Workout Performance Versus Progress

In response to a few questions I’ve received recently and reflecting on recent discussions with clients, the following are a few thoughts on workout performance versus actual progress:

A Workout Is Not A Competition

The purpose of a workout is to stimulate your body to produce improvements in functional ability (muscular strength, cardiovascular and metabolic conditioning, flexibility, etc.) without causing harm in the process. It is not to try to beat your previous repetition count or weights (quantitative workout performance).

If you are more focused on the repetition count or time under load or the weight you are using than how you use it (quantitative performance) you will tend to use much looser form. Because of this you might appear to progress faster on paper, but your workouts will be less effective and real progress will be slower.

If you focus on the real objective, on making each exercise and the overall workout as intense as possible (qualitative performance) you will tend to maintain much stricter form. Because of this you may not appear to progress as quickly on paper, but your workouts will be more effective and real progress will be faster.

Your numbers will improve over time despite your best efforts to train as intensely and achieve momentary muscular failure as efficiently as possible if you are really getting stronger and better conditioned .

Counter and Stopwatch

Consider Workouts And Exercises In Context

A workout is not an event separate from the rest of your life. Your workouts affect and are affected by everything else you do.

Within a workout every exercise has systemic and local effects which affect your ability to perform subsequent exercises (and can have a psychological effect on you during preceding exercises). Changes in the resistance used for a particular exercise or the number of repetitions or time under load performed, the exercise order, the rest time between exercises, etc. can all affect the performance of other exercises as well.

When evaluating both quantitative and qualitative workout or exercise performance you need to do so in the contexts of your life and of the workout as a whole.

This is why you should make notes on your workout chart or keep a separate journal with notes relevant to overall workout and individual exercise performance so you can evaluate them in context later.

Individual Workouts Are Not Reliable Gauges Of Progress

Do not confuse changes in workout to workout performance with progress. Real progress is improvements in functional ability, not numbers going up on paper.

While individual exercise and overall workout performance is largely determined by your current level of functional ability, it is also influenced by other factors that can vary significantly between workouts. Because of how much these factors and their effect on workout performance can vary you need to evaluate your progress based on changes in performance over several weeks, not on a workout to workout basis.

Don’t freak out and assume you are overtraining because you don’t go up one or more repetitions or increase the weight on every exercise, every time you train. It is unrealistic to expect to be able to do so, especially as you get closer to the limits of your genetic potential. You will have good workouts and you will have bad workouts, but as long as you’re focusing on the real goal during your workouts and your average performance over time is improving there is nothing to worry about.

Workout Performance Versus Goal-Specific Measurements

A workout is not an end in itself. You exercise to stimulate improvements in or maintain some level of functional ability, and for the associated benefits to your health and physical appearance. All of these are means to yet more ends, such as improved ability to perform thus derive greater enjoyment from other physical activities, increased physical attractiveness and greater social success, etc.

Your exercise program should be evaluated and modified based on it’s effect on your achievement of your end goals, such as increase muscular size, a reduction in body fat, or better performance in some sport, vocational, or recreational activities.

Although muscular strength and size are related, the proportions vary between individuals based on genetic factors. A few people can make tremendous strength gains with little increase in size, even fewer people will make large gains in muscular size with only modest increases in strength, and most of us will be somewhere in between. If you are making regular strength increases but little muscular size gains it is mostly a matter of genetics, but you may also be compromising your progress by failing to eat sufficiently. Regardless of whether you are continuously going up in repetitions, time, or resistance during your workouts if you are not making progress towards your real goal you need to evaluate everything you’re doing and make changes where necessary. Conversely, if you have to buy new clothes every few months because of muscular size increases don’t worry if the numbers aren’t going up on paper as quickly as you would like, unless you are more concerned with strength than appearance.

While a proper exercise program is beneficial for fat loss, losing fat is almost entirely a matter of diet. It is difficult for many people to consistently improve workout performance while eating at a moderate calorie deficit over a long period of time, but as long as workout performance is not suffering considerably you shouldn’t worry about it as long as your body composition is steadily improving (if your workout performance is steadily getting worse you may be restricting your food intake too much).

If one of your exercise goals is to improve performance in another physical activity you need to plan your program around and evaluate it based on how it affects your goal of improving your performance of that activity, not the other way around.

