You’ve been grinding hard.
Pumping the weights.
Hitting the planks (yes you love them).
Waking up early.
Working out late.
Then maybe you wondered to yourself…
Am I making progress?
How do I know if I’m getting better?
Is what I’m doing working?
It can be a tough question to answer, especially before defining what progress means to you. Some items are measurable…weight loss, body fat percentage, etc. Others are more difficult to quantify…movement quality, energy levels, and joint health/integrity.
While it’s understandable that weight loss & body fat % can be important metrics, you have to look at the variables that are most contributing towards the factor you’re assessing. These metrics just mentioned are largely dependent upon your overall nutrition & caloric intake, and while strength training can help those, it is not a replacement for intuitive eating and a balanced approach to food.
For this, let’s focus on the other ways to gauge if your overall fitness is improving, the factors that are tied to your training itself, and how to assess progress.
1. Exercise Weight Increase: The most simple way to measure progress is an increase in strength in the same exercises *WITH GOOD TECHNIQUE*.
Take a barbell back squat. If before you could do 4 reps at 100 lbs, and can now do 4
reps at 120 lbs, that’s a good sign of an increase in strength. Simple.
2. Bodyweight Exercise Progressions: Pushups.
20 inch incline → 12 inch incline → 4 inch incline → floor.
The less the incline, the more difficult the exercise.
1. Movement Progression: Some versions of squats are more difficult than others, simply put. A barbell back squat has a much higher demand of proprioception & awareness, overall stability, and movement quality, than a dumbbell goblet squat. That’s not to say everyone necessarily needs to do a barbell back squat, this is just an example.
We initially will start out with foundational movements to establish a strong base, then build from there.
Goblet Squat → Barbell/Hex Bar Squat → Accommodating Resistance Squat → Hanging Band Squat.
This resembles an increase in not only the application of strength, but the learned skill of strength training.
2. Changing the condition of a movement: Take a plank for example. The two most simple ways to make it harder are to put weight on your back, or lengthen the duration of the plank.
The other way to increase the difficulty of an exercise is to change the condition of a movement. You can elevate the feet, add an element of instability (foam roller…muahaha), take away a point of contact (single arm, single leg, single arm AND single leg).
The ability to progress into these variations *WITH GOOD TECHNIQUE* is another clear sign of progress in strength, stability, and the ability to create & maintain tension.
3. Increase in Movement Quality: This one is probably the most difficult to put into a takeaway, since it largely depends on feedback from the lifter, but can also be identified from your trainer.
A basic hinge for example can look better over the course of a few weeks; noting that, and being able to apply it to loaded movements, is huge. Possessing the faculty to make finer adjustments until you can feel the nuance between a deadlift, and a Romanian deadlift, is a great sign that everything is moving forward.
In summary, there are many ways by which you can measure progress, it just needs to be clearly defined, and from there identify what variables play into it.