3 things to consider tracking…

This article was written by personal trainer and fitness writer – Adam Willis

If I was to ask you “how much has your training progressed over the last 12 weeks”, could you give me an accurate answer providing training data to show me exactly what has improved, and by how much?

Don’t worry if you couldn’t, many people can’t, but you should be able to.

You’ve likely heard that you should be tracking your training [and have a progressive training programme while you’re at it]. You should, at the very least, be writing down your exercises, what sets and reps you performed and what weight you lifted.

Tracking your training is however just the beginning. Once tracked you then need to review the information so that you can see what areas progress is being made because without this important step how do you know…

  • what is working
  • what isn’t working
  • are the results you’re seeing the ones you want?
  • what needs doubling-down on next phase to enhance further progress
  • what needs removing or tweaking next phase to yield greater results

So, when it comes to your weight training session, what things should you be tracking and reviewing?

When it comes to tracking your lifting, what weight you lifted is “1A” when it comes to importance, however, as it’s the most tracked one I’m not going to focus on it in this article.

Here are 3 pieces of training information you should consider tracking when it comes to your weight training.

1] How many reps you can do at a certain weight:

This is “1B” when it comes to tracking your lifting. Often people will get caught up in trying to lift heavier weights, perhaps becoming frustrated at making slow progress, and miss that they’re making progress because they’re now lifting the same weight for more reps.

Example: Let’s say you programme calls for 3×6-10 squats. 

  • week 1 you lift 50kg for 10/8/6 reps
  • week 2 you lift 50kg for 10/8/7 reps
  • week 3 you lift 50kg for 10/9/7 reps 
  • week 4 you lift 50kg for 10/10/8 reps

Some people may see this and believe “they are stuck at 50kg” as the weight hasn’t increased in 4 weeks, however this is because they are solely focused on the weight they lifted. 

The reality is they aren’t stuck at all, they’ve been making progress week to week as they’ve lifted 50kg for more reps each week. 

Another reason to track this data is to see how far you’ve come across multiple training phases.

In phase 1, week 1, as above, you might squat 50kg for 10/8/6 reps, however in 16 weeks’ time you could find yourself squatting 50kg for 15/13/10 reps. The weight may not have changed for the lift, but your strength has, allowing you to perform more reps at the same weight.

So, don’t just track the weight you lifted, be diligent with tracking the exact reps you did for each set as well.

2] Total training volume achieved for either a specific lift, or training session:

Let’s start with what training volume is. 

Training Volume = Sets x Reps x Weight Lifted

Now, if you’re writing your training down in a notepad this can be a bit tiresome to do, however, if you use a training app, most will calculate this number for you automatically at the end of each training session.

By tracking training volume, it allows you to see how much total work you’re doing for a certain lift, specific muscle group, or individual workout. This allows you, overtime, to see if you’re now performing a high total of work than previous capable of. 

Let me give you a lower body example:

Week 1:

  • squats: 10/8/6 reps at 80kg
  • romanian deadlifts: 12/10/8 reps at 60kg
  • leg press: 15/14/12 reps at 100kg
  • hamstring curls: 12/10/8 reps at 30kg
  • split squats: 15/12/10 reps at 20kg

Total Training Session Volume = 9460kg

Week 4: 

  • squats: 9/7/6 reps at 85kg
  • romanian deadlifts: 11/9/8 reps at 65kg
  • leg press: 15/13/10 reps at 110kg
  • hamstring curls: 12/10/8 reps at 32.5kg
  • split squats: 13/12/10 reps at 22.5kg

Total Training Session Volume = 9632.5kg

Sure, progress has clearly been made in some weights, and some reps, for the exercises in the example, however what often goes unnoticed is the progress made in total training volume completed, and in the case of the example above, 172.5kg progress was made from week 1 to week 4. 

3] The rate of perceived exertion experienced when performing a set

Rate of Perceived Exertion, or RPE as it’s usually termed, is a simple assessment from 1-10 [1 being very easy, 10 being a maximal effort where no more reps or weight could have been lifted] to allow you to track how hard a set felt. 

The RPE scale, as it pertains to lifting is usually written in this fashion.

  • < 6 RPE: warm-Up sets – Very easy and low stress
  • 7 RPE: could have performed 3 more reps 
  • 7.5 RPE: could have performed 2-3 more reps
  • 8 RPE: could have performed 2 more reps
  • 8.5 RPE: could have performed 1-2 more reps
  • 9 RPE: could have performed 1 more rep
  • 9.5 RPE: couldn’t have performed another rep, but could have potentially lifted more weight
  • 10 RPE: maximal effort – no more reps, or weight, could have been achieved

As I’ve already mentioned above, tracking what weight you lifted and how many reps you achieved, is 1a and 1b when it comes to date point importance however if you were to look back at your training data from 8 weeks ago and saw Back Squat: 50kg for 10/8/6 reps would you be able to remember exactly how hard each of those sets felt? 

Probably not. 

This is where RPE comes in.

When tracking your sets, make a note of how each set felt using the RPE scale. This allows you to track and review how hard certain weights and reps felt so you can compare weeks and phases to see if what once felt like a 9/10 now feels easier. If it does, guess what, you’re making progress.

When it comes to your training, tracking, and reviewing important pieces of data is a must.

With it you can make better choices for your future training phases and programmes as you’ll know just how much the training you’ve been doing has helped you progress. 

You can identify if you’re achieving the results you expected.

You can identify what has worked and can do more of it.

You can identify what hasn’t worked and do less of it

All of which allows you to make more informed decisions so that you can increase your training results…

…and that is something we all want more of, right?

3 things to consider tracking… was last modified: October 13th, 2022 by Adam Willis

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