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42 Responses to Workout Performance Versus Progress

  1. Martin Due August 15, 2013 at 4:38 pm #

    Great post Drew!

    This and your former post “Keeping track” targets excactly what we have been discussing recently in our training group. We found it very hard to keep strict form and trying to improve every workout because we were thinking more about the task completion of getting one more rep, instead of focusing on strict form and overall workout performance.

    We tried something new today which worked great! When one of us is working out we have another one be the “judge” and he must approve if the rep is good or no good. Only the good ones are written down to keep track. For a rep to be “good” it needs to be performed in the correct position and a minimum of 5 seconds up and 5 seconds down with a hold of 2 seconds in pulling movements at the most contracted position. If the person training goes too fast, it is a no rep. In this way we could both keep the “competition mindset” of reaching one more rep to beat the last workout and we could secure perfect form on every single rep.

    Workout was:

    Chin up
    Push up
    TSC squat on platform
    Bodyweight rows
    Barbell shoulderpress

    Looking forward to to the next workout in 7 days!

    • Drew Baye August 15, 2013 at 5:45 pm #


      Proper exercise performance is the use of positioning, alignment, movement, and other factors to work the targeted muscle groups as intensely as possible. The better you are at this, the more skilled you are at performing the exercise, the harder it will be. It is possible for your quantitative performance – the rep count or TUL – to stay the same or go down if the quality of performance improves faster than strength increases.

      Part of the reason most people use such horrible form is their focus on quantitative performance and confusing the numbers going up for real progress. Most people in gyms use way, way more weight than they could handle if they performed exercises correct, unnecessarily increasing the risk of injury and the wear and tear on their joints, not to mention set up and breakdown time if they’re using free weights.

      They don’t understand the goal of exercise isn’t to lift the heaviest weight possible, the goal is to make your muscles work as hard as possible, and they should use the least amount of weight required to do this. The resistance the muscles work against during exercise is the product of many factors other than weight, and proper use of those other factors will not only allow you to optimize the benefit you get from some level of weight, but it gives you a huge margin of safety should you need to unload during exercise.

      If your positioning, movement, speed, etc. are such that their contribution to resistance is minimized for the sake of maximizing the amount of weight you can lift, if you are injured or start to experience any pain or sensation indicating the need to stop the exercise you have no ability to instantly minimize them further to reduce resistance. On the other hand, if you maximize their contribution to resistance so less weight is required, you leave yourself plenty of room to minimize them by altering positioning, path of movement, or other factors if necessary.

      As for counting repetitions, only counting properly performed reps should be standard practice. If you count poorly performed repetitions the rep count total overstates your strength and skews later performance evaluation.

      • Donnie HUnt August 16, 2013 at 8:44 am #

        Hey Drew,

        Are there any exercises where it would be favorable to perform more than one set. Maybe set isn’t the correct word to use. My thinking is: If I use say a chest press machine that correctly varies the resistance I will be able to get an appreciable TUL uninterrupted until I reach failure (also assuming I choose the appropriate resistance). Now lets say I use a chest press machine that does not correctly vary the resistance and I reach mechanical failure before I reach true failure. If I do sort of a rest pause on the incorrectly varied machine (not attempting to use maximum resistance). Would this be an example of trying to best use the tool I have access to?

        • Drew Baye August 16, 2013 at 10:55 am #


          If you do the first set of an exercise intensely enough, at best additional sets stimulate little or no additional muscular strength and size increases, and the additional stress can negatively effect recovery if it results in too much overall training volume.

          When you use a machine with a resistance curve which is not well balanced to your strength curve the target muscles will be underloaded in some positions. This reduces the rate of fatigue while in those positions, increasing the time it takes to achieve MMF with the selected load. Depending on how far off the curve is this underloading could be barely noticeable or extreme. Assuming correct positioning and performance, however, when you achieve MMF it is still because fatigue has reduced the combined strength of the targeted muscles to below the level required to overcome the resistance. At this point they will be contracting as intensely as possible. This is regardless of whether the resistance curve is perfectly balanced, flat, or even backwards.

          The underloading in portions where the resistance is disproportionately low results in a slower rate of inroad and longer set duration with the same load. With a higher load the time comes back down, and it averages out somewhat.

