Measuring Progress, Smashing PR’s & Manipulating Your Training
Have you ever thought to yourself, “I haven’t made gains in longgg time.”? If yes, it’s about time to stop being stubborn and time to put a little more thought into your training. If you’ve never gotten to that point yet you’re either the luckiest person on earth, or you have a very young training age. Either way consider the following…
We all face plateau’s at some point in our training. This especially happens if you’ve been training for 3 or more years. It’s even more prevalent for the gym rat that hasn’t changed their program at all for those 3+ years. On a positive note, you may have made progress even if you don’t think so. Ask yourself these questions:
Have I gotten stronger in all my main lifts in the last year?
Did my technique improve over time?
Has my work capacity and ability to produce consistent force against resistance (read strength endurance) improved?
Can I lift more weight now than I could last year?
Has my body composition changed?
Do I have specific goals I’m chasing and a plan of attack with a timeline to achieve them?
…This list can go on and on.
The main point here is that you can break PR’s in more ways than just jacking up your 1RM. In order to realize that you have to think about why you’re training, what your goals are, measure your progress in more ways than one, and have a clear understanding why you put all the effort in to your training. You have to be realistic with yourself about these things before you can expect to make consistent progress in the gym.
Years ago when I was an undersized competitive college football player I did anything and everything to gain lean muscle mass and increase my 1RM in 3 main lifts. My mission in the weight room was to be as strong as I could be, maintain and improve speed/explosiveness, while also being durable to withstand 60+ snaps per game on defense as an undersized strong safety. The training was intense every single day and I would constantly add more rep work in to put on the weight. I had a periodized system I stuck to and it worked. When my college career ended I continued the same training bc I thought smashing 1RM’ s was the only way to measure progress. As I matured in the strength & conditioning industry I realized that was a very narrow-minded way of thinking. Honestly, I was relieved bc my body couldn’t handle that type of training forever.
Fast forward to today where I take a much different approach to measuring progress. As a 31-year-old father, entrepreneur, and varsity wrestling coach I’m forced to be smart about my training program and the goals that are derived around it. My training along with my lifestyle is rather hybrid by choice. My main objectives on a weekly, monthly, yearly scale looks like this:
Improve my 1RM squat
Increase dead hang max rep pull-ups
Increase 1RM clean & jerk and snatch while also improving efficiency with both lifts
Maintaining and improving work capacity and overall conditioning without sacrificing strength
Seeking world class relative strength
Of course, this is the general version of my training goals, but you can see how I would measure progress differently for each goal. I have specific timelines and measurable plans for each goal. Evaluations are at least 3 months apart, manipulating my program to hack weaknesses happens often, but consistency never changes. As I learn more I take action and apply what I learn immediately. Paying attention to my body and different variables in training is a crucial element.
After reading all that you’re probably still asking yourself “How the F can I measure progress if it’s not a 1RM PR?!”
1. If you’re already mega strong with high 1 RM’s, but you hate the idea of doing any more than 3 reps try this:
Manipulate your rest periods during your main lift. Instead of your typical 3-5 minute rest and text between sets set a timer at 90 second to 2 minute intervals and do straight sets with at least 85% but no more than 92.5% of your 1RM. Sets and reps in the range of 8x3, 10x2, 12x1 will improve your work capacity, movement efficiency and sustainable strength. This system will also provide a different stimulus than your body is used to, which causes muscle adaptation.
Week 1- 8x3 @85% no more than 2 minute rest
Week 2- 10x2 @87.5-90% no more than 2 minute rest
Week 3- 12x1 @90-92.5% no more than 2 minute rest
After this phase you can go back to your regular strength routine. I’ll bet you will feel stronger throughout the entire lift and will maintain better movement efficiency even during your grueling singles.
2. Instead of testing your 1RM, try for a 3RM, 5RM, or 10RM (if you have some balls)
I only say that bc attempting a 10RM can seem like running a marathon to most meatheads chasing big numbers. You definitely have to get out of your comfort zone while training. You’ll also be forced to do some aggressive high rep training, which will kill at first. The end result though will be strength gains in a different way along with some diesel hypertrophy.
3. For those in the iron game that love strength gains, but also value conditioning try this:
Once per week, after your main lift and accessory to your main set up a strongman style medley that you can measure progress over time. You can also do this as a workout by itself if you choose. The movements and/or lifts should also be cohesive with the main lifts that you measure progress. Keep all the variables the same until you smash PR’s in amount of time it takes to complete or rounds you do in a pre-determined amount of time.
15 minute AMRAP (as many rounds as possible)
175lb. Log clean and press x3
prowler push x50yds.
150lb. farmers carry x50yds.
If you get 5 rounds week 1, 5.5 rounds in week 2… 7 rounds by week 5 you are making measurable progress. Set a standard to reach (10 rounds), when you reach that standard create a new conditioning template to follow and measure progress.
To summarize, you can measure progress and smash PR’s in many more ways than breaking 1RM’s. The few examples I provided are food for thought. At the very least hopefully I got your wheels spinning to attempt something new. You can manipulate your training to suit your goals, but don’t be afraid to get outside your comfort zone. Getting stronger is a life long pursuit that doesn’t have a one-way road. Sometimes, even the slightest manipulation to a training variable can be all it takes to break through those plateau’s.
Dominate Another Day.
- Coach Hoke