Autoregulating the Texas Method Part 2: Fatigue Management

This is the second article in a series on Autoregulating the Texas Method.
Click Here for Part 1: The Basics
Click Here for Part 3: Template and Exercise Selection
Click Here for Part 4: Periodization and Final Thoughts

In Part 1 of this series I presented a basic program in which I applied Autoregulatory tools on top of the Texas Method. The fatigue protocol I specified was rather simple. However, if we’re going to adequately describe the Texas Method using the RTS model we will need to use a little more finesse when we talk about the fatigue protocols. After all, the Texas Method works via the intimate interplay between fitness and fatigue.

The Two-Factor Fitness/Fatigue Model

simple1
Source: Science and Practice of Strength Training 2nd Edition

The two-factor training theory roughly states that there are two products resulting from training, a positive, fitness product, and a negative, fatigue product. These products are transient and their summation determines an athletes performance.¹ The two-factor model is useful in explaining the body’s response to training. I specifically bring up this model because it’s crucial to understand that to utilize their newly developed strength the athlete must first dissipate some of the fatigue developed.

Developing the Fatigue Protocol

The Texas Method works on a weekly time-scale. Monday’s workout builds strength and hypertrophy while also accumulating significant fatigue. By Friday, the fatigue should be mostly dissipated allowing the athlete to set a new PR. Therefore, in determining the fatigue protocol we need to have the athlete do enough work on monday such that it produces strength gains without accumulating too much fatigue so that by the time Friday rolls around they can’t perform.

The Reactive Training Systems, developed by Mike Tuchscherer, specifies the following fatigue protocols:

Stress Fatigue Definition
Low 1-3% Ample recovery between weeks
Medium 4-6% Complete recovery between weeks
High 6-9% Incomplete recovery between weeks

This protocol wasn’t really designed to specify fatigue intra-week but they can still be useful if we keep in mind their limitations. They also assume 6 exercises per pattern (upper/lower), however, I think they’re still useful if we’re talking about half that. In Part 1 I gave the fatigue protocol of 4-6% for each day. Clearly this doesn’t fulfill the requirements of this program. What we really want is to have higher fatigue towards the beginning of the week and lower fatigue towards the end. We still need to keep in mind the amount of volume and cannot decrease this too drastically. With these goals in mind we can come up with the following fatigue prescriptions:

Monday Wednesday Friday
6-9% 1-3% 4-6%

Explanation and Practical Considerations

Now that we have our fatigue prescriptions how do we apply them? The following are my recommendations to achieve the desired level of fatigue:

Volume Day

Repeat from 8 to ~9.5. Then Drop 3% and repeat until 9.

Development Day²

Pyramid up to topset (@7, @8, @9) then drop 3% and repeat until 9.

Intensity Day

Pyramid up to topset (@7, @8, @9) then drop 5% and repeat until 9.

Volume Day is where we’ll accumulate the most fatigue. We’ll use repeats here to be true to the original Texas Method. We’ll also use some dropsets to get to the level of fatigue we’re looking for. Development Day will introduce some slight fatigue but not enough to increase it beyond what we can dissipate within the week. This will allow us to garner some more volume and keep frequency high. Intensity Day is of course PR day. Hopefully the fatigue has dissipated enough for us to peak. We’ll also use this day to do some more volume to continue progress on into the next week.

Stay tuned for the next installment of the series where I’ll discuss my thoughts on the overall Template.

References:

1. Zatsiorsky, Vladimir M. “Basic Concepts of Training Theory.” Science and Practice of Strength Training. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 1995. 12-13. Print.

Notes:

2. You’ll notice I’m calling Wednesday “Development Day”. I want to get away from the notion of Recovery Day and all of its implied unimportance. It is important and we can use it to our advantage to work on our weak areas. But more on this in another part of this series.

