 50, Max squat: 202.5lbs. Max deadlift: 225 x 3.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by jmsmall View Post
            Since I'm going for muscle failure, I sort of like the dumbell squats; seems a lot safer than barbell. Perhaps a Smith machine would be a good alternative. Any comments?

            Please don't use the Smith machine as a "good alternative" to squats. What's wrong with just plain old squats? There's a reason every legit lifting program out there tells you do do them.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Mr. Anthony View Post
              Please don't use the Smith machine as a "good alternative" to squats.
              +1. Pretty please.
              The Champagne of Beards

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              • #8
                Originally posted by RichMahogany View Post
                Yeah, sounds like glycogen depletion/lactic acid build up. Not sure about the heart rate stuff, but somebody might have an idea. Are you measuring it, or does it just seem like it's more elevated than it should be?

                Here's some sciencey looking words for you: Lactate, Glycogen and Fatigue - Metabolomics by In Vivo NMR - Shulman - Wiley Online Library
                I don't have a monitor, but I trust my assessment, relative to my heartrate when I do chins or cleans on their own.

                I don't have access to the academic journals anymore, looks like a good read though. I'll seek to gain access.

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                • #9
                  I think the term "overtraining" is often overused... but oh my. Max effort lifting for Squat, Bench AND Deadlift followed by accessory work? The powerlifts (vs Olympic weightlifting and isolation) really tax the Central Nervous System, so coming from someone who does very extensive snatch/clean and jerk sessions, I would sacrifice a little bit of intensity for high volume for your individual workouts, or vice versa. Not that I assume this is an everyday thing, but meh. As far as why it's happening, I'd imagine that (again) it's due to short-term CNS fatigue. There's a chance it's mild hypoglycemia, but if you're fat-adapted it shouldn't affect you too much. I think subconsciously a lot of people have this weird idea that it's just muscle that moves muscle, when your nervous system is really something that should be considered anytime you have an issue with fatigue.

                  I just now am starting to feel like I'm becoming slower in my everyday life as well as in my workouts (I can't get fast underneath that bar) because I've been lifting far more days than not and giving my Nervous System no rest, so here comes a deload week.

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                  • #10
                    Your system is definitely going to be fatigued after squats, deadlifts, and bench press in the same session.

                    The situation is pretty simple. If you are doing near max effort for three of the most taxing lifts, the rest of your training is going to suffer. Depending on your training experience, I would recommend only doing a close to "max effort" day on one of the lifts, while maybe doing some light form work on the other lifts.

                    Or, you could just move on to an upper/lower or push/pull/legs split. Performing near max effort on the three powerlifts in one session is a recipe for disaster.
                    My nutrition/fitness/critical thinking blog:

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                    • #11
                      Yeah your spent. Try saying it in sciency words won't change it. CNS is trashed, and its actually more like creatine phosphate depletion (at least a large part is) than glycogen depletion when your doing those max effort lifts. Basically you lose your top gear fuel. Anyhow, either split up those demanding lifts or nix the supplemental stuff at the end. I guess the other option is to start supplementing creatine.... I use to do it when I competed as a wrestler.
                      Last edited by Neckhammer; 03-05-2013, 04:32 PM.

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                      • #12
                        Thanks for the replies! I'm reading up on how the CNS works.

                        To clarify, I'm seeking information and understanding about how and why glycogen depletion/ creatine phosphate depletion/ CNS fatigue occurs and, accordingly, what I can do to mitigate the resulting effects to sustain these types of workouts.

                        My rationale is:

                        1) Doing the 3 powerlifts creates an anabolic hormone response, which theoretically at least will translate into more effective results for the proceding accessory lifts;

                        2) Following a split routine, in my situation, seems like a waste of my time: it may be marginally more optimal for strength gains, but I have other priorities in life and find that one workout every 5 days fits my schedule well.

                        3) My CNS should, over time, become more resilient if it gets exposed to some stress.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by goneprimal View Post
                          3) My CNS should, over time, become more resilient if it gets exposed to some stress.
                          Don't forget that it is during the recovery phase that the resilience and strength are built. You can't just stress yourself all the time to failure and expect results.
                          Female, 5'3", 50, Max squat: 202.5lbs. Max deadlift: 225 x 3.

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                          • #14
                            i'm going to approach this from a different angle... do you train on an empty stomach? are you a low-carber? had you experienced these symptoms before switching to a paleo/primal diet?

                            the reason i ask is because for the first year of eating paleo (i'm over 3 years in now) i was pretty much a low-carber (not sure why). i never struggled with my heavy lifts, but after about 6 months, when it came time for sprinting, any type of met-con, or any type of HIT exercises, i felt gassed, my heart raced and i felt like i was going to puke. needless to say my workouts suffered. so i experimented with some carb cycling methods until i found what worked for me. and i haven't experienced this type of thing since then. i also know that i do experience similar symptoms if i attempt to do too much volume of work on an empty stomach. weakness, heart races, nausea. so now i usually have a meal about an hour or so before my workouts. or at least a small snack 20 minutes before. it seems to do the trick for me

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by not on the rug View Post
                              i'm going to approach this from a different angle... do you train on an empty stomach? are you a low-carber? had you experienced these symptoms before switching to a paleo/primal diet?

                              the reason i ask is because for the first year of eating paleo (i'm over 3 years in now) i was pretty much a low-carber (not sure why). i never struggled with my heavy lifts, but after about 6 months, when it came time for sprinting, any type of met-con, or any type of HIT exercises, i felt gassed, my heart raced and i felt like i was going to puke. needless to say my workouts suffered. so i experimented with some carb cycling methods until i found what worked for me. and i haven't experienced this type of thing since then. i also know that i do experience similar symptoms if i attempt to do too much volume of work on an empty stomach. weakness, heart races, nausea. so now i usually have a meal about an hour or so before my workouts. or at least a small snack 20 minutes before. it seems to do the trick for me
                              After reading about the benefits of fasted workouts I've been playing around with them. I generally don't like anything in my stomach when I'm doing squats or deadlifts. Thanks for your n=1, next session I'll get some carbs in me and see what happens.

                              I do a lot of mountain biking, and definitely have more energy after an hour than most of my riding buddies who don't eat paleo/ aren't fat adapted. I love it - never seem to bonk.
                              Last edited by goneprimal; 03-06-2013, 05:46 PM.

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