A better approach to assessing and tracking resistance training efforts

In this blog post, I will talk about some key concepts around resistance training and help explain a better approach to quantifying RT.

The majority of people who practice resistance training, use a total number of repetitions approach (reps x sets). There is a better method called, a volume-load method. We will talk more about that a little bit later.

First, let’s define some key concepts that you need to understand. Do you know what is a relative load?  When it comes to RT, the intensity of an exercise can be prescribed based on the load lifted relative to the person’s strength. We call that the relative load. Furthermore, as the load/resistance of exercise increases, the number of repetitions that can be performed decreases. Hence, the training load that the person selects will determine the number of repetitions that can be performed within a set. Logically.

So how do we express the intensity of an exercise that we are performing in our resistance training session?

We express that usually as a percentage of the one-repetition max or % 1RM. That is the maximum load that can be lifted for one repetition. But there is a slight problem with this metric that measures intensity. This metric does not include into consideration the amount of effort that the person is applying during the RT exercise. There is a large variation in the number of repetitions that can be completed for the same % 1RM. For example, we cannot say that the two people who completed three repetitions at 80 % of 1RM have worked at the same relative effort because that’s just not accurate.

So, researchers suggested another method which is called the repetition maximum or RM. The RM method related to the number of repetitions that are successfully completed with a given load before repetition failure occurs. Let me give you some examples. If I cannot perform more than 8 repetitions with a load of 90 kg in a bench press, then my 90 kg would represent my 8RM in this example. Makes sense?

Very important to remember: In order to have a complete personalised exercise program, the intensity of resistance training exercise needs to be selected depending on your training goal.

Now, we are ready to talk about a resistance training volume method.

Volume-load method

So, when planning your personalised exercise programme, the two key factors that you need to take into consideration are intensity and volume. In this instance, the volume-load method is a great method for quantifying RT and tracking the progress of the programme.

A simple example:

If I perform 4 sets of 10 repetitions of a triceps press using the 15 kg dumbbell, then my volume-load will be calculated as follows:

4 x 10 reps = 30 repetitions

30 x 15 kg= 450 kg

Let’s see in the table below. This system is more useful than just tracking down the number of reps and sets.

Exercise Load (kg) Repetitions Sets Repetition volume Volume-load (kg)
Bench press 80 10 4 40 3200
Dumbbell flyes 15 x 2 10 4 40 1200
Incline Barbbell press 50 8 4 32 1600
TOTAL 160 28 12 112 6000
Average intensity   6000/112 = 53.57

So the bottom line is that two people can achieve the same repetition volume but have accomplished different volume-load which can influence progress in many ways, depends on the actual goal.

I hope you have enjoyed this blog post,

Until next writing,

Damir Pervan, Founder and CEO of TrainChampion

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2 thoughts on “A better approach to assessing and tracking resistance training efforts”

  1. I absolutely didn’t have any idea about the volume-load method until I read your blog post.. Now I know why I may not be getting results… Your article was really helpful thanks a lot for sharing…

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