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.

Autoregulating the Texas Method Part 1: The Basics

This is the first article in a series on Autoregulating the Texas Method.
Click Here for Part 2: Fatigue Management
Click Here for Part 3: Template and Exercise Selection
Click Here for Part 4: Periodization and Final Thoughts

The Texas Method is a popular program for intermediate trainees. The typical setup involves a 5×5 volume day on monday and a heavy set of 5 on Friday. There are a multitude of modifications that can and are made to this program. Many are detailed in Justin Lascek’s ebooks as well as the latest edition of Practical Programming by Mark Rippetoe and Andy Baker. There isn’t much, however, on how to adapt this program for autoregulation. While I’ve written about this in the past I thought I’d give my current thoughts on how to approach this.

Why Autoregulate?

Autoregulation adapts the programming based on the level of fatigue (among other factors) the lifter has on a given day. One of the biggest difficulties in utilizing the TM, in my opinion, is how to progress the volume day. Many lifters develop a natural sense of when to increase the volume vs the intensity weight. Others find it more difficult to know when to change it.

Using autoregulation, specifically the RTS-style developed by Mike Tuchscherer, we can adapt the Texas Method and listen to our body systematically rather than increasing based on rules of thumb.

Example Template

Monday

Squat w/ Belt x5 @8, repeat 4-6%
Bench (touch and go) x5 @8, repeat 4-6%
2″ Deficit Deadlifts x5 @8, repeat 4-6%

Wednesday

2ct Pause Squat x4 @9 4-6%
2ct Pause Bench x4 @9 4-6%

Friday

Squat w/ Belt x3 @7 x3 @8 x3 @9 4-6%
Competition Bench x3 @7 x3 @8 x3 @9 4-6%
Deadlift w/ Belt x3 @7 x3 @8 x3 @9 4-6%

Commentary

For those unfamiliar with notation and terminology used above I would recommend you check out the resources on the Reactive Training Systems website. On Monday we’re using repeats to get some volume at lower intensity. This will be similar to the training effect already utilized by the Texas Method. I utilized 4-6% fatigue (Medium) as a baseline but it’s conceivable that some weeks you should push the repeat set up to a 10. For those unadapted to deadlifting multiple times per week you could start out with working up to a topset @9 with no dropset or you could sub in some kind of row.

Wednesday involves some pause work although there’s no reason you couldn’t include other variations. Friday has you work up in triples with the intent of doing a pyramid of @7, @8, and @9. Those first two sets will tell you whether you should go for a PR or not. You should err on this side of going for that PR. However, if the first two sets are more like @8 and @9 you should stop there.

Who would benefit from this?

The limitation of this program is obviously it was developed for a generic lifter. It will need to be customized for each individuals scenario. Conceivably, someone who is already using the TM with success and wants to begin autoregulating their training could use something like this to do so.

Disclaimer

I have not tested this variant on anyone. It is my personal opinion on how to work autoregulation into the TM. If you wish to try it I’d be happy to hear from you. If you would like to discuss how you might adapt this to your current state of development I’d be happy to discuss it with you.

Training – 08/20/2013 – Volume

Squat
45×5
135×5
225×3
315×3@7 (add belt)
335×3@7
355×3@7
365×3@8
365×3@8
365×3@8
365×3@9
330×3@8 (Drop 10%)
330×3@9

Bench Press
45×5
135×3
165×3
195×3@7 (add wraps)
215×3@8
215×3@8
215×3@8
215×3@8
215×3@9
195×3@8 (Drop 10%)
195×3@8

Decided to try wearing weightlifting shoes after consistently wearing wrestling shoes for the past couple months. I’ve decided to go back to weightlifting shoes for several reasons. With the flat shoes I felt like I often got too far back and lost some power out of the hole. With the heeled shoes I felt like I could get a lot more upright and get a better bounce. I do have to worry about my knees getting forward but otherwise it felt like a win. On Bench I felt the shoes actually allowed me to get a tighter arch. I’ll still wear the flat shoes for pulling but for everything else it’ll be the weightlifting.

My 8-9 weight on squats were heavier this week for whatever reason. I’m still second guessing a lot of my RPE calls but I’m pretty sure I’m getting them close. Dropped 10% on the volume sets today to get in some more after the main work set. Hopefully with that and the weightlifting shoes this week’s intensity day will go better than last week.

Training – 08/18/2013 – Intensity

Squat
45×5
135×3
225×3
315×3 (add belt)
365×1@8
410×2@10 (Failed on 3rd)
395×2@10 (Drop 3%)

Bench Press
45×5
135×3
165x3x2
195×3@7 (add belt + wraps)
215×2@7
235×4@10 (4RM, paused, PR!)
225×4@9 (Drop 3%)
225×4@10

Sumo Deadlift
135×3
225×3
315×2 (add belt)
405×1@8
435×1@9
435×1@10
415×1@10 (Drop 5%)

It was real hot today. First heavy squat set didn’t go so well. The bar wanted to roll up my back and I had to fight it back the whole way up. I did some work earlier that I think fatigued my legs and caused me to only get two. Oh well, I’ll get it next week.

Bench went real well. Got a new paused 4RM @ 10. Did two drop sets for some volume.

My plan for deadlift was to do a bunch of singles @ 9 but I didn’t end up getting as many as I wanted thanks to the before-mentioned fatigue.

Training – 08/15/2013 – Volume

Squat
45×5
135×3
225×3
315×3@7 (add Belt)
335×3@7
355×3@8
355×3@8
355×3@8
355×3@9

Bench Press
45×3
135×3
165×3
195×3@7 (add wraps)
205×3@7
215×3@8
215×3@8
215×3@8
215×3@8
215×3@8
215×3@8 (More like 8.5)
215×3@8
215×4@10

First session doing RTS-style autoregulation. Kept rest times under 5 mins. It’s important to keep rest times in check when identifying RPEs. If you rest too long it will throw them off.

