Sometimes people make the mistake of believing all they have to do is follow the set and rep scheme on a program, and they’ll instantly get better. Granted, this carries some weight, but if you know how to methodically work your way through a program, you can make more progress and set a pr (personal record) everyday.
This is obviously important for many reasons, but for me, it’s always helpful to see progress. When you know you’re improving, it’s easy to stay motivated and get excited about training. There are many ways to get after this, but let’s focus on three big ticket items that are relatively easy to manipulate: volume, intensity and density.
Volume: the total amount of weight lifted over the course of a workout (sets x reps x weight).
Intensity: relates to how “heavy” a weight is. For example, lifting a load that’s at 90% of your 1 rep max is more intense than lifting a load that’s 60% of your 1 rep max.
Density: how long it takes you to complete an exercise, or how many reps/how much weight you lifted in a set amount of time. For example: performing 3 sets of 10 reps of push ups in 6 minutes is more dense than performing 3 sets of 10 reps in 7 minutes. You did more work in less time.
Generally speaking, you should go into each training session asking how you can I improve one of these qualities everyday. That way, you are always hitting a personal best, and continually see improvement.
Here are two ways you can apply these ideas to your programs:
Simple Volume Wave
Let’s say you want to build your way back to deadlifting. Generally speaking, we want to hit volume before intensity, so your rep and set scheme for a 4 week cycle may look something like the following:
Week 1: 6×3
Week 2: 8×3
Week 3: 10×3
Week 4: 12×3
Notice how I built in a volume wave to ensure continual progress.
If you do 6 sets of 3 at 315lbs week 1, your volume comes out to 5670lbs.
In week 2, if you decide to not increase weight you’ll still be hitting a personal best because your total volume lifted is now 7560lbs. Thus, you improved.
Don’t always relate improvement to intensity. By increasing your volume from week to week you are improving! Granted, that’s not to say you can’t increase weight from week to week, but be smart in the way you do so. You already know you’re going to be lifting nearly 2000lbs more than the previous week, so maybe stay at 315 for the first 5 sets, and then put on 5 lbs for 2 sets, and then throw on another 5 lbs for your last set. Now you’ve increased volume and intensity!
A big mistake I see people make is coming out of the gates too fast. They try and blow week 1 out of the water from an intensity standpoint, and fail to set themselves up well for week 2. Use a weight that’s challenging, but nothing that’ll crush you. This way you can progress from week to week.
I promise this will bring better long term results.
Decrease Reps, Boost Weight (Intensity)
Here’s another super easy way for you to get better every week and every workout. Start off with higher reps and then drop reps from week to week so you can increase the weight. Here’s an example of a rep scheme you may use for an accessory exercise for a 4 week cycle:
Week 1: 3×10
Week 2: 3×8
Week 3: 3×8
Week 4: 3×6
Notice the reps drop from week to week--this is a built in mechanism for you to increase weight (intensity).
Say you do single arm dumbbell rows at 65 lbs week 1. Week 2 you should be adding weight since the reps drop, therefore boosting intensity and allowing you to make progress. Again, set yourself up for success the following week by not crushing yourself. Challenge yourself, but don’t feel like your trying to hit an 8 rep max.
In week 3, the reps stay the same, and you can attack this in one of two ways. Either increase the weight (you don’t have to increase for all the sets, just increasing 5 lbs in the last set is a pr compared to the previous week) or do the same weight in less time (increase density). This way, you’ve made progress in one of the major categories and once again hit a personal record.
Since you’ve been smart about adding intensity and/or density from week 2 to week 3, when week 4 comes rolling around you should be prime to jump weight once again and boost intensity.
Neither of these concepts are revolutionary. They’ve been around forever, and it’s something all successful coaches and athletes do. The big take away from this should be your thought process. Constantly be thinking and analyzing how you can get better at one of the big 3 categories in your next workout. Don’t accept mediocrity. If you plan appropriately, you should be able to pr almost everyday. I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty awesome to me.
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