Here we go with another Ask Dave question.
This one comes from Peter out in Ennis. Peter is a friend of mine, he drops by the gym every time he comes to Dublin and was a long time user of the (now defunct) online training service. He’s also the guy I use to proof read and edit my eBooks.
That last fact may surprise you when you read his question which I copied and pasted direct from his email with no alteration….
“I had a question/suggestion for you that might make fodder for one of your articles…
It has to do with assessing progress while using the sort of short intense programmes you post for lunch.
Kinda – how do you balance exercise and work style variety with a framework where you can accurately assess your progress.”
Essentially Peter wants to know if it is possible to track your progress while following an unstructured training program.
Most days I post up on the WG-Fit facebook page the workout that my lunchtime crew did. Each day it’s a short, full body workout using Kettlebells and Bodyweight exercises. Due to the nature of the lunchtime sessions, we have a variety of people coming in of a variety of fitness levels with a variety of goals. They also come in at various times and with varying frequency.
So while many do have bespoke training programs that they follow, many simply look at the workout written on the wall and get on with it.
So what’s on the wall?
Here’s a few from the last week or so:
1A: Split Squat x 4-6L/R
1B: Pull Ups x 80%
2A: Clean & Press x 4-6
2B: Double Swing x 8-12
3: Hand to hand swing x 100
1A: Push up / Renegade row combo
1C: Cleans from dead start
1E: Front Squat
4-6 reps of each, no rest between exercises.
4-6 rounds, rest as needed between rounds.
1A: Clean x 4
1B: Press x 1
Amrap x 15mins.
1A: (Jump) Lunge x 5L/R
1B: Swing x 20
1C: Sit Through x 5L/R
1D: Swing x 20
1E: Hindu Push Up x 5
1F: Swing x 20
AMRAP x 20mins
1A: Clean to Front Squat x 5 x 5 (don’t be shy with the weight)
1B: Push Ups x 12 – 15
2A: Clean & Press to Windmill OR Side Press x 5L/R
2B: Lateral Lunge x 6-8 L/R
3: Hand to Hand Swing x 100
As you can see, there is a variety of styles using a variety of exercises.
So can you track progress?
There are many movements that repeat, Front Squats and Clean & Press are staples. As are pull ups and swings. It’s a simple enough to monitor how these individual lifts are progressing.
But perhaps a better way of judging is the use of what crossfit call “Benchmark” workouts.
This is exactly how the Boot Camp program has run. The Bootcamp is a structured program but it begins and ends with a fitness test, a single test that brings together all the attributes we aim to develop over the 4 week program, which are:
Strength, Power, Endurance and Mental Fortitude.
If the second fitness test is done quicker than the first, then the program has been a success.
But back to our lunchtime fitness sessions. Every now and them we throw in a test, or a favourite workout.
These workouts pop up more frequently than any others and always follow the same parameters and so can be used to check progress.
Can you perform the workout quicker? If yes, then you’ve improved your power output.
Can you perform the workout but do more reps? If yes, then you’ve improved your work capacity.
Can you do the same workout but with more weight? If yes, you’ve gotten stronger.
So from this we can see that a highly structured training program isn’t always necessary unless you have specific goals in mind.
If general fitness is your goal, variety can keep life interesting while still providing gains.
Just be sure to test every now and again.