          As a thought experiment, imagine a machine with a resistance curve that significantly underloads you over the first half of the range of motion, but is perfectly balanced to your strength over the second half. During the positive your muscles would encounter little resistance until you reached the approximate halfway point, and during the negative they would be significantly unloaded as you pass the same point. Since experiments with TSC appear to show muscular strength gains are not position specific, the problem is not one of effectiveness, but of inefficient loading. You would require even more resistance to achieve failure within some repetition range or time under load, but when you did you would still have effectively worked all the muscles targeted.

          Taking this further, suppose we pinned up the weight stack so you encounter no resistance at all from the machine over the bottom half of the range of motion (we will assume every moving part is perfectly counterbalanced and there is no friction). You still perform the exercise over your full range of motion, but your muscles are barely working while in the bottom half. You would require yet even more resistance, but this would still be effective.

          At this point, you are performing rest-pause partial repetitions.

          Taking this even further, suppose we reduced the range of motion from partial to none at all and have you perform multiple reps of brief, static holds using a load and body positioning which places a high enough level of resistance on the target muscles that, with equal, alternating holds and rest-pause times, you achieve failure in the same time frame. The resistance would have to be much higher to do so, and this presents other problems I won’t go into here, but when you reach momentary muscular failure the effectiveness for stimulating strength and size increases will be comparable (because the relative intensity of effort is the same) as well as the effect on cardiovascular and metabolic conditioning (anyone who doubts that rest-pause is metabolically demanding should attempt a set of squats or leg presses in this fashion using enough resistance to fail between sixty and ninety seconds).

          Assuming you are performing the exercise correctly all the muscles targeted will be effectively stimulated. If some muscles are not worked as hard as others initially, they will be working proportionally harder later in the set because the muscles which did work harder will have also fatigued more quickly.

          What it really comes down to is this; Did you perform the exercise as intensely as possible and use a level of resistance that allowed you to achieve momentary muscular failure within a reasonable time frame? If so, no need to perform a second set. If not, the answer isn’t to perform a second set either, but to do better next time.

          • JLMA August 16, 2013 at 7:21 pm #


            You say “If you do the first set of an exercise intensely enough at best additional sets stimulate little or no additional muscular strength and size increases, and the additional stress can negatively effect recovery if it results in too much overall training volume”.

            I know “vertical” exercises recruit some muscle groups that “horizontal” exercises don’t, and vice versa.

            However, when (within one workout) we do a set of push-ups and later a set of dips (or chin-ups first and then body-rows), are we in reality pretty much not doing two sets for mostly the same muscle groups?


            • Drew Baye August 18, 2013 at 2:21 pm #


              Whether you should perform multiple exercises which work overlapping muscle groups depends on the degree of overlap, your goals, the effect on total workout volume, and other factors. I will probably address this in the next addition of High Intensity Workouts.

          • Donnie Hunt August 16, 2013 at 10:06 pm #

            Thank you for the detailed response Drew.

            I must say that the chest press machine I have access to is challenging to me with a very low amount of resistance. I’m talking like the #2 or #3 plate. This is using what as far as I can tell is strict form.

            I let my breathing just happen. I try to move at a speed where I can initially stop the movement at any given point. Continuous movement, etc.

            I can see how beneficial it would be to workout with a like minded person. Being able to have the next machine / station ready to go. Help other maintain form and focus, etc.

            I think what you have been advocating over the years is great.

            I don’t think I’m presently strong enough to get the full benefits of bodyweight exercises.

            • Drew Baye August 18, 2013 at 2:23 pm #


              Anyone can benefit from bodyweight exercises. You just have to adapt the exercise to the individual’s strength. This is one of the things covered in the Project: Kratos Program Handbook

          • Donnie Hunt January 1, 2014 at 10:46 am #

            I have read this response several times. Thanks for the great amount of detail and explanation Drew and Happy New Year!

            • Drew Baye January 1, 2014 at 12:28 pm #


              You’re welcome, and Happy New Year to you as well. I might post some of these responses as standalone articles, as I think others might benefit from reading them and miss them in the comments section.

