This idea comes from Paul Carter’s book Base Building.
“Rating Training Sessions
All training sessions should have a rating assigned to them. Basically, my rating theory exists in this format:
80% session – This is what most sessions are. It is getting in, getting the work done. You didn’t hit a PR, but you didn’t feel horrible either. This is what the majority of your sessions should be like.
+10% session – You feel awesome, you hit PR’s and everything moved fast and easy.
-10% session – Opposite of the +10%. Everything felt heavy and awful. You may have even missed some reps or cut some sets/movements out.
The goal in training, especially when base building, is to have as many 80% sessions as possible. These are the bricks and mortar that make up your training foundation.
Dealing With +10% And -10% Sessions
I used to call +10% sessions “strike the iron” sessions because well, you use those to go after your PR’s and hit your big numbers. In recent years I have changed my opinion about that, for a few reasons.
The +10% sessions arrived because up to that point, you were doing all the things necessary in order to facilitate it. It arrived because your programming and recovery were on point.
Then what happens? You take advantage of that session and you throw the fatigue curve into a steep descent. Now, the training that you had used to get to that point has to change because the recovery from the extra fatigue and stress has to be accounted for. You simply cannot ask the body to do more than it had been doing and not expect it to ask you to be kind in return.
Without fail what most guys experience after a +10% session are lots of poor 80% sessions mixed in with lots of -10% sessions…
My suggestion is for a +10% day, do not deviate from your programming… The training that got you there (to the +10%) is working so trust that it will continue to take you to bigger and better places.”
While I feel that this tidbit is pretty self explanatory I would like to comment/make some suggestions on how to implement the ideas.
First, I think rating your training sessions based on how you feel is a good idea. Keep the workout structure out of it. Was it doable? Were you successful? Did everything feel hard/easy? Were your lifts and movements crisp with good form or was everything a grind physically and mentally? Was this a
punch the clock type session? Hint: punch the clock sessions that aren’t great but are not miserable are your 80% sessions.
Second, lets think about implementation. Give an 80% session an “=”, a +10% a “+”, and a -10% a “-“. You can write this in a workout log or in a note on your cell phone. We don’t need a thorough description so a weeks note may look like this:
Week 1: ===+=
Week 2: ==—
If you see a bunch of “-” it may be time for a couple days off.
Finally, I was always a “strike the iron” kinda guy. As I grow wiser, and grayer, I agree with Paul’s idea of just sticking with the plan. Your plan is working AND if you can rack up a bunch of +10% sessions in a month your progress will be amazing. I guarantee it.
That is the goal: get as many = and + sessions as possible with as few – sessions as possible.