6 training metrics you need to be tracking

written by Philip Stefanov  |  OCTOBER 4, 2022

If you’ve read my newsletter or blog for any length of time, you probably know that I’m a big fan of logging workouts.

To that end, I’ve put together a list of the 6 training metrics you need to be tracking. Let’s see.

1. Exercises

The first obvious training metric to track is the exercises and exact variations you’re doing. I recommend writing down the precise exercise/variation you’re doing because it makes tracking and comparing your performance more effective. For example:

  • Low incline dumbbell press (as opposed to just incline press)
  • Slow-eccentric lat pulldowns (as opposed to just lat pulldowns)
  • High-bar back squat (as opposed to just back squat)

2. Load

The next obvious metric to track is the weight you’re lifting. Doing so is beneficial for comparing your performance over time and knowing if you’re making progress.

For example, if you used to bench press 215 lbs for sets of 5 reps three months ago, and you can now bench 230 lbs for the same number of sets and reps, you’re making progress.

You must be disciplined with your training form to ensure actual progress. Squatting more weight but shortening the range of motion doesn’t indicate improvement, but ego lifting.

3. Sets & Reps

Sets and reps are the next important training metrics to track. You’ve written the exercise and the load you’re using, and now it’s time to note how many sets you’re doing and how many reps you get per set.

For example:

Slow-eccentric lat pulldowns: 3 sets with 45 kg for 12, 10, 9

I recommend sticking with rep structures for at least four to six weeks. Doing so is necessary for accurately tracking your performance. Changing the repetition goals every week can make it difficult to tell if you’re improving, staying the same, or backtracking.

Here’s an example:

Week 1 - Lat pulldowns: 3 sets with 50 kg for 12, 12, 9
Week 2 - Lat pulldowns: 3 sets with 40 kg for 16, 16, 15

You’re doing more reps, but you’re also lifting less weight. So, are you making progress?

Now, consider this:

Week 1 - Lat pulldowns: 3 sets with 50 kg for 12, 12, 9
Week 2 - Lat pulldowns: 3 sets with 50 kg for 12, 12, 12

If we assume your technique is solid, you’ve made some progress.

4. RPE

RPE stands for rate of perceived exertion and is a scale you can use to gauge how much effort you’re putting into your training. The scale goes from 1 to 10, allowing you to rate the difficulty of each set.

Here’s how it goes:

  • RPE 10 - no reps in the tank
  • RPE 9.5 - no more reps, but could have possibly lifted slightly more weight
  • RPE 9 - one rep in the tank
  • RPE 8.5 - possibly two reps in the tank
  • RPE 8 - two reps in the tank
  • RPE 7.5 - possibly three reps in the tank
  • RPE 7 - three reps in the tank

And so on. Anything below an RPE of 6 or 7 would be nearly impossible to gauge, but you shouldn’t leave that many reps in the tank, anyway.

Writing your RPE for every set isn’t essential, but you can record the values on heavy compound exercises: bench press, bent-over row, squat, deadlift, etc. Like the previous metrics, logging your RPE can give you some insight and help you determine if you’re making progress.

For example:

Week 1: Bench press - 6 sets with 100 kg for 10, 10, 9, 9, 8, 7 (RPE: 8, 8, 9, 9, 9, 9.5)
Week 4: Bench press - 6 sets with 100 kg for 10, 10, 9, 9, 8, 7 (RPE: 7, 7, 8, 8, 8, 8.5)

In this instance, you’re not doing more reps or lifting more weight, but your overall effort is slightly lower, indicating progress.

5. Rest Periods

Rest periods are the next metric you should track for a couple of reasons.

First, tracking your recovery is helpful for being more aware of how long you’re resting and becoming more disciplined. Good rest between sets is necessary for doing more reps and possibly promoting superior muscle and strength gains.

Second, you can use rest periods to track potential improvements. The process works similarly to RPE. For example:

Week 1: Bench press - 6 sets with 100 kg for 10, 10, 9, 9, 8, 7 (average rest: 2.5 mins)
Week 4: Bench press - 6 sets with 100 kg for 10, 10, 9, 9, 8, 7 (average rest: 2 mins)

You’re not doing more, but you’re maintaining your performance while resting less, which is a form of progressive overload.

6. Subjective Factors

The last one isn’t a single metric but several. Each is subjective, but making notes can help explain particularly good or bad workouts.

Let’s say you’ve slept poorly for three nights due to extreme summer heat, and you feel more tired than usual. You can add a note at the bottom of your workouts to explain the unusually bad performance.

The same goes for hunger and life stress. Maybe not eating for six hours before training leads to extreme hunger that impairs your performance and focus. Similarly, dealing with more stress at work can impact your motivation, sleep, and gym performance.

Of course, these notes shouldn’t be an excuse to slack off. I recommend making notes occasionally and not having purposefully bad workouts just because you feel a bit sore or get less sleep one night. Push yourself if you feel well, take a step back if you don’t.

Thank you for taking the time. Until next week,


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