      • JT August 16, 2013 at 1:20 pm #

        I work at a SS facility and the owners and other trainers go by TUL only. Some of the TUL that I have witnessed is absolutely horrible form, alignment etc. I use a clicker and count only good reps but also TUL. When you would you say a progression in weight is warranted? I have been using 4 reps on Upper Body Compound Movements and 5-6 on lower body compound and single joint, which based on 10/10 is a 120 to 160 second TUL.

        • Drew Baye August 18, 2013 at 12:51 pm #


          Unfortunately this is pretty common, especially after the SuperSlow Zone took over the certification process and flushed the high standards of the SuperSlow Exercise Guild down the toilet. While the original SuperSlow Exercise Guild certification was very rigorous, the SuperSlow Zone certification was not, and many people were passed who absolutely should not have been.

          I wrote a Q&A on it about a year ago: Q&A: Counting Repetitions Or Timing Sets For Better Form?

          I have most people use a weight they can handle in good form for up to around two minutes starting out, then gradually progress it as their form improves until they are achieving momentary muscular failure within about sixty to ninety seconds, or around seven to ten reps on compound pushing movements, and five to eight reps on pulling and simple movements (due to the additional time spent holding or squeezing at the end point). This can vary depending on the individual, however, and should only be considered a starting point from which to make adjustments if necessary.

      • trainertom1016 August 17, 2013 at 2:20 pm #

        makes a lot of sense, and something I’ve been advocating and teaching since the early 80’s – but I doubt it will ever catch on throughout the industry…

        unfortunately I’ve found there are far too many “meatheads” who lack the intellectual capacity to grasp this….regardless of the consequences…..

  2. Steven Turner August 15, 2013 at 6:01 pm #

    Hi Drew,

    Great article all the fitness should take note. Typical so-called fitness experts approach is give me 10 now give me 20, now give me thirty….and so on, this approach just makes me angry.

    They have no idea about the real objective of exercise even when you try to explain the real objective of exercise you see that they just don’t get it.

    Over the last few months I have stopped always increasing the load and started to focus on the real objective with a load that I think is suitable ffor my muscle fibre type and my own personal goals. I think that my overall health and functional ability is greatly improved.

    My thoughts are that a lot of fitness testing sends the wrong measure to people…how many push ups or sit ups you do in a minute etc,. To me this approach just makes their workouts to become contests in improving numbers.

    Do you use any particular goal setting approach with your clients to measure functional ability. Would it better that the client commence some type of diary on what could be called reflection analysis to keep track of improvements in functional ability or overall feeling better.

    • Drew Baye August 15, 2013 at 6:08 pm #


      I plan to write more on journaling later, but the short version is I think it is extremely helpful both for later evaluation and comparison as well as for introspection, and having clients keep nutrition and general physical performance journals for you to review periodically helps (especially for fat loss, athletic performance, and rehab).

  3. Ondrej August 16, 2013 at 1:50 am #

    I almost maxed out my dumbbells for squats, so I started to spend more time in harder position. I also shortened rest intervals to zero and both changes led to lower numbers, ehich is good as I don’t need to buy new equipment.

    • Drew Baye August 16, 2013 at 10:58 am #


      One of the most important things I’ve learned from my bodyweight training project is just how inefficiently most people use weights. The better you know how to use them, the less you require relative to your strength.

  4. Chad G August 16, 2013 at 8:05 am #

    I think this is the most important message to get across to people starting out in HIT. HIT requires skills and practice and an understanding of what you are trying to do in order to maximize strength/fitness gains. As you are starting out you need to focus on learning the skills which may cause your numbers to stall or even regress despite getting stronger. Once your skill level begins to peak the results and the numbers will come. The problem it that people will often give up on HIT before that happens. It can take a good 3 – 6 months to get good enough at HIT skills to see this. HIT requires a long term view and in the end it will pay off.

    This is where the hucksters crowd jumps in, people think they are seeing big results but the only thing they are seeing is them getting better at cheating on form while things get riskier and riskier.

    • Drew Baye August 16, 2013 at 11:03 am #


      I tell new clients that doing the exercises right is more important than doing them hard at first, so as their workouts become progressively harder they are also as safe and efficient as possible.

