But how do you know if you're working hard enough? Not every single workout should leave you feeling gassed, but there are some key signals to look for when determining whether you should bump it up a level in your training.
Before we get into those signals, please know that workout intensity and progressions are highly individual. You could be doing the same program as your best friend, with the same goals, while progressing at completely different speeds, and that's completely OK. Our bodies, recovery time, metabolism, and hormonal function are unique. Additionally, these progressions all dependent on your personal goals.
1. You're not seeing any more progress
If you're working toward an aesthetics-related goal in a safe and sustainable manner, it can be helpful to track your progress — in measurement using inches, progress pictures, or how your clothing fits. If things are staying the same for several weeks in a row, and you're looking for a change, it could mean it's time to progress your workouts.
2. You're able to easily complete the set
In regards to weight training, if you're able to complete all of the reps in the set with good form, and you feel like you could do more than two or three more reps with good form, it's typically time to progress the movement. For conditioning, if the workout you're doing no longer feels as challenging as the first few times you completed it, it could be time to take it up a notch.
3. You're never sore anymore
Soreness is not always indicative of a good workout. Some of my clients think that unless they're sore the next day, they didn't work hard enough — and that's not true. In fact, soreness generally dramatically decreases after first week or two of a new program. That said, if you''re never sore after your workouts and it's been a few weeks, that could mean that it's time to progress your workouts.
4. Your average or max heart rate during a workout is lowering
For conditioning, heart rate can be a great indicator of whether you're working hard enough. If a sprint workout or trail run had your heart rate in the 170s the first few tries, and now it's in the 160s, it might be time to increase speed or move to a tougher terrain.
5. You're able to do more in less time
For strength training, one way to determine if you're working hard enough is to see how many rounds you can do of a grouping of exercises in a determined amount of time. If in week 1 you were able to do three rounds, and week 4 you're doing 4-5, it's likely time to add some progressions.
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