Why “doing more work” is not the best way to measure your progress…

Why “doing more work” is not the best way to measure your progress…

… Or at least not always the best way.

In the past I have routinely espoused “doing more work” as a way to measure your progress.

And it’s one of the best ways.

But, after answering reader emails, and reading forum posts, I need to clear something up:

“Doing more work” – or said another way “more volume per workout” – is not always the BEST way to measure your progress, especially on “density style” or “time limited” workouts.

And that’s because many times, you’re comparing apples to oranges.

Let’s just say for one workout you’re using sets of 5.

And your goal is to do as many sets of 5 as you can in 30 minutes. 

Now, you’re a tough nut to crack, and once you get going, there’s no stopping you, so you end up knocking out 15 sets of 5 – approximately one set of 5 every 2 minutes, for a total of 75 reps.

And you feel great about yourself, especially since although the workout was tough, you still have some energy left over. 

The next workout, you do sets of 6, again for 30 minutes.

But, you’re only able to do 10 sets of 6 reps during those 30 minutes – approximately one set of 6 every 3 minutes, for a total of 60 reps.

You compare the volume from day 1 – 75 reps, to day 2 – 60 reps, and you conclude that suddenly, you must be weaker and your progress has stalled because you did 15 reps LESS than you did on your previous workout.

“This isn’t supposed to happen!” you think to yourself…

“I’m supposed to do MORE work each workout, NOT LESS!”

Again – apples vs. oranges.

Sets of 5 vs. Sets of 6.

Assuming the load is the same for the same exercise – the C+P for example, sets of 5 are easier to perform than sets of 6.

Sets of 5 use less energy than sets of 6.

And because sets of 6 use more energy than sets of 5, you need to rest longer after a set of 6 than you do a set of 5.

So, you exert MORE EFFORT for a set of 6 than you do a set of 5.

The same thing if you’re using ladders.

Multiple ladders of 1,2,3,4 require less effort, and therefore less energy, than ladders of 1,2,3,4,5 (again, assuming same load, same exercise).

So, only use “more work” or “more volume” when you’re measuring “like against like” – apples against apples – sets of 5 against sets of 5… Ladders of 1,2,3,4 against ladders of 1,2,3,4.

If you need a training program, this one uses both straight sets and ladders, and makes it easy to measure your progress. 

In fact, in Week 6, it’ll have you using your old 5RM for sets of 6.

If strength is one of your goals, check it out here.

If you have any training questions, feel leave them in the comments section below.

Stay Strong,


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