  5. Ian Wilson August 17, 2013 at 2:00 am #

    Great article as always Drew! If there were more articles like this one there would be a lot less gym injuries in the world.
    I think one of the main problems in the fitness industry at least here in Australia, is that when people first join a gym they’re taught that repetition range and progressive overload are the most important factors in reaching your training goals. What they don’t take into account as well as repetition range is repition speed. If your training goals were specifically for hypertrophy for example. then you would typically be told you need to complete a set of 6 to 10 repitions. but if it only takes you 2 seconds to complete a repetion and you perform to reps, this will only give you a total TUL of 20 seconds which is hardly an optimal range for muscular hypertrophy let alone safe for your joints. the scary thing is of all the years Iv’e spent in comercial gyms, a 2 second cadence would be a concervative rep speed for most gym goers. people tend to think that increaseing the amount of reps during an exercise, or the amount of reisistance is the they use is the only way to measure whether they are improving from their workouts. What would be more effective is to concentrate on improving their form, increaseing the amount of intensity they use during an exercise, and accuratly recording their bodyfat percedntage and body measuremnts.
    I did a workout today and I tried something different. Instead of counting how many seconds it would take me to perform a repetition or the amount of repetitions themselves, I used a clock to record the total amount of time it took me to perform each exercise. my TUL for each exercise was between 35 and 70 seconds depending the exercise performed and how fatigued I was. i found this to be quite effective because I wasn’t distracted by trying to count during the set and was able to focus more on strict form and intensity of effort. It’s also a good indicator of whether I’ve improved on an exercise by recording the results each week.

    • Drew Baye August 18, 2013 at 2:27 pm #


      Using time under load to record exercise performance instead of repetitions makes it easier to focus on form when you don’t have someone else to count repetitions for you, but be aware of the tendency to intentionally slow down in easier portions and rush through harder portions of the ROM when doing this. Also, if you do perform a repetition poorly, you should subtract the average rep duration from your total TUL. Only good reps count.

  6. craig August 17, 2013 at 11:21 am #

    … i probably need to read this before every workout …

    • Drew Baye August 18, 2013 at 2:28 pm #


      I take a few minutes before workouts to mentally prepare, and part of that involves thinking about this.

  7. Paul August 17, 2013 at 7:10 pm #

    Great article drew, sometimes i find that in a workout i can push myself harder when i have a goal to aim for e.g. One more rep from last workout but i still try to keep my form, a problem i have and i dont know why this is, that actually sometimes in my workouts i perform worst then my last workout e.g. Less TUL and less reps, but its definately not recovery time because sometimes i do make improvments resting 7 days do you know why this might be, and do you perhaps recomend a pre workout supplement? Thanks.

    • Drew Baye August 18, 2013 at 2:35 pm #


      A lot of different things can affect workout performance. Unless this is happening regularly I would not worry about it, though.

      Supplements are rarely the answer to training problems, and shouldn’t even be considered unless a person already has their diet, sleep, and other factors in order.

  8. Andy August 18, 2013 at 5:20 am #


    I think every long time trainee knows that situation when you feel at workout time that you can’t increase or even duplicate your last quantitative workout performance … maybe you can achieve the same qualitative performance but no way is achieving the same TUL with the same weight possible.
    Do you recommend to lower the weight in that workout situation or just train with the same weight and accept a shorter TUL? Would you cancel the total workout?

    I know you don’t recommend warm up sets. Personally I do 1-2 warm up (“feeler”) sets of the first three main exercises for that day to get a good perception of my actual mental and physical condition for the workout at hand. Than I begin my actual workout and do all exercises back to back.


    • Drew Baye August 18, 2013 at 3:01 pm #


      If you know in advance of the workout you will do poorly for some reason you should postpone the workout. Otherwise, during the workout you shouldn’t even be thinking about quantitative performance; just focus on training effectively and let whatever is going to happen happen.

      Separate warm up sets are not physically necessary for most people, most of the time, but if you find a light warm up set or two helps get you mentally focused, and doesn’t take up too much of your time (or keep others waiting for the equipment), go for it.

  9. Ondrej August 18, 2013 at 9:48 am #

    I’ve read nutritional recommendations in PWDIR or here, but do you have any rules just for pre and post-workout nutrition? I don’t count macros all the time, just before and after workout. Now I have 0,2g/kg protein, piece of fruit, coffee and water pre-workout, and 0.5g/kg protein, 1g/kg carbs post-workout.

