Using the Total Work Factor to Measure Workouts

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I took a small break from blogging these past few weeks. But now I am back.

It must have been during one of my workouts that I stumbled upon a neat method for measuring your workouts that I don’t see much talked about in fitness circles. Not a lot of trainees record their progress in the gym. However, if they do, they usually follow the conventional method of tracking weight, sets, and reps. Nothing wrong with this method but personally I think the method I explain below is superior.


How Much Work Did You Perform?

Ok, first of all, let’s agree on one basic truth that holds true in the gym: if you want to get bigger and stronger, you will have to progressively challenge and stimulate your body each workout a little bit more to improve. If you want to read more about this, check out my article on Increasing Your Work Capacity.

Challenging your body can be achieved using countless methods: you increase the intensity of the exercise, you decrease the time you rest in between sets, you perform more sets at a given weight, you extend the Time that your Muscles are Under Tension, you do dropsets, supersets, negative reps, forced reps, cheating reps, partial reps etc etc. What is common about all of these methods (if employed correctly) is that you slowly total more work performed each workout.

Rather than recording Weight x Sets x Reps as individual markers for my progress, I started multiplying these variables with each other to yield a number that I like to call TOTAL WORK FACTOR.

Let me give you an example of what I mean with an actual lift (Snatch High Pull) that I used the total work unit on to grow stronger. Here’s what the snatch high pull looks like first of all:

1) 5 June: 95 kg x 5 sets x 4 reps –> Total Work Factor: 1900

2) 19 June: 95 kg x 5 sets x 5 reps –> Total Work Factor: 2375

3) 1 July: 95 kg x 7 sets x 4 reps –> Total Work Factor: 2660

4) 14 July: 100 kg x 6 sets x 5 reps –> Total Work Factor: 3000


You can see from the example above I used for the snatch high pull, that even though for the first three workouts I didn’t increase the weight, I still totaled more work performed each consecutive workout. Using the Total Work Factor is a useful metric to tell you whether you are making progress.

You won’t be able to increase the number each workout but at least it summarises all the different variables (weight, sets, reps) into one number that you can use as a reference to compare to past workouts.

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