You’re serious about your gains, right? You hit the gym five times a week, follow a detailed program, set and achieve goals, keep a thorough training log and all that good stuff, right?
But sometimes you feel like you’re treading water, just fighting to stay afloat. You aren’t making true progress, and it is infuriating. It’s a terrible feeling, but there is a way to bust through it without changing programs, taking new supplements or making more drastic changes.
Something that I’ve been doing for the better part of the last year is recording my Rate of Perceived Readiness (RPR) every day in my training log.
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Coming off a back injury that required a lot of treatment, I started this as an unofficial way to see if I was getting “better” over time. It eventually turned into a monumental breakthrough for my training and something that, little by little, I have recently begun to pass on to my clients.
I’m sure many coaches either do this or have a similar protocol, though they might call it something else. Trust me, I didn’t invent this. All industries use readiness reporting in some capacity, but this is just my method, and I believe you can benefit from it.
Here’s what to do:
Every day that you train, write your RPR in your training log. Your RPR is measured on a scale of 1 to 10. One is the worst.
One means you should be in bed right now instead of the gym. One means pretty much nothing positive can happen if you decide to work out—it’s that bad.
Ten is the best, or the most ready. Ten is the equivalent of smelling 10 bags of smelling salt, taking a shot of tequila, washing it down with some kind of face-tingling pre-workout and running through the front door of the gym straight to the squat rack. You are ready to crush some iron.
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In between 1 and 10 can be scaled accordingly by you.
Record this number on every single training day that you log. The information is so valuable, it will blow your mind. Use it to notice trends, make changes and ultimately make progress based on your own behavior. It’s literally the easiest training implement ever. Just ask yourself how ready to train you feel every day on a 1-10 scale and write it down. It takes 5 seconds.
How to Apply RPR
Let’s be honest. There are days when you just aren’t feeling it in the gym. Life happens. Maybe you’re injured, sick, annoyed at your boss, not fully recovered from a previous workout, etc. Whatever the case may be, it’s perfectly normal to not be super hyped to hit the gym every day of your life.
On the other hand, some days you may be at a 9 or 10. You can’t wait to get to the gym and kill it. Training at a 10 RPR looks and feels different in many ways from training at a 4 RPR.
It’s your job to recognize your RPR is and react to it accordingly. Let’s pretend you deadlifted 405×6 on your first working set last week with an RPR of 10. This week, same workout, your RPR is 4. Do you really think it’s a good idea to start working sets at or above 405? Probably not. Maybe that’s your top set or maybe you feel so crappy that day, you get up to 390×6. That doesn’t make you weaker. It’s OK to listen to your body. It makes you smarter, and smarter training leads to longevity. Longevity is the name of the game. You can’t get better if you’re injured.
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On the flip side, you can find some really encouraging stats when you use RPR. Your strength gains will become more apparent when you compare sessions. Last week, your RPR was 10. You were locked in and went for 3 sets of 5 at 300 pounds on Bench Press, but you missed the final rep of the final set. This week, at an RPR of 6, you start off conservatively at 275×5, and it’s too easy. So your next set is 300×5 and that goes up clean. Next you hit 310 for another clean 5-rep set. Now you’ve surpassed your top-end set from last week on a day when you feel noticeably less ready to lift based on RPR.
That type of situation can be encouraging, because you acknowledged a lower RPR before a single rep, then went on to perform at a higher level even though you weren’t feeling great. That’s unbiased, true progress at its finest. And achieved in a safe manner.
Another great takeaway is the establishment of trends and behavior patterns. You may notice that your RPR is lower when you train on Mondays before 7 a.m. Maybe you can tweak your schedule and train at a different time, or flip-flop that workout to a different day. You will notice tons of things, all based on honest assessments of how you feel on various days.
For coaches and trainers who implement RPR documentation, it’s another way to provide your athletes or clients with the tools they need to successfully reach their goals. You can also notice trends or even uncover lurking issues. If a client consistently shows up with a low RPR, you may want to spark some conversations as a friend, not a coach, and make sure everything is OK.
You aren’t married to the piece of paper your program is written on. It’s OK to tweak things to better suit your readiness on a day-to-day basis—as long as you don’t lose sight of the end goal and the work it takes to achieve it.
Training is all about consistent, tiny improvements that accumulate over time. RPR gives you a method of measuring a very important component, which is how you feel overall. If your program doesn’t improve the way you feel, why are you doing it?