25 Jul 2021

Just how hard was that workout??

Many people refer to workouts as being hard or intense, but in weightlifting circles Intensity is a function of how HEAVY you lifted not how hard in terms of Cardio-vascular suckage (I just made that up LoL) the workout was. The other measure of a workout is the volume or how many sets and reps you did. An Intense day would be characterized by lifting near maximal poundage a few times say 5 sets of 3 and high volume day would be more like 3 sets of 10. Those are ok measures in terms of barbell work but for the types of workouts we do at IronBody, High Intensity Interval Training we need a better gauge of how hard we are working.

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The difficulty of the workout is relative, you might be feeling great one day and you smoke the workout while a classmate does the same workout with the same weight & feels trashed. You might do the same workout 2 weeks later and barely survive. What’s up with that? It’s more than “well I’m just having a bad day”. We need to look and see why we’re off. Too little sleep, not enough food, the wrong kind of food, not enough water? Any of those and more can influence your workout. One other major factor is when was your last workout and how hard was it? Fatigue from lack of recovery is a major factor in your training.

Were you injured on your off day, did you tweak something? Was an old injury flaring up??

From these possible reasons for varying performance we can get some generalizations of how hard the workout felt or how hard we exerted ourselves, how much if any discomfort, meaning injury or feeling off in the body somewhere, not just sucking wind. Something else that plays a big part in how smooth the workout is how good our technique was. If the movements felt smooth and natural they would feel easier than if you were struggling with your technique on a lift.

Above we discussed Intensity and volume as indicators of how heavy or how much. These terms are confusing and make it hard to determine how hard you worked, which is relative. If we look at how hard you work and label it Exertion, then examine your Technique in relation to Exertion and finally look at the level of discomfort, meaning tweaks or strains, things that didn’t feel right, and rank those three measures we get Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE), Rate of Perceived Technique (RPT) and Rate of Perceived Discomfort ( RPD).

We’ll use a 1-10 scale on these: An RPE of 10 signifies the most extreme hardest workout you’ve ever done ( you’ll never hit a 10), and RPT of 8-9 is very hard, you’ll be huffing and puffing and glad you are done. You won’t want to do anymore. An RPE of 5-7 is moderate, a good tough workout but doesn’t leave you trashed. An RPE of 3-5 is light for example some moderate yoga or other easy work. An RPE of 1-3 is an easy walk, Tai Chi, and Joint Mobility.
RPT is a relative measure of how well you thought your technique was. This can be done as an average across the entire workout or you can use it for each exercise.  You always want to reach for a 10, that being perfect technique, but you’ll never get it. Consistently hitting an 8- 9 across the board indicates mastery of the various movements. 5-7 means you need more practice, you’re at an intermediate level of skill, anything under a 5 means you really need to step back and have someone help you refine your technique.
RPD – How much discomfort was there during the workout? This doesn’t mean you were uncomfortable because you were sweating or breathing hard, unless you have asthma. It means was there any pain associated with any movements. RPD can and should be applied to the entire workout from your Joint mobility warm-ups to the cool downs. Anything over a 3 on a scale from 1 to 10 with 10 being the worst pain you’ve ever felt, means you need to back off the movement until the RPD is below 3 or stop doing the movement.

Using the 3 measures we can now define whether a workout is moderate or intense and within that context whether your level of technique held up under the high levels of exertion on high intensity days.

Apply these measures to all your workouts and write them down in a workout journal or in the forum at http://Iron-Body.com (registration required if you aren’t an active member of IronBody Fitness) then you can keep track of your progress.

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