    • Drew Baye August 18, 2013 at 3:07 pm #


      Unless I’ve eaten within the past few hours I just eat a moderate amount of protein and carbohydrate before workouts, usually a few ounces of sliced roast beef or turkey and some fruit (around 25 to 30 grams each). Depending on the time and how hungry I am I may have the same right after a workout, or eat a full meal.

  10. Trace August 18, 2013 at 12:59 pm #

    Thank you, Drew! “Workout Performance Versus Progress” is one of the best articles you’ve written. True, true, true!!!!

    • Drew Baye August 18, 2013 at 3:09 pm #

      Thanks Trace,

      I’m glad you like it.

  11. Ryan Lingenfelser August 21, 2013 at 4:01 pm #

    Hey Drew, thanks for the excellent article, as always. I hoped to get your opinion on my thoughts. With some exceptions you discuss on this site, do you feel that quantitative improvement generally leads to real improvement? I would use these supporting statements:

    1. Although most HIT authorities view quick turnarounds as dangerous, perhaps unnecessary time spent at a weak muscle length that fails to protect the joints instead would seem more hazardous. A fast transition from a stretched position would allow you to reenter the safer and stronger midpoint of an exercise. Some evidence shows that the stretch reflex improves not just “seen” strength due to passive tension, but allows more active tension as well. Wouldn’t this make a set more intense?

    2. It seems recruiting more muscles simultaneously can improve active tension in all the involved muscles by way of concurrent activation potentiation. As long as the trainee didn’t put themselves in a compromising position (rounding the low back), wouldn’t encouraging more muscle in the movement stimulate better overall improvement? Wouldn’t this make it more intense?

    3. Time under tension seems like a difficult measurement. Trainees just milk the easier portions of the range of motion. This also assumes all points in the range of motion stimulate growth equally. It seems the midpoint allows the best overlap for active tension. Active tension seems most important for both strength and size. Given this, wouldn’t more reps, while imperfect, seem to summarize all the improvements anyway, given a few simple standards such as range of motion, general form, etc. Using more weight and reps as the standard would seem to summarize all the complexity involved.

    I agree with many HIT principles, but sometimes feel they contrast with what I understand about biomechanics and physiology. I don’t feel someone could make strength gains for long employing a bunch of tricks. Perhaps you would say any possible advantages in these points are outweighed by the risks.

    Thanks for any possible response. Also thanks for everything you do. I always enjoy your articles. You support sensible HIT principles within the context of some well-supported science. You fight back against a lot of nonsense with the best arguments I have seen.

    • Drew Baye August 21, 2013 at 6:28 pm #


      Real improvement leads to quantitative improvement, not the other way around. When people focus more on quantitative improvement qualitative improvement tends to suffer. See Focus On Your Muscles Not The Numbers

      If positioning and range of motion are correct you will not be in positions where the resistance is dangerously high relative to the strength of the involved muscles, and if you were then performing a correct turnaround would make the exercise more dangerous, not less. Quick turnarounds do not make exercise more intense, quite the opposite, and they unnecessarily increase the risk of injury.

      Quantity of muscle involvement and quality or efficient loading of the involved muscles are completely different things. When people alter the performance of an exercise for the sake of involving more muscles the result is usually relatively ineffective for all of the muscles involved.

      Regardless of whether you are counting reps or measuring time under load efficient muscular loading is more important than the numbers. You will benefit more from fewer repetitions or a shorter time under load done correctly than if you sacrifice form for either more reps or time.

  12. Carl August 22, 2013 at 3:55 am #

    Great post Drew!

    A reminder of what we should already know and keep in mind along the way rather than letting our egos and/or impatience get the better of us. Fitness should be a lifetime pursuit after all!