Squats caused some low-back fatigue. There’s probably still fatigue built up from my sheiko run which isn’t entirely dissipated. My RPEs were right on for Squats.

On Bench I started to wonder if I might have miss-labeled the first 8 set. I took the last set to failure to test my RPE-identifying ability. I was pretty much dead on. The 3rd rep was a 9. I hit a fourth rep and then failed on the fifth.

Much less hellish than Sheiko was. In fact, I actually felt really good at the end of this session rather than absolutely murdered like I did on Sheiko. I really want to trust my self on RPE identification for Bench. Looking at the log that seems like the proper amount of volume I’ll need on Bench. Maybe muh body just knows?

Texas Method + RTS: An Experiment

What’s next?

Since I’ve hit the end of my little Sheiko stint I’ve started to wonder what’s next. I haven’t done a ton of programs but I do know that the Texas Method worked real well for me in the past. The biggest problem I encountered with it was there wasn’t any autoregulation going on. Mondays were “beat down your body” and Fridays were “PR at all costs”. Autoregulation requires you to “listen to your body”. Problem is I’m still a relative newb and it’s hard to do that.

Enter the Reactive Training Systems

I’ve been following Mike Tuchscherer over at Reactive Training Systems for a while now and have come to respect him and his approach to training. He uses RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) as a way to subjectively decide a lifts relative difficulty. Using this scale from 1-10 you can adapt the weight on the bar to your current level of fatigue and ability. Mike describes RTS as the scope which can fit on most rifles (programs). This got me thinking: if I can adapt RTS to the Texas Method maybe I can better autoregulate my volume.

The Template

Volume Recovery Intensity
5s or triples @ 8-9 5s @ 7-8 (Front Squats: triples @ 8-9) 5s, triples, doubles, singles, 5, 3, 2, 1 @ 9-10

Volume day is the most important in terms of autoregulation. What this means is that I will work up to a weight with 5s or triples such that at the end of the set it feels like I have 2 to 3 more reps left (RPE of 8). Once I hit this weight I will continue to do 5s or triples until at the end of the set I feel like I have only 1 rep left in the tank (RPE of 9). This should autoregulate the volume and keep it in check such that I don’t over do it on Volume Days.

Intensity day will be largely the same. I will try to push the weight up each week. What will change, however, is how many reps I do based on the RPE. If I hit three reps @ 9 I’ll do another. Or if I only hit 2 @ 10 I’ll stop.

This is the basic template of my experiment. This is all subject to change based on my findings. Stay tuned for updates!

Thoughts on the Texas Method Split Template

My old routine that I was on since the end of my Starting Strength days, continued into Texas Method, was laid out thusly:

Monday: Volume Squats, Volume Bench/Press
Tuesday: Accessory Day, RDLs, Chin-ups
Wednesday: Light Squat, Medium Press/Light Bench, curls etc.
Friday: Intensity Squats, Intensity Bench/Press, Deadlifts

I’ve now spent two weeks on a Texas Method Split Template. If you’re not familiar with the Split template you can read more about it in the Texas Method: Advanced by Justin Lascek (buy HERE, highly recommended). It looks like this:

Monday: Upper Volume, Bench/Press, accessory work
Tuesday: Lower Volume, Squat, accessory work

Thursday: Upper Intensity: Bench/Press
Friday: Lower Intensity, Squat and Deadlift

My program based on this template has looked like this:

Monday: Press 3×5, Bench 3×5, Pendlay Row 3×8
Tuesday: Back Squat 3×5, Front Squat 3×3, RDL 3×5

Thursday: Press 1×3, Bench 1×3, Curlz etc.
Friday: Back Squat 1×3, Deadlift 1×3

A few notes on my program: I’m currently attempting to increase both Press and Bench each week. This is an experiment of mine and is not really something Justin recommends for everyone. I also added Front Squats on Monday because I have a theory that I’m quad weak.

I’m really enjoying the Split template. It allows me to get in and out of the gym in an hour to an hour and a half (coupled with the decrease in volume) vs the old routine. The volume is the most time intensive part of the Texas Method and splitting this up between days really decreases the amount of gym time required.

Another aspect of the split routine is that it allows for more accessory work. After volume work is completed on monday and tuesday there’s room for several more exercises which I’ve filled with Front Squats, Pendlay Rows, and RDLs. The Accessory day in the old Template was setup to accommodate these kinds of exercises. The problem I had with it was that I was less motivated to drag my ass into the gym on Tuesdays since I wasn’t directly contributing to progress on the big lifts. Now everyday is either Volume/Intensity for a lift so I have no issues getting in to work.

The only disadvantage I can see to running this template is that you have less wiggle room as far as recovery is concerned. On the old template you had 3 days to recover from Volume day (includes the light day). Now on the Split template you only have 2. So if you have one night of really bad sleep/day of crappy eating it can have a bigger effect on the week’s progress vs when you might have had one extra day to fix things (See the update below for a clarification).

To review:

Pros:

– Less time spent at the gym
– More time for accessory work
– More motivating since every day contributes to a lift’s progress

Cons:

– Less time to recover (if you train on Friday instead of Saturday)

I’ll be staying on the split template for the foreseeable future.

Update:

Regarding the only disadvantage being recovery time, Justin chimed in,

Hey dude,

Note that Chris/Mike routinely do their Intensity Squat/DL day on Saturday. so they train Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. This gives them the extra day of rest (and the same as the old template).

–Justin

I personally can’t train on Saturday’s since I lift at work and getting a membership at a second gym on Saturday’s would be too expensive. But if you can, absolutely do this.