How to find your projected topset using RPE

One of the most asked questions around the RTS forums is how do I determine my topset if I’m using RPE? It’s true that when we use RPE we’re autoregulating so we don’t know 100% what weights we’ll be hitting but we can extrapolate our topset from last week’s performance so that we’ll at least have a plan going into the workout.

RPE Chart
Source: http://reactivetrainingsystems.com

Let’s use a hypothetical situation as an example. Last week Joe squatted 500×5 @9. This week he’s slated to work up to a triple @9. This is what Joe should do to find his projected topset:

  1. Find x5 @9 on his RPE Chart¹. According to that chart, x5 @9 correlates to 77%
  2. Divide his topset by that percentage: 500/.77 = 650. This is his e1RM from last week.
  3. Find this week’s prescription on the RPE Chart. x3 @9 = 85%.
  4. Multiply last week’s e1RM by this percentage: 650*.85 = 550. His projected topset will be 550×3 @9

So Joe’s projected topset will be 550×3 @9. But how does he know if he’ll be able to hit that topset? This is supposed to be autoregulated! What Joe should do is two work-up sets at -10% and -5% from his projected topset². These sets will allow him to “calibrate” his topset for the day. So it’ll look similar to this:

495×3 @7
520×3 @8
550×3 @9

Using these calibration sets, by the time he does 520×3 he should know whether or not 550×3 @9 is in the cards for that day. Maybe 520×3 is more like an 8.5. He can subtract some weight from the topset. Or maybe 520×3 is a 9. He can stop there for the day. Maybe he’s having a really good day and 520×3 is more like a 7.5 and he should aim for 560 or 565.

This approach works really well to hone in on your topset. It also adds some extra volume that you might not have otherwise done. It’s up to you to decide whether or not you should try and hit the projected topset or to add weight to it. Keep in mind the initial projected topset should be considered your “maintenance” weight as it’s calculated off of last week’s e1RM, ie. your e1RM won’t change if you only hit the projected topset.

Now, if you’re new to an RPE based program and don’t have date with which to extrapolate, I’d suggest you work up in a similar way with moderate jumps until you hit your prescribed RPE.

Notes:

  1. For best results you should customize your RPE Chart

  2. I picked this up from Mike T.

RPE: An abstraction of Intensity

Autoregulation has seemingly taken the powerlifting world by storm. A quick look at any random lifter on instagram or youtube and you’re likely to see a reference to RPE or the ubiquitous @ syntax. RPE is the one tool which enables an autoregulatory overlay onto most powerlifting programs. This in and of itself is extremely useful. I think one of its biggest advantages over percentages, though, is its ability to abstract intensity.

When we talk about RPE in the sense of intensity and more specifically prescribe an RPE it’s important to note that you can’t separate RPE from a rep range. Without specified reps, RPE is just a scale. However, together RPE and reps correlate with an intensity. And like all good abstractions it removes the necessity for a certain foreknowledge and/or assumptions.

One of my favorite examples of the utility of the RPE abstraction is when prescribing intensity for new exercises. You’ll often run into lifters on forums or reddit commenting on an article about an exercise variation. One of the first questions they ask is naturally, “how heavy should I go?” Normally they’re answered by some sort of experienced lifter who’ll give an off-the-cuff percentage, “take 20% off your 1RM Squat and start there.” This is certainly a noble attempt by the experienced lifter but prescribing a percentage requires certain assumptions to be fulfilled:

  • The trainee has tested their 1RM at some point in their training career
  • The trainee has tested their 1RM somewhat recently
  • That the prescribed percentage will be appropriate for this trainee

RPE separates the notion of intensity from its underlying implementation. It allows you to prescribe an intensity without knowing a lot about the individual. So rather than say, “Do sets of 5 at 80%” you can say “work up and do sets of 5 across @7.” By using RPE you don’t need to take into account the trainees current level of experience, their 1RM or even their level of fatigue on the given day. The only thing they require is a half-decent ability to estimate RPE¹.

Notes:

  1. I realize that this might not always be realistic