So you managed to get yourself into a good routine of working out, and things seem to be going ok. You’re enjoying it and training regularly. But how do you know you are actually making progress?
Training should be monitored at fairly regular intervals to ensure its going the direction you want it to. Here's some ideas of how it should be done.
1. Keeping a training log
By recording all your training in a workout diary, its easy to quickly assess how many sessions you've completed, how your loads have progressed in lifts and so on.
Seeing how much you have increased the weights lifted on particular style of lifts is a good way to assessing progress. When looking at the loads lifted on each lift, bear in mind that weight loads are unlikely to increase linearly each week. The human body is affected by so many factors - sleep, nutrition, stress etc, therefore progress rarely tracks in a nice easy upwards trajectory.
Rather than assessing progress each week, assessing load increases over 6-8 weeks gives a much better reflection of if training is going in the right direction.
2. Testing yourself on heavy loads
Sometimes it helps to have some objective numbers which show definite progression or not as the case may be. If you have good training experience and are technically competent in a certain lift, testing your maximal load could be a good progress assessment.
This is called a 1 repetition max (1RM). To do this, after a warm up, simply begin at an easy weight, and perform the lift for 5 reps.
Increase the load and perform 3 reps.
Increase the load further and perform one heavy lift. If successful, increase again and perform 1 rep. Ideally you should only have 3 attempts at your maximal load otherwise fatigue becomes a factor and the load is unlikely to assess your true strength levels.
3. Use video analysis
Now we aren't suggesting you need to download some fancy software and draw angles and lines over your own training images to show positioning. But sometimes simply recording yourself performing an exercise can give you a visual idea of how your techniques looking, how the load is affecting your movement and your overall competency in that lift.
After a 6-8 week training period, try videoing yourself again.
Does it look like you are getting more range in the lift?
Is the weight moving under control and does the movement look well coordinated?
If you can see a positive difference in your films, that can surely be considered progression. As nice as it is to have objective numbers, sometimes simply looking over the movement qualities in video is a quick and easy way of looking at progress.