  13. Margaret August 26, 2013 at 11:43 am #

    Love your articles. Just re-read your Crossfit article. I have been doing HIT for about 2 yrs. All three of my teenage daughters play softball for their HS team. They have been working out at the local Crossfit with their softball team. They are just starting another session which cost me $425 (I got a reduced rate for multiple athletes) for the fall semester. Luckily, as of now, they have not injured themselves. I just roll my eyes. Some of the moms who workout with the team ask me why I don’t work out there and I tell them I workout at the Y. I do the big 5 on my own with my iPhone as my stopwatch and a little clipboard to record my results.
    I have to thank you for your fearless advocacy. I often times think about telling folks about HIT and I do sometimes. It’s a hard sell. I’m a registered dietitian (some say RD stands for Really Dumb!) and really believe in the low carb diet. People don’t want to believe that either. I think you’re right about the resistance to HIT being people’s dislike for that very uncomfortable hard work and also the general mass ignorance. The same with diet. People are fed the bad Food Pyramid crap from “authorities”. And, of course, they’re all addicted to their carb of choice (sugar, chips, etc).
    I’m sure you’ve had acquaintances ask you what you do to stay in shape and after you tell them how infrequently you train to failure they jump right in telling you how they ride their stationary bikes for a 1/2 hour every day. It’s like they didn’t hear a word you said. Same with diet. Well, coming to your site and reading your articles helps me to be a little more fearless advocating the diet and HIT.

    • Drew Baye August 27, 2013 at 10:57 am #


      If you give good advice or speak truthfully and someone doesn’t want to follow or believe it, it’s their problem not yours.

      Most people are more motivated to avoid pain and discomfort or loss than to attain pleasure or gain something of value. Being ignorant of what is required for effective exercise most people will choose to do something easier, even if it requires more time, or if they do choose to do something hard it will also involve some form of socialization, entertainment, or novelty.

      Real high intensity training is very hard work, and very uncomfortable. It is not a social activity, it is not entertaining, and the novelty quickly wears off. It works, though, and it does so more quickly, efficiently, and safely than anything else. Those are the only things that should matter, and not whether a person is having fun or being entertained while doing it.

  14. Paul September 4, 2013 at 7:53 am #

    Drew, i think im starting to get an obsession with worrying about over training, i once asked wether i should do additional non intense workouts throughout my HIT workout and you said to take up a recreational activity instead, i have recently started martial arts and there training i would classify as intense as the workouts e.g. 100 crunches are to failure and also shadow boxing with weights untill failure, i know this is a useless way to train but should i quit or do you think it wont dramatically wreck my recovery rate.

    • Drew Baye September 5, 2013 at 10:28 am #


      Class time would be better spent learning and practicing the art or method taught. Physical conditioning should be the students responsibility outside of class.

      Shadow boxing with weights violates motor learning principles and is relatively inefficient for conditioning or strengthening the involved muscles, and it is unnecessary to do hundreds of crunches.

      Don’t quit, but find a better teacher or school that doesn’t waste your time with nonsense. I highly recommend reading Martial Arts America by Bob Orlando and Marc MacYoung’s article on the Four Focuses Of Martial Arts.

  15. Hasse February 8, 2014 at 12:17 pm #

    Hey Drew!

    It’s impossible to train two times a week using the same days each week and still get at least three days of recovery time. I train (becouse I want to train when I’am free from work) saturdays and tuesdays using these excercises, in that perticual order (inspired by one of Arthur Jones workouts for beginners):

    1. Back squat
    2. Seated heel raises
    3. Standing presses
    4. Chin-ups
    5. Push-ups
    6. Barbell curls
    7. Hip raises

    My question is (assuming i have the same recovery ability as the mojority of people): Am I going to get overtrained, or is two days rest enought sometimes? If not what/how should i change the routine without changing the days?

    • Drew Baye February 13, 2014 at 1:50 pm #


      If you have average recovery ability you won’t overtrain working out twice a week, or once every three to four days. If you find you need more recovery but want to maintain a relatively consistent schedule I recommend scheduling in two week blocks instead of one. For example, Monday and Friday one week, Wednesday the next.

    • JLMA February 15, 2014 at 5:46 am #

      Training on Saturdays and Tuesdays (and assuming you train at the time each time), you do get almost-4 and almost-3, respectively, full recovery days between sessions.

      Say on Tuesdays and Saturdays you start training at 10 am and finish at 10:30 am.

      It will be almost 4 full days between the end of your workout on Tuesday and the beginning of your workout on Saturday.

      It will be almost 3 full days between the end of your workout on Saturday and the beginning of your workout on Tuesday.

      Now, what I say above is not true if your workouts last hours and/or if you train late in the day on Saturdays AND early in the day on Tuesdays.

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