Training is all about applying stress to your body to make you better. You can apply too little stress and not cause your body to super compensate (improve) from the training. You can also apply too much stress and your body can’t recover from that stress to even get back to your baseline. One way we can figure out how much stress we are applying is through simply tracking your program. There are a number of ways to do this and this post will break down a few basic ways of how to track the amount of training you are doing.
This is the total amount of weight you have lifted over the sets and reps in a training session. Each muscle group and movement pattern will have its own total per week. For example if you do 5 sets of 10 reps with 100lbs you have effectively did 5,000lbs of total volume in that exercise. For something like total volume on your quads you can do 5 sets of 10 on squats with 100lbs. and then 5 sets of 10 on lunges with 50lbs. and now you have done 10,000 total lbs. of volume. This volume is important for things like muscle gain. Volume can also be how much you run, swim, etc. The total distance you do each session added over an entire week. This is an easy data point to track especially if you wear a fitness tracking device.
This is how hard you are working compared to your maximum output. For example 50% of your 1RM on an exercise is not very intense, but 95% of your 1RM is very intense. The same can be tracked with cardiovascular training with how close you are to your heart rate max. You can track how long you work out at these intensities by measuring the mileage or total reps done at these percentages and then see how your body reacts to this intensity level.
Finally we have the actual effort you are putting in. This is using a rating session between 1-10 typically. So a workout that was incredibly easy and you could almost fall asleep during would be a 1 or a 2, whereas a workout where you are vomiting or near death by the end of it could be a 10. Tracking how much time you spend at that effort level and how it relates to your performance is important, since maximal efforts all the time can lead to overreaching and potential injury. Once you learn how your body reacts to training this can be a good way to go about intuitively tracking your own training and session difficulty.
Tracking the work
In general it seems that when you increase the total amount of work you are doing each week by 50% or more you drastically increase your risk of injury. A good goal of where to start is to simply add in 10-20% at most per week and then slowly have your monthly average increase over time. While you are tracking all of the work you are doing with whatever method, compare that to the progress you are making and the rate of that progress. At some point you will find an optimal amount of work to make as much progress as possible and then when you do more work beyond that you will often find progress slows, halts, or you end up getting injured. Track yourself over time and from there figure out how effective your training is. Thanks as always for reading.