Maintaining Coordination when Fatigued

Over the years, I’ve used this blog to emphasize the importance of hand-eye coordination. As I’ve said before, there’s much more to athletic development than simply building strength or endurance. It’s equally important for an athlete to possess the coordination and skill necessary to apply their strength and endurance.

On a similar note, it is also important for athletes to maintain coordination when fatigued. Doing so is a skill that must be developed and practiced. For example, it’s one thing for a boxer to perform well in the first round, but how does he perform ten rounds into the fight? Does his technique break down, or can he mask fatigue by giving his opponent the impression that he’s still fresh? Often times it’s a champion’s ability to perform well when fatigued that separates him from the contenders.

Fatigued Practice

As for learning how to perform when fatigued, there’s obviously times when an athlete must push through exhaustion while practicing his sport. Speaking as a boxing coach, it’s almost guaranteed that a fighter will deal with some fatigue when sparring. Naturally, we don’t always want to be practicing skills when fatigued however. Doing so too often can lead to bad habits.

Fortunately, there are other options available. For instance, we can pre-fatigue the muscles with an exercise such as pushups before performing a coordinated action such as juggling. One such example can be seen below. Notice that the juggling style I choose involves a pushing motion. This style is much more difficult when performed immediately after a set of pushups.

Pull-up Based Example

Another combination that I’ve been working with lately is to begin with a short set of pull-ups before proceeding immediately into a brief round on the speed bag. In the video below, I begin with a set of 5 pull-ups before continuing to hit the bag. For this drill, I use 90 second rounds with 30 seconds of rest between rounds.

And while five pull-ups may not seem like much, it’s just enough to force extra concentration when hitting the speed bag. I also keep the round length brief (but intense) so I’m not going too long before performing another set of pull-ups. Switching back and forth between pull-ups and the speed bag make the latter much more difficult. It certainly requires extra focus to maintain a steady rhythm.

Application

The two drills above are just a few of countless options for challenging coordination while fatigued. You can get creative with a variety of combinations. I’m certainly not suggesting that you limit yourself to these drills. I’m also not suggesting that every workout needs to become one where you are challenging coordination while fatigued.

This type of work isn’t something that needs to be done during every set or training session. Instead, I recommend that it becomes something you keep in mind and practice on occasion. In some ways, I’d say that fatigued practice falls under the “less is more” philosophy. Too much can lead to frustration. This type of work is better done in small doses with a goal of gradual improvement over time. That’s the approach I’ve used and it is has been beneficial.

Final Thoughts

I’m assuming most readers who find this site are eager to improve their strength and endurance. That’s the goal of many athletes, and I have nothing against such goals. I simply urge you to not limit your training to those ambitions. As I’ve said before and I’ll say again, there’s more to training than getting bigger, faster, stronger, and more enduring.

Just about anyone from any walk of life can benefit from improved coordination. This is particularly true for competitive athletes. The physical and cognitive benefits are undeniable. And fortunately, you don’t need any fancy equipment or an exorbitant amount of time to make legitimate improvements. All that you need to do is commit to the task and not allow your frustrations to get